PARIS (Oct. 20)
The influential Paris newspaper, Le Monde, said today that France’s vote for negotiation of a preferential trade agreement between Israel and the European Common Market tended to show a changed French attitude toward Israel and a clear improvement in relations between the two countries. The newspaper, in a front page editorial, compared the decision last Friday of the Common Market’s Council of Ministers to negotiate a pact with Israel with another decision to conduct exploratory talks with Egypt and Lebanon. While the ministers’ mandate for talks with Israel was seen as nearly the equivalent of a concrete and favorable decision, the move toward the Arabs was seen as “more in the realm of abstract thinking than in that of a concrete decision.” Le Monde discerned in this difference a newly favorable French attitude toward Israel.
It gave the same interpretation to France’s indication that it was ready to reimburse the money Israel has paid for the embargoed Mirage V jet fighters. It concluded by stressing that a solution to the Franco-Israel differences over the Mirage issue is a necessary preliminary to any normalization of relations between the two countries.
In a related development, there were reports in official circles that Foreign Minister Abba Eban might visit France early next year while on an official visit to a number of other European countries. This possibility arose, sources said, when Mr. Eban conferred with French Foreign Minister Maurice Schumann at the United Nations on Sept. 24. Sources close to the Israeli Embassy in Paris say that such a visit is a “definite possibility” and that it might take place in January when Mr. Eban goes to Holland.