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Behind the Headlines New French Government Expected to Continue Same Foreign Policy

The new French Cabinet which convened here several days ago for the first time is practically identical to the outgoing Cabinet and is expected to continue its line in foreign affairs. Diplomatic observers foresee no major change in France’s Middle East policy and no dramatic improvement in Franco-Israeli ties.

The new Cabinet, appointed after President Valery Giscard d’Estaing’s victory in last month’s legislative elections, is again headed by Premier Raymond Barre with Louis de Guiringaud as Foreign Minister. De Guiringaud, a former career diplomat, has consistently applied foreign policy decisions as laid down by the Elysee Palace. De Guiringaud’s reappointment to the Quai d’Orsay is seen as proof that the President intends to continue pursuing the same foreign policy.

Defense Minister Yvon Bourges, who has negotiated France’s recent-large scale arms deals with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, has also been reappointed. Bourges had privately indicated before the recent elections that he intends to further develop Franco-Arab cooperation in military matters.

He also hopes to sell the two new French fighter planes, the Mirage 200 and the Mirage 400, in large quantities to the Middle East. The 200 is described as equivalent to the F-15 and the 400, which is still on the drawing board, is even more sophisticated.

MINISTERS FRIENDLY TOWARD ISRAEL

The government’s only Jewish Minister, Simone Veil, has been reappointed to the Ministry of Health and promoted to second place within the government. Her name follows in the official list of precedence, that of Justice Minister Alain Peyrefitte.

Veil is a concentration camp survivor who has visited Israel several times. She has also attended meetings organized by the Alliance Israelite Universelle and the World Jewish Congress. In the past, she has, however, refrained from intervening in matters of foreign policy which concerned Israel or France’s Jews. Observers believe she will maintain this stance.

Two newly appointed ministers, Jean Philippe Lecat and Maurice Papon, have shown themselves friendly to Israel in the past. Lecat, appointed Minister of Culture and Information, has a Jewish wife who learned some Hebrew while attending classes at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Lecat is also close to his in-laws who are active members of the Jewish community.

Papon, appointed Budget Director–which is a Cabinet post in the new government–is the former Paris chief of police and as such has shown himself friendly to various pleas and requests forwarded to him by Jewish organizations in France. In spite of these two new appointments, the new government is not expected to change its policy in the Middle East. If anything, pre-election Socialist declarations on the Palestinian issue and the American Administration’s own stand, will continue to further harden its demands for a Palestinian homeland and major Israeli concessions.

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