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New French Premier Appears to Be a Supporter of Israel

Michel Rocard, a moderate Socialist supporter of Israel, was named France’s new prime minister Tuesday by President Francois Mitterrand.

Rocard, a 58-year-old economist, replaces Jacques Chirac, who tendered his resignation Tuesday afternoon after losing in his presidential bid against Mitterrand on Sunday.

As prime minister, Rocard will be in charge of running France’s day-by-day affairs and implementing foreign policy decisions, which will remain, however, the personal responsibility of the president.

Rocard is expected to appoint another moderate Socialist as foreign minister: either Jacques Delors, currently president of the European Community Commission, or Lionel Jospin, outgoing secretary-general of the Socialist Party.

Rocard, a Protestant in an overwhelmingly Catholic country, is the son of a world-famous physicist who was also an anti-Nazi resistance fighter during the German occupation of France. After joining the Socialist Party in the late 1960s, Rocard helped found the United Socialists, a party to the left of the Socialists.

At the time he was known for his pro-Palestinian views. In recent years, especially after he rejoined the Socialist Party in 1973, Rocard has undergone a metamorphosis in much of this thinking, including his views on the Middle East.

He has visited Israel half a dozen times and met with many Israeli leaders. Last Saturday, on the eve of the presidential vote, he conferred for close to two hours with the Israeli ambassador to France, Ovadia Sofer.

Israeli officials welcomed his nomination and believe that he will contribute to establishing still closer relations between the two countries.

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