Behind the Headlines New Franco-israeli Chapter

Israeli Foreign Minister Yigal Allon is due to arrive in Paris April 28 for a three-day official visit during which he will confer with President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, Prime Minister Jacques Chirac and Foreign Minister Jean Sauvagnargues. It will be the first official visit to France by an Israeli leader.

Even former Premier David Ben Gurion’s visits, his receptions at the Elysee Palace by President de Gaulle, were considered private by French officials. This time it is all open and in the clear. As one weary Israeli diplomat here said “Unfortunately, we now have nothing more to hide.”

Allon arrives at a time when the Franco-Israeli crisis is over. The anger, the animosity and even the sulking have faded away, eroded by time and other problems. All the old problems, the arms, the Mirages, the betrayal, the embargo have given place to an era of normalization.

There are no major problems to be solved, no outstanding conflicts to be discussed. As one senior French official told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “We are just two countries on opposite shores of the Mediterranean which have to put up with each other.”

ISRAEL SEEN AS MAJOR FACTOR

This normalization does not mean, however, lessening of French interest. The new French Administration sees Israel not only as a major political factor in the Middle East but also as an important influence on the international board. The stability of the Middle East has not only a direct influence on East-West relations and the relaxation of world tensions but also provides for Europe’s economic situation after the oil embargo.

The new French Administration concentrates mainly on internal economic and social affairs and believes that its own well-being and prosperity depend on peace in the Mideast, Giscard d’Estaing, with whom Allon is due to meet April 29, will try his best, according to French sources, to assure Israel that its own security and stability are important for Western Europe as a whole.

ISRAEL’S VIEW OF FRANCE

For Israel, France remains an important factor in international affairs in spite of their relative lack of bilateral ties, Paris continues to influence Western Europe’s attitude towards Israel, carries diplomatic weight in Washington and has privileged ties with both Moscow and Peking. A friendly or at least an understanding France can be an important asset to Israel’s diplomacy.

Though neither the Israelis nor the French intend to discuss French arms sales to Israel, both sides, and especially the Israelis, will certainly bear in mind that France is the world’s third largest arms exporting country and that French planes and military technology are practically on a par with those of the Soviet Union and the United States. The Israelis will try to open a far off potentiality and the French will no doubt try to preserve a possible future market.

The fact that the visit is Allon’s first ministerial trip to France and that Giscard d’Estaing has not yet met a single Israeli leader will also facilitate their contacts. Both men will start with a clean slate and this is probably the symbolic importance of the visit. After the three passionate former chapters in Franco-Israeli ties–the alliance, the cooling off and the open animosity–a fourth, that of normalization, is about to start.

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