Jews, Arabs, and French Diplomacy

(Commentary) David Pryce-Jones - As Arab immigration into France increased, successive French presidents extended de Gaulle's policy of closely linking France and the Arab states. In the decades after the 1967 war, France steadily nourished the ambition to lead what would become the EU and to assemble a bloc powerful enough to rival the U.S. In line with this, the principal objective in the Middle East was to broker a peace that would satisfy Arab demands on Israel and thus eliminate American influence. Measures taken included the pursuit of favorable oil contracts, the sale of Mirage fighter planes to Libya, and the building of the Osirak nuclear reactor for Iraq; a vote at the UN accusing Israel of committing war crimes in the occupied territories; the denial of landing rights to American aircraft during the 1973 Yom Kippur war; permission granted to the PLO to open an office in Paris and the reception of Arafat at the Elysee Palace; and diplomatic initiatives to protect Saddam Hussein from the consequences of his multiple aggressions. With the exception of the former Soviet Union, no country did more than France to promote a PLO state, and thereby to endanger the existence of Israel. In the Middle East, France has forfeited whatever leverage it might once have enjoyed. At home, meanwhile, it has had to come to terms with a growing Arab underclass, one whose resentments and tendencies to violence have been whipped up in no small part by the inflexible hostility displayed by the French state to Jewish self-determination.

2005-05-06 00:00:00

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