PARIS (Dec. 21)
France considers that the cold relations with Israel have thawed following Israeli Premier Menachem Begin’s meeting in London with a French special envoy. French political circles believe that things “have now returned to normal” and that the two countries can “start all over again from scratch.”
The Secretary General of the Elysee Palace, Jean Francois-Poncet, President Valery Giscard d’Estaing’s representative who met with Begin yesterday in London, returned to Paris highly optimistic. His report to Giscard indicated that Israel is ready to renew its old “close and intimate ties” with France as they existed in the heydays of 1956 as if nothing has happened in the meantime.
French diplomatic sources point to Begin’s declaration in London prior to his departure suggesting a return “to the Franco-Israeli alliance of 1956,” as proving that the two countries are on the dawn of a new honeymoon. Israel and France were de facto allied in 1956 at the time of the Suez campaign which aimed at toppling President Nasser after his nationalization of the Suez Canal.
France believes that it can contribute to a solution of the Middle East crisis by providing adequate guarantees and by maintaining its open bridges with Syria, Libya and Iraq. French officials here note that any lasting peace in the area will have to involve, sooner or later, these three countries and that France is the only Western state which has good and confident relations with their leaders.
France has wanted to improve relations with Israel since Giscard’s election in 1974. Two events have given recent history an additional push: the forthcoming legislative elections in which every vote will count, especially the Jewish vote, and France’s impression that Britain is replacing it as Western Europe’s dominant political force in Middle East affairs.