PARIS (Oct. 17)
Hundreds of blue and white Israeli flags fluttered over the Champs Elysces and adorned every public building here in honor of the visit of President Chaim Herzog of Israel.
He arrived at Paris airport Monday, where he was personally greeted by President Francois Mitterrand. The French leader assured him, and the people of Israel, of France’s enduring friendship and support.
Herzog is the first Israeli chief of state to make an official visit to France. All prime ministers of Israel, with the notable exception of Menachem Begin, have come here in their official capacity.
Under the strict, traditional protocol observed by the French, those were treated as working visits that did not warrant special pomp and pageantry.
But for President Herzog, the French outdid themselves. Mitterrand waited on the tarmac until the presidential plane landed and then embraced the visitor. Military bands played the French and Israeli national anthems.
Accompanied by Mitterrand, Herzog was driven to the Hotel de Marigny, a former Rothschild residence that serves as France’s official guest house for visiting VIPs.
The motorcade was escorted by two cavalry squadrons of presidential guards in their early 19th-century dress uniforms of white breeches, black frock coats, horsetail helmets and with drawn swords.
But Herzog’s five-day visit is more than simply an occasion for display. French and Israeli diplomats see it as an affirmation that Franco-Israeli relations have normalized after 40 years during which they gyrated between warm friendship and bitter acrimony.
A peak of sorts was reached in the “great alliance” of 1956 between David Ben-Gurion and French Premier Guy Mollet at the time of the ill-fated Suez campaign.
At other times, relations were openly hostile, as on the eve of the 1967 Six-Day War, when President Charles de Gaulle imposed an arms embargo on Israel.
According to protocol, Herzog is returning Mitterrand’s 1982 visit to Israel.
WILL VISIT NORMANDY
Herzog also is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Michel Rocard; Alain Poher, president of the French Senate; and Laurent Fabius, speaker of the National Assembly.
Herzog, who served in the British army with the rank of major during World War II, participated in the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944.
During his stay in France, he is to visit those Normandy beachheads and the cemetery of Allied servicemen who fell in battle.
The Israeli president was born in Ireland, where his father served as chief rabbi. His father later became chief rabbi of the British Empire and chief rabbi of Palestine.
Herzog will attend services at two Paris synagogues, one on the Rue des Pavees, believed to be one of the oldest in Western Europe. He also will play host to leaders of the French Jewish community Thursday night, the eve of his return to Israel.