PARIS (Aug. 25)
French economist Raymond Barre was appointed today Prime Minister. He is replacing Gaullist leader Jacques Chirac who earlier today resigned after a long period of strain and misunderstandings with President Valery Giscard d’Estaing.
The departure of Chirac and his replacement by a non-party personality is seen as the end of Gaullism as a basic tenet of French policy. Observers here say that this fact, combined with Barre’s personality and his former attitudes both in Brussels where he served as vice-president of the European Economic Community’s Commission and in Paris where he served as Minister for Foreign Trade in the outgoing government may indicate a change in Israel’s favor.
The outgoing Premier was not only the leader of the Gaullist Party but also a stanch advocate of Gaullist policy within the regime led by Giscard, a non-Gaullist politician. Chirac is believed to have defended a strongly pro-Arab line within the French government believing that France’s economic future is linked to its ties with the Arab states, especially the oil producing ones. He favored the continuation of de Gaulle’s pro-Arab policies and is a close personal friend of Iraqi strongman Hassan Saddam.
The new Premier, a former professor of economics who only joined the French government as Minister for Foreign Trade in January, 1976, was in close contact with Israeli diplomats during his posting in Brussels.
FOUND TO BE FRIENDLY, UNDERSTANDING
Israeli diplomats in contact with him at the time say they found him friendly and understanding of Israel’s problems and economic needs. Jewish bankers say he also showed “a highly positive” attitude during the crisis provoked last year by an Arab attempt to boycott French banks dealing with Israel or controlled by Jewish interests.
It seems highly unlikely, however, that Barre will be able to conduct a foreign policy of his own. Giscard’s rift with Chirac was precipitated by the former Premier’s attempt to adopt initiatives of his own and conduct a half-independent policy. Nonetheless, the French Cabinet change indicates that freed of the Gaullist influence, Giscard will conduct a policy closer to Europe and to the United States.
Political circles here say it was Chirac and the Gaullist Party which prevented Giscard from drawing closer both to Western Europe and to the U.S. claiming to preserve the old Gaullist tenet of an independent France.
Though France’s basic options in the Middle East are believed unlikely to change basically, the French President will have the possibility to further normalize relations with Israel and dispel the last misunderstandings which still exist between the two countries without changing France’s basic pro-Arab orientation.
Barre, 52, has taught for 25 years at Sorbonne University where he invariably adopted a non-partisan and liberal line. He has two sons, one of whom is believed to have visited Israel some years ago. The new Premier will announce the new government next Friday. Foreign Minister Jean Sauvagnargues is generally expected to go while Health Minister Simone Veil, a Jew, is expected to remain in the next government.