French Gov’t. Split over Welcome to Premier Meir

The French government appeared divided today over how to treat Israeli Premier Golda Meir’s visit to Paris next month to attend the conference of the Socialist International. One source said today that France would “grant all the standard courtesies” to Mrs. Meir which are believed to include a meeting with French Premier Pierre Messmer. But some government circles expressed displeasure over Mrs. Meir’s visit during the heat of the French election campaign and indicated that it should be ignored officially.

The Gaullist newspaper La Nation said today that “Foreign personalities who in an electoral period accept the invitation of an opposition party should not expect the slightest welcome in France.” The paper noted that the heads of Socialist governments in other friendly states, such as West Germany’s Chancellor Willy Brandt, turned down invitations to the Socialist meeting in order to avoid appearing to take sides in the French elections.

Other Gaullist factions reportedly feel that Mrs Meir’s visit “should not be allowed to be turned into an open sign of success” for the opposition. These factions, apparently including Premier Messmer, favor extending all “normal courtesies” to the Israeli leader.

Mrs. Meir accepted the invitation of Francois Mitterand, First Secretary of the French Socialist Party and leader of a leftist coalition of socialists, Communists and other left-wing radicals seeking votes in the French legislative elections next March 4 and 11. Some government circles fear that Mrs. Meir’s presence in Paris might be used by the Socialists in their election campaign. Mrs. Meir’s decision to attend the Paris meeting despite these implications indicated that she was anxious to renew top level contacts with French government leaders. Franco-Israeli contacts have remained on a low governmental level since the late President Charles de Gaulle embargoed arms shipments to Israel after the Six-Day War. The last Israeli Premier to visit France was the late Levi Eshkol who went there eight years ago.

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