74. Telegram From the Embassy in France to the Department of State 1
523. Ref: Paris 508.2 It is disconcerting to say the least to see the head of an important and traditionally friendly country conduct its foreign policy on such a series of subjective and relatively trivial prejudices as De Gaulle seems to be doing in France. It seems to me that his anger and bitterness in regard to Israel stems from two basic reasons: (1) His recognition that France did not and could not play any important role in the Middle East crisis—Russia’s blunt refusal of a Four-Power gathering, the failure of French diplomacy with its former African colonies set the background for his current mood. (2) His anger at the Israelis daring to ignore his personal advice adds a note of subjective bitterness. To his present mood (3) it should of course be added that as is customary with him he finds some reason to blame the U.S. His supposition, and it is certainly no more than that, that if the U.S. had really given a flat warning to Israel we could have prevented the war is ridiculous on the face of it. What is a matter of concern however is the degree to which under De Gaulle’s one-man rule personal and subjective prejudices have been translated into political action. As an illustration of the depth of his feeling against Israel he told me yesterday that “in this very room” five years ago Ben Gurion said that Israel had two and one-half million people, that some day it would be five million, and then asked the rhetorical question “Where will we put these people,” the implication being that Israel had solid reasons for making plans of aggression. I told him that this may have been Ben Gurion’s view five years ago, but I understood that recently the rate of immigration to Israel had gone down radically.
At another point in discussing the motivations of Israeli action I said to De Gaulle, “What would you have done if you had been an Israeli” to which he replied with some frostiness, “I am not an Israeli.” (I might say that throughout De Gaulle was as usual polite and courteous.)
I am inclined to believe however that De Gaulle’s statement that French abstention on Cuban and Albanian amendments was due to his feeling that the U.S. bore some share of responsibility for events in the [Page 144] Middle East is not completely accurate. I had learned yesterday from an officer of the Quai d’Orsay that these instructions were drafted on a general basis without any anticipation of either of these amendments, and that Seydoux had lacked the nerve to raise the question with the Quai. It was for this reason that I suggested we be particularly careful in handling what De Gaulle told me.
There would seem to be absolutely nothing that we can do to bring about any change in De Gaulle’s attitude, and I believe that we can count on his continuing hostility to Israel, particularly in the field of the arms embargo, unless the Israelis should withdraw, which is in the highest degree unlikely.
It is difficult to convey from here to Washington the depth of the feeling in Parisian political and non-political circles at the current line of De Gaulle’s policy. However, with the Assembly in recess until October there is no chance that any influence will be brought to bear on De Gaulle, or would have any possibility of success if it were. There seems to be no possibility of any ministerial resignation, but there is no doubt that De Gaulle’s Middle East policy, particularly the anti-Israeli aspect, has dealt Gaullism a considerable blow.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, France, Vol. 12. Secret; Nodis. In an attached July 12 memorandum to President Johnson, Walt Rostow commented: “There is little in this you don’t know or guess; although De Gaulle’s personal anger at Israel’s failing to take his advice is an interesting but not complete explanation of French Middle East policy, you will wish to note the final paragraph.”↩
- See footnote 2, Document 73.↩