French View of Mideast Settlement; if Only Israel Could Match Egypt’s Sincerity
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French View of Mideast Settlement; if Only Israel Could Match Egypt’s Sincerity

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French diplomats are emphasizing that the path toward a Middle East settlement could be greatly eased if only Israel would display the same “sincerity and good faith” that Egypt has. As of last week the French had not officially received Secretary of State William P. Rogers’ Mideast report, but French officials said the Americans were “favorably impressed” with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s “very sincere wish to obtain a peaceful settlement.” On the other hand, the Frenchmen reported Israeli leaders meeting with the Rogers delegation remained “very adamant.” The French are impatient over what they regard as Israeli foot-dragging over an interim arrangement to reopen the Suez Canal, over international security guarantees and over “substantial withdrawal.” Said one senior French official: “We understand perfectly well the need of the Israelis for security at Sharm el-Sheikh, but security cannot be measured in terms of 19th century war in a time of missiles. The best security would be for Israel to cooperate with her neighbors to obtain a peaceful settlement. We think that’s the real security.”

Yet French diplomats insist that France and Israel remain “very good friends.” As one of them put it: “Of course we try to make our arguments as strong as possible, but it’s not hostility against Israel.” Neither differences over the Rogers territorial plan nor the “old question” of the undelivered Mirages have sabotaged those “very friendly” ties, he asserted. In fact, he went on, Israeli “adamance” cracked a little during the Rogers visit, with the Jerusalemites admitting that “Sadat made many concessions” and recognizing that” the idea of withdrawal is unavoidable now,” One French diplomat said of the Israelis in this context: “They understand they cannot say ‘no.’ ” But the French still wish the Israelis would stop complaining about outside “interference” while, they say, engaging in it themselves. An informed French official confided that after Common Market representatives prepared a “confidential document” on technical aspects of the European Economic Community, Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban picked up pen and phone and peppered them with objections to their report–specifically that France’s position was “anti-Israel.” Such a move, said the French official, was not only “unclever, because the result has been nothing,” but perhaps even “undecent.”


France is understood to feel that the Big Four are substantially agreed on support of the Rogers concept for only “minor adjustments” in the June 4, 1967, Mideast borders. “The Soviets insist on total withdrawal. The other parties are not so far from that,” a French source remarked. The French are also understood to believe that an interim solution, however desirable, may in fact be more complex than it seems. “In spite of all difficulties,” observed a French official, “it is perhaps easier to reach an over-all settlement than a partial settlement, which would leave perpetual threats to Israel–the refugees, etc. But we tell the Americans: “If you think you can succeed, try it and we will applaud you if you succeed. But we don’t think you can go very far.’ ” A senior French diplomat was asked why Israel should have to give back any of the territories acquired in the course of a defense against attack. He paused, smiled and said: “Maybe Israel was not the aggressor, but it was the beginner. It fired the first shot. If you put the problems in terms of victory and defeat, there is no solution.”Right now, he said, the Israeli-Egyptian gap is “enormous,” and it can be reduced only if Israel emulates the political “wisdom” of Nahum Goldmann on the question of territories and cooperates more fully with negotiator Gunnar Jarring. The “moderate” Sadat, he contended, has made his concessions, and “now he has to receive something.”

In addition, the French official said, “Maybe it would be a good thing for Israel if Mrs. Golda Meir would retire.” His prime candidate as her successor is Israel’s popular Defense Minister, whose protestations of non-candidacy he does not believe for an instant. “For a long time.” he opined. “I have considered Moshe Dayan the best, because of his international reputation. Maybe it’s better for a general to make the peace than a civilian. II Moshe Dayan decided to withdraw (from Arab areas), no one in Israel would criticize him, because he’s Moshe Dayan.” Confirming earlier reports to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency from Israeli sources, the Parisian quoted American officials as reporting that the resourceful Dayan indeed saved the Rogers-Meir talks from collapsing under a wave of bitterness. He also praised Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir–ironically, a member of Mrs. Meir’s inner Cabinet–not only as “intelligent” but more “flexible and realistic” than his party’s chief.

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