Eshkol Replies, Charles De Gaulle, Hopes French Head Will Change Mind Again
Menu JTA Search

Eshkol Replies, Charles De Gaulle, Hopes French Head Will Change Mind Again

Download PDF for this date

Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, addressing the Overseas Press Club here today, said that he hoped French President Charles de Gaulle would resume friendly relations with Israel but that he felt Gen. de Gaulle did not grasp the philosophy and significance of Jewish statehood.

Mr. Eshkol commented on President de Gaulle’s recent letter to former Premier David Ben-Gurion, who had written to the French President in protest over his November 27 attacks against Israel and the Jewish people. Both Mr. Ben-Gurion and the French Government released the texts of the two letters yesterday.

Citing Gen. de Gaulle’s reference to Israel having been “planted” in its region, Mr. Eshkol declared that the Jewish people was born in its national homeland, and its moral wealth created there. He said this is what touched him even more than the General’s negative references to the Jews. He noted that he personally had met with Gen. de Gaulle in the past and experienced a friendly attitude, but that “all of a sudden, he (de Gaulle) changed his mind.” The Prime Minister voiced hope that de Gaulle would change his mind again, and see Israel in a true perspective, resuming friendly relations.

Mr. Eshkol asserted “we did not get the French planes gratis.” He added that “in any event, we made these planes famous.” He was referring to the French-made military planes sold to Israel which, formed the backbone of the Israeli air force.


Mr. Eshkol indicated that, among the military topics he discussed with President Johnson last weekend at the LBJ ranch in Texas, was the Soviet missile weaponry supplied to Egypt. Acknowledging a difference of opinion between the United States and Israeli intelligence services about the type and capacity of missiles supplied to Egypt, the Premier said they were nevertheless very dangerous. He said that even if the present range of those missiles was 60 to 80 kilometers, they might go to 250 or 500 kilometers, and that poison gas might be used in the warheads.

The Premier rejected the premise that direct Arab peace talks with Israel would mean political suicide for Arab leaders. He said such talks must come sooner or later, but that more blood might be shed before the Arabs choose the peaceful path. He saw two trends that had developed in the Arab world. One was that the Soviets had rebuilt the Arab armies since the June war, “at a phenomenal rate.” The second trend showed there were “indications that, for the first time, there are hesitancies among some Arabs as to whether war would not bring new disaster. There are some who are saying to themselves that peace may have to be contemplated.”

Conditions necessary to enhance the prospects of peace, he said, included maintenance of Israeli military capacity as a deterrent, prevention of direct or indirect outside intervention, and assistance by the international community on direct negotiations and peace treaties as the only effective solution.

Mr. Eshkol said “it seems to us that the time has come for the Middle East to move along this road,” the road of regional cooperation. Stating the process of liberation from colonialism had ended, the Premier said it was only by regional cooperation that the region could be freed of tensions and its fate decided by its own inhabitants. He declined to comment on any new arms commitments generated in the talks with President Johnson. In that context, he merely referred to the joint communique issued in Texas, and said he did not think he should add to it.


In other developments connected with the Eshkol visit to New York, Mr. Eshkol received a courtesy visit today from former Vice-President Richard M. Nixon; was honored by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute for Religion with the degree of Doctor of Hebrew Letters; got a pledge of appreciation of Israel’s achievements from Frank Baraff, president of the Borough of Manhattan, one of the principal components of the City of New York; and was entertained at the Metropolitan Opera House, where he was a guest of the Metropolitan’s board of directors.

Mr. Nixon told the press, after visiting Mr. Eshkol, that it was necessary for the United States to help Israel maintain a balance of power in the Middle East to counter Soviet intrusion into that region. He also advocated direct peace talks between Israel and the Arab states.

Last night Mr. Eshkol was visited by a group of leaders of the American Jewish Committee, headed by Morris B. Abram, president of the Committee.

Addressing an overflow audience of 2,000 students Tuesday in the auditorium of Yeshiva University here – while 500 other students listened over closed-circuit television in the university’s synagogue – Mr. Eshkol asked American Jewish youth and Jewish youth from other Western lands to come to Israel to help the country build its security and aid Israel’s economic, spiritual and social development. Merely coming to Israel for a period of about three months, he said, was not enough. The youth, he said, should come to stay for a “much longer period.”

Last night, Mr. Eshkol also received a delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, headed by the Conference chairman, Rabbi Herschel Schacter. On behalf of the 21 organizations in the Conference, comprising a total of about 4.5 million Jews, Rabbi Schacter pledged further aid to Israel. He declared American Jews were united with Israel in its quest for peace, and asserted that Israel and America “share the same ideals, the same goals and the same interests” in the Middle East.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund