Special Analysis Mitterrand’s Victory Bodes Well for Improved Mideast Policy
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Special Analysis Mitterrand’s Victory Bodes Well for Improved Mideast Policy

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French President-elect Francois Mitterrand is determined to try and improve Franco-Israeli relations, adopt a more balanced French policy in the Middle East and try to stem West European initiatives on the subject for the time being.

Sources close to the 64-year-old Socialist who yesterday inflicted a shattering defeat to outgoing

President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, said he plans to implement all his pre-electoral pledges. These include a halt to the shipments of enriched uranium to Iraq, a re-evaluation of French arms sales to the Arab countries and the extension of official invitations to the Israeli President and Premier to visit France.

Mitterrand’s first official function today, after he returned to Paris from his country home at Chateau-Chinon, was to visit the grave of his life-long friend Georges Dayan at Montparnasse Jewish Cemetery. The Jewish Senator, who served as Mitterrand’s main contact with Israel and the Jewish community, died two years ago during the 1974 electoral campaign, which Giscard won. Dayan was slated for a senior Cabinet post.


Mitterrand is expected to assume his Presidential function on May 25th when he will appoint a caretaker government, dismiss the National Assembly and call for new parliamentary elections in the hope of winning a friendly majority in the house.

The caretaker government will probably include several Jews and several of Israel’s best known friends such as Marseilles Mayor Gaston Deferre, who is expected to become Vice Premier; Jewish attorney Robert Badinter, slated to become Attorney General; and economist Jacques Attali, mentioned as the probable next Elysee Palace chief of staff and main presidential adviser. Both Badinter and Attali are board members of the Fonds Social Juife Unifie (FSJU), France’s central Jewish welfare fund.


Simultaneously, the Socialists will start negotiations with the Communist Party to reach a basic electoral agreement for the legislative elections expected to take place next month. Mitterrand was elected with the help of five million Communist voter and he will need the Communist party’s active help if he is to win a friendly majority in the house.

France’s 1958 constitution promulgated by Gen. Charles De Gaulle would practically paralyze the President unless he wins a majority in the Chamber of Deputies now ruled by the center-right parties which backed Giscard.

Many here fear that Mitterrand’s need for active Communist support might force him to moderate his pro-Israeli views. An extreme leftwing group within his own party known as the CERES, is also known for its pro-Palestinian tendencies and its lukewarm support for Israel.

The new Administration’s government will be appointed only after the June 28 parliamentary elections. Communist Party chief Georges Marchais last night, minutes after the official results became known, demanded Communist governmental participation in the new regime. Marchais also stressed that the Socialists and Communists will have to reach an overall policy agreement as the price for a joint electoral campaign. It is not known whether the Communists will insist on concessions on Israel as part of this price.


Mitterrand is well acquainted with Israel and its leaders. He visited Israel five times during the last 10 years and conferred with Israel’s Labor Party on many occasions at the international Socialist conferences which both parties attend.

He served in II ministerial posts in the pre-De Gaulle French Fourth Republic. His last post was Attorney General in Guy Mollet’s 1958 war Cabinet which led France during the Suez campaign when a joint Franco-Israeli force tried to topple the Nasser regime and with Britain’s help open the Suez Canal to international shipping.

After running, and losing, in the 1968 Presidential election against De Gaulle, Mitterrand devoted himself to the reconstruction of the Socialist Party. From that time on, he found himself in close personal contact with dozens of Jews who, since Leon Blum’s 1936 Socialist Premiership, have traditionally flocked to the country’s leftwing parties.


First available polls show that a majority of France’s 400,000 Jewish voters backed Mitterrand. A splinter Jewish organization, Jewish Revival, had actively campaigned for an anti-Giscard “sanction vote” and many of Mitterrand’s Jewish supporters had campaigned in favor of the Socialist challenger.

Mitterrand’s victory might change a 23-year-old French traditional pro-Arab policy in the Middle East. De Gaulle, upon his rise to power in 1958, started a process of loosening of formerly close Franco-Israeli ties. He imposed an arms embargo on the eve of the Six-Day War. His two successors, Georges Pompidou and Giscard, continued this policy and even gave it additional weight.


Mitterrand’s Middle East policy, as it appears from press interviews, official Socialist documents and his May 6 meeting with a delegation from the Representative Council of Major Jewish Organizations in France (CRIF), contains four basic elements:

Full support for the Camp David agreements which the Socialists see as an important step towards a global agreement in the Mideast. France, it is believed, will press its nine European Economic Community (EEC) partners to come out in support of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.

Recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization as “the most representative” Palestinian organization and accepting the eventual creation of a Palestinian homeland. The Palestinians, in the Socialist view, are called to play an important role in future negotiations for a global peace agreement on condition that they recognize Israel and accept its right to exist.

Halting the shipments of enriched uranium liable to be used for military purposes by Iraq and a re-evaluation of overall French arms sales to the Arab countries. In his reply to the CRIF leaders, Mitterrand broadly hinted at the possibility of French arms sales to Israel by saying that “it is not enough to recognize Israel’s right to exist unless it is given the means to ensure its independence.”

A more restrained attitude on Lebanon than that of the outgoing Administration. The French Socialists are not overly warm supporters of the Christians nor are they in favor of stationing a French peacekeeping force in the country. The Socialists would also have second thoughts about an Israeli pre-emptive strike in Lebanon and are in favor of a relaxation of tensions between Israel and Syria which could provoke a new oil crisis.

Most observers nonetheless, believe that in spite of Mitterrand’s pre-electoral pledges and his good intentions, France is about to enter into a period of uncertainty and that only time will reveal how Mitterrand will manage to cope with the mass of problems which he will have to face. The Middle East will be one of the main issues on his path of an understanding with France’s powerful Communist Party.

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