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JERUSALEM ISSUE BRIEF

Vol. 6, No. 7     16 August 2006


Europe and the War in Lebanon

Freddy Eytan


  • In 1978 France was the only country in the world that offered warm and sympathetic political refuge to the spiritual leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini. Nevertheless, in 1986, a series of terror attacks in the heart of Paris killed and wounded dozens of people. Behind the attacks was Hizballah operative Anis Nakash. After he was arrested and sentenced to life in prison, he was released by the French in a shameful prisoner exchange with Iran. From his hiding place in Beirut, Nakash has called for attacks on the international force to be stationed in southern Lebanon.

  • French Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy declared during a recent visit to Beirut that: "Iran constitutes a stabilizing force in the Middle East and it should be taken into account and included in any arrangement for restoring quiet to our region." This was followed by a strange and incomprehensible meeting with the Iranian foreign minister in Beirut. It comes as no surprise that in a Le Monde interview on August 12, 2006, Douste-Blazy said the purpose of the enlarged UNIFIL in southern Lebanon would not include the disarming of Hizballah by force.

  • Recently, French Maj.-Gen. Alain Pellegrini has commanded the UNIFIL force. Hizballah fortified its positions and brought in huge quantities of weapons and ammunition right under his nose. Did he warn of the arming of Hizballah by Iran and Syria? Did he prevent the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers? In any multinational force, France will not take upon itself the task of disarming Hizballah. Indeed, Gen. Pellegrini said on August 15 that his peacekeeping force will not attempt to disarm Hizballah.

  • Regarding Lebanon, then, we know what to expect of Paris. Moreover, the growing influence of France's Muslim immigrants plays a substantial part in its policy. Less than a year before its presidential elections, France is in a trap with no way out.



France Views Iran as a "Stabilizing Force"

French Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy declared during a recent visit to Beirut that: "Iran constitutes a stabilizing force in the Middle East and it should be taken into account and included in any arrangement for restoring quiet to our region." This was followed by a strange and incomprehensible meeting with the Iranian foreign minister in Beirut.

It comes as no surprise that in a Le Monde interview on August 12, 2006, Douste-Blazy said the purpose of the enlarged UNIFIL in southern Lebanon would not include the disarming of Hizballah by force. "We never thought a purely military solution could resolve the problem of Hizballah," he said. "We are agreed on the goal, the disarmament, but for us the means are purely political."

This is not the first time France's premier diplomat has expressed startling and naive opinions that prove his memory of the history of the conflict is very short. Whoever among us believed France had changed its long-standing, obsequious, ostrich policy and become a sincere friend of Israel was gravely disappointed.

France has not changed and is not about to change its stubborn and hypocritical policy, not within Europe and not toward the Middle East. All its recent steps, including in the Security Council, are strictly tactical. It would be worth refreshing Mssr. Douste-Blazy's memory about a number of bitter facts.


France Gave Refuge to Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini

In 1978 France was the only country in the world that offered warm and sympathetic political refuge to the spiritual leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini. Khomeini spread the Muslim revolution from a suburb of Paris. It was a special Air France flight to Teheran in February 1979 that returned him to his native land after many years in exile. In the space of a day, Khomeini became the undisputed leader of Iran and of the Muslim revolution in the world.

That same year, Israel strove for peace and stability in the region and signed a peace treaty with Egypt. France showed international irresponsibility by knowingly ignoring this treaty. It preferred to help unfurl the Islamic revolution in Teheran.

The dreadful historical error of then-president Giscard changed all the geopolitical processes in our region. This blunder actually produced a terror state in the Land of the Cedars, the Switzerland of the Middle East that in the past was a French colony. France directly helped establish the Hizballah terrorist movement. It unknowingly created in southern Lebanon a terror arsenal directed at Israel's northern border. France did not weigh its actions and ended up taking hard, painful blows.


Hizballah Has Repeatedly Targeted France

Already in 1981 (a year before the Peace for Galilee operation) the French ambassador in Beirut, Louis Delamarre, was murdered by Hizballah under orders from Syria. In 1983, fifty-eight French soldiers were killed in Beirut in a Hizballah terror attack. In 1986, a series of terror attacks in the heart of Paris killed and wounded dozens of people. Behind the attacks was Hizballah operative Anis Nakash. After he was arrested and sentenced to life in prison, he was released by the French in a shameful prisoner exchange with Iran. From his hiding place in Beirut, Nakash has called for attacks on the international force to be stationed in southern Lebanon.


A French General Commanded UNIFIL During Hizballah's Weapons Build-Up

Recently, French Maj.-Gen. Alain Pellegrini has commanded the UNIFIL force. Hizballah fortified its positions and brought in huge quantities of weapons and ammunition right under his nose. Did he warn of the arming of Hizballah by Iran and Syria? Did he prevent the organization from operating in populated areas? Did he succeed in preventing the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers? Did he pursue the kidnappers and arrest them? Today, when there is talk about the composition of the multinational force that supposedly will protect Israel from Katyushas, it should be emphasized that France will not take upon itself the task of disarming Hizballah. Indeed, Gen. Pellegrini said on August 15 that his peacekeeping force will not attempt to disarm Hizballah. Dealing with Hizballah was an internal Lebanese matter, and the 15,000 UN troops to be deployed under his command would not get involved, he said.


For France, Hizballah Is Not a Terrorist Organization

When French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin visited Israel in January 2000, he was attacked with stones by Palestinians because he dared to state the simple truth: "Hizballah is a terrorist organization." Instead of defending him, President Chirac preferred to condemn him and even said: "That is not the official position of France, Hizballah is a political movement." The rest of the story is plain for all to see. Every day for a month, volleys of rockets have fallen on northern Israel and our citizens are being killed in their homes.

France's policy toward Iran recalls the Munich agreements that were signed in September 1938. Then too, the Frenchman Daladier and the Briton Chamberlain believed it was possible to negotiate with the Nazi Satan. They surrendered strategic assets and the Allies' power of deterrence for nothing in return.

Decades later, in the recent Balkan War, the Europeans took military action only after the Serbs under the dictator Milosevic committed a horrendous massacre. The bombing of Serbia lasted 78 days and caused thousands of civilian casualties. But not a single country or organization in the world stopped NATO's massive and deadly campaign in the heart of enlightened Europe.

How would Jacques Chirac react if tomorrow hundreds of missiles fell on Strasbourg or Marseille? Would he sit on his hands and not respond with full force?


A Divided Europe

Europe is confused today and has no clear policy up its sleeve. The unquestionable American dominance in the world has rendered it a paper tiger. Arab countries showed more courage than the European Union when they came out openly against Hizballah.

Europe is divided as well, speaking in a voice that is both weak and inconsistent. Two countries, Spain and Italy (which together number about a hundred million residents, more than a quarter of the European population), already do not support U.S. policy. (They ignored America's assistance in World War II and the record of the fascist dictators Franco and Mussolini.) They have now withdrawn ignominiously from Iraq while their governments harshly criticize Israel. Recently they have tipped the scales in favor of the Arabs. They cannot play a neutral role, and all the diplomatic exertions of Prime Minister Prodi and the journeys to our region by His Excellency Miguel Moratinos are but vain attempts to win sympathy in the Arab-Muslim world and bring Syria and Iran out of their isolation.

Tony Blair's Britain is the only European country that stands firm and walks hand-in-hand with the United States. Germany's policy is also consistent on the background of its dark past. Britain's tough stance succeeded in isolating Libyan leader Qaddafi at a time when he boasted of having nuclear weapons. For thirty years Qaddafi had been instigating and funding international terror, and he was a troublemaker and agitator of war. London took him out of the nuclear and terrorist game, and he succumbed to U.S. pressure and destroyed his arsenal on his own initiative. This indicates how, today, it would be possible to isolate Iran and its satellites. Only heavy pressure and sanctions, rather than a weak-willed policy, can alter the situation and remove the threats.

The United States erred when it decided last May to change its policy toward Teheran. The Iranians, like Hizballah and Hamas, only understand the language of force and interpret any other idiom as weakness. In the long term, the free world must also aim to change the regime of the ayatollahs and remove the ruling religious sect.

France is a long-standing friend of Libya, yet it never managed to deal with Qaddafi's nuclear issue. Under an isolationist and mercantilist policy, the Libyan colonel supplied oil and got to purchase weapons in return.

Regarding Lebanon, then, we know what to expect of Paris. Moreover, the growing influence of France's Muslim immigrants plays a substantial part in its policy. Less than a year before its presidential elections, France is in a trap with no way out.

Europe's helplessness as a united and consolidated political body does not work in Israel's favor in the struggle against international terrorism. Europe plays a significant role in formulating global policy, particularly in the Middle East. It is a partner to all the peace processes and stands behind fateful decisions in UN institutions and international forums. Its economic and political power is not to be dismissed. Undoubtedly, the values of the European Union strengthen democracy and universal values, and Israel and the EU need each other. The dependency on the Europeans is reciprocal, and its leaders are aware of Israel's unquestionable importance on all the military and political issues.

At the same time, when discussing fateful decisions for our future, Israel must safeguard its assets and be vigilant until Europe becomes capable of pursuing a balanced policy and formulating a policy horizon that is clear from the start.

*     *     *

Ambassador Freddy Eytan, a former Foreign Ministry senior advisor who served in Israel's embassies in Paris and in Brussels, was Israel's first Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. He heads the Jerusalem Center's Israel-Europe Project, focusing on presenting Israel's case in the countries of Europe. His books include La Poudriere (The Powder Keg) (1991), Shimon Peres - Biographie (1996), Keren Or (Ray of Light) (2004), France: Le Double Jeu (Double Game) (2004), and Sharon, A Life in Times of Turmoil (English and French, 2006).


Dore Gold, Publisher; Yaakov Amidror, ICA Program Director; Mark Ami-El, Managing Editor. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (Registered Amuta), 13 Tel-Hai St., Jerusalem, Israel; Tel. 972-2-5619281, Fax. 972-2-5619112, Email: jcpa@netvision.net.il. In U.S.A.: Center for Jewish Community Studies, 5800 Park Heights Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21215 USA, Tel. (410) 664-5222; Fax. (410) 664-1228. Website: www.jcpa.org. Copyright. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

The Institute for Contemporary Affairs (ICA) is dedicated to providing a forum for Israeli policy discussion and debate.
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