Israel to Study France’s New Mideast Arms Policy

Israeli Ambassador Asher Ben Natan had a 50-minute meeting with President Valery Giscard d’Estaing at the Elysee Palace, Thursday evening which was described later as “friendly and useful.” Ben Natan told reporters that bilateral matters had been discussed but added, “I have not come with a shopping bag for arms to the President.”

The Israeli envoy said that the lifting of the French embargo on arms to the Middle East was an important development “but even more important will be to find out the manner in which it will be applied.” He observed that “unfortunately, Israel always needs arms and now we will have a chance to study what France has to offer in this field.”

Ben Natan had similar comments to make earlier on a French radio interview after he returned to Paris from a month’s leave in Israel. He expressed hope that “friendly and amicable relations will now be established between Israel and France” in the wake of the embargo’s removal. But he said “everything depends on how this new policy will be applied–it is now going to be a question of an arms race in the Middle East, I believe there is a certain equilibrium of forces in this region that should not be upset.”

The Israeli Ambassador refused to say directly whether his country has plans to buy arms from France. He observed that while the French Mirages 3 and 5 are-an old design, the new F-1 is “a very good airplane,” He said that a large part of his talk with Giscard d’Estaing was devoted to the Middle East situation and Israel’s views of it.

Observers here believe that the Ambassador’s reference to bilateral matters could mean that Israel has asked for clarification of France’s new arms sales policy in the Middle East. The meeting was the first the French President has had with the Israeli envoy since his election three months ago. It was arranged before France announced its decision to lift the arms embargo.

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