Jerusalem (Sep. 22)
The strains that have troubled relations between France and Israel in recent years seemed to ease perceptibly with the visit here of Jacques Attali, a special advisor and close personal associate of President Francois Mitterrand. Attali had a “very friendly” 90-minute meeting with Premier Menachem Begin yesterday at which both parties stressed that “a new leaf” must be turned in Franco-Israeli relations.
Attali arrived in Israel last Sunday on what was officially a private trip but his meetings were of a political nature and he managed to avoid the press for the most part. Significantly, France and Israel announced jointly in New York yesterday that French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson had accepted the invitation of his Israeli counterpart, Yitzhak Shamir, to visit Israel in December and that Mitterrand would visit early next year.
Attali carried a message to Begin from Mitterrand and another to President Yitzhak Navon with whom the French diplomat also met yesterday. Their contents were not disclosed. He met today with David Kimche, Director General of the Foreign Ministry, and was scheduled to meet later today with Shimon Peres, chairman of the opposition Labor Party, before leaving for Cairo.
EFFORT TO BALANCE FRENCH MIDEAST POLICY
When he arrived in Israel, Attali would say only that Franco-Israeli relations were very complex. He was invited here by the Davis Institute of the Hebrew University where he delivered a lecture on “France in the Mitterrand era.” After his meeting with Begin, Attali told reporters that Mitterrand was making a special effort to “balance” French Mideast policy. He said the scheduled visits to Israel by Cheysson and Mitterrand were expressions of that policy.
He said his discussions with Begin were deep and friendly and that they had covered Middle East problems in detail and relations between their countries. He said the meeting paved the way for the visits by the French President and Foreign Minister.
Begin, for his part, expressed hope that the days of “splendor” in Franco-Israeli relations — 1954-1967– would return. He said the people of Israel regarded France and the French people as friends despite the “hostile” policies of former President Valery Giscard d’Estaing.