In Israel’s early years, its ties to France was one of the better relationships Israel had with the western world. Throughout the 1950s France was Israel’s primary arms supplier, and was party to the early stages of the Kadesh Campaign in 1956. All that changed in 1967 under Charles de Gaulle, whose administration reversed course and criticized Israel for its actions in the Six Day War, and its presence over the Green Line (as have subsequent French administrations). A few years after the war, France also began selling arms to Arab states, strengthening its relationship with Israel’s enemies.
After 1967 France has feigned “even-handedness,” claiming it would not support either side in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Nevertheless, France continued to devlop close ties with the Arab world, most notably its strong relationship with Iraq, which ended with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, in 1991.
Elected President in May 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy appears to have changed France’s attitude towards Israel somewhat. Calling Israel a “dear and steadfast friend”, he has often made statements reminiscent of American politicians running for national office, marking a clear departure from France’s official stance on Israel over the past 40 years. He has promised “never [to] jeopardize Israel’s safety,” and “always [to] be at Israel’s side when its security and its existence are threatened.”
Recent statements, both by Sarkzoy and by France’s Foreign Minister, regarding Obama’s foreign policy appear to signify a real change in French foreign policy on issues relating to the Middle East. Last month Sarkozy, in a closed forum, called Obama’s stance on Iran “utterly immature” and made up of “formulations empty of all content.” It is unclear how this view matches his intentions to persuade the incoming American administration “to continue the current policy on Iran,” considered the ambiguity, at best, of this policy. Nevertheless, the mere fact that a senior European leader is not in line with the international worship of Barack Obama, daring to criticize his foreign policy, from the right no less, leaves some room for hope.
Today, France’s Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, voiced additional criticism of Obama’s stated intentions, in dealing with Iran. Kouchner is a founder of Doctors Without Borders, supported Sarkozy’s rival, Ségolène Royal, in the 2007 elections, and is a former member of France’s socialist party (his membership was revoked for accepting his current post). Kouchner expressed his concern about Obama’s plan to hold direct talks with Iran, warning “against any form of dialogue that would jeopardise the unity not of the Western side but of the whole of the P5, that is the five (permanent U.N.) Security Council members plus Germany.” Kouchner added that France has “negotiated [with Iran] at great length. People came to France, we sent people to Iran, we met them and unfortunately this dialogue produced nothing.”
Perhaps France (or at least its government), is truly adapting to the realities of the world. One can only hope that Europe will cease acting as a doormat in the face of those who wish to end Western Civilization with their version of a murderous crusade.