Europe and the War in Lebanon

, August 16, 2006

Vol. 6, No. 7    August 16, 2006

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

Amb. Freddy Eytan

Amb. Freddy Eytan, a former Foreign Ministry senior advisor who served in Israel’s embassies in Paris and Brussels, was Israel’s first Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. He was also the spokesman of the Israeli delegation in the peace process with the Palestinians. Since 2007, he heads the Israel-Europe Project at the Jerusalem Center, which focuses on analyzing Israeli relations with the countries of Europe and seeks to develop ties and avenues of bilateral cooperation. He is also the director of Le Cape, the Jerusalem Center website in French. Amb. Eytan has written 20 books about the Israeli-Arab conflict and the policy of France in the Middle East, including La Poudriere (The Powder Keg) and Le double jeu (the Double Game). He has also published biographies of Shimon Peres, Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu, and a book, The 18 Who Built Israel.