French Journalist Explains France’s Pro-arab Policy Since Six-day War

The editor of one of France’s leading newspapers explained in blunt terms to an Israeli audience here why France has followed a pro-Arab policy in the Middle East since the Six-Day War. According to Andre Fontaine, editor of Le Monde who addressed the Journalists Club, French policy has an historic background dating from 1830 when, with the conquest of Algeria, France became “an Arab power.” France was always sympathetic to Zionist aspirations, he said, but “relations with the Arabs have a certain priority.” Petroleum counts, he said and “any politician asserting that it does not influence policy is lying.” Furthermore, France does not want to see the Maghreb powers-Morocco, Algeria and Tunis–come under Soviet influence. Fontaine maintained that Israel started the Six-Day War.

He said he did not believe that President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt intended to go to war and deplored Israel’s failure to test the Egyptian blockade by sending a ship through the Straits of Tiran. Had the Egyptians fired, they would have been held responsible for starting the war and the French arms embargo against Israel would have been avoided, the journalist said. At that point the chairman of the meeting. Israel’s former Ambassador to Paris. Walter Eytan, remarked dryly that DeGaulle’s embargo was declared June 1, 1967, whereas the war broke out June 5. Fontaine enumerated several events which France continues to hold against Israel. He mentioned Israel’s retaliatory raid on Beirut Airport in 1968 which President DeGaulle saw as an attempt to drive a wedge between the Christian and Moslem populations of Lebanon.

Fontaine also referred to the spiriting away of five French-built Israeli gunboats embargoed at Cherbourg on Christmas Eve. 1969 “which made the Pompidou government look foolish inside France” and the demonstrations by American Jews against President and Mrs. Pompidou during their visit to Chicago. When part of the audience tittered at the mention of those subjects, Fontaine interjected. “I understand your laughter about the gunboats but I find your smiles over the Chicago incident more difficult to comprehend.” Fontaine explained the ambiguity over the interpretation of the Security Council Resolution 242. The English version calls on Israel to withdraw from “occupied territories.” The French version contains the article “the” before “occupied territories.” He said the British representative at the UN admitted at the time they deliberately omitted “the” because otherwise the resolution would not have been adopted.

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