In honor of Bastille Day, France’s national holiday, a few remarks on France-Israel military relations from Colonel G. Bailleux de Marisy, French defense attaché in Israel, and Corporal Alexandra Sokolovski, a soldier from the IDF Foreign Liaison Unit.
“Relations between the IDF and French army mirror the political relations between the two countries. Our mutual cooperation involves exchanges, official military delegation visits and sharing our respective military experiences,” said Col. de Marisy.
Two years ago, Col. de Marisy “quickly agreed” to serve as defense attaché in Israel. “I left with my family for four years. It is incredibly rewarding to live in this region—especially in Israel—as part of my duties.”
The IDF Foreign Liaison Unit manages cooperation between the IDF and foreign forces. Cpl. Sokolovski, a native French speaker, frequently works with Col. de Marisy and his staff; whom she describes as “a true friend of Israel.”
During the 2010 Mount Carmel forest fire that devastated parts of northern Israel, the French army responded by sending tens of thousands of tons of firefighting equipment, including five aircraft carriers. Coordinated by Cpl. Sokolovski and other soldiers from the Unit, these types of efforts exemplify “the excellent relations between our two armies,” said Cpl Sokolovski.
According to Col. de Marisy, differences do exist between the Israeli and French armies:
French soldiers are stationed outside of their homeland. They are often involved in operations spearheaded by the United Nations and join on a voluntary basis. In contrast, the IDF fights to defend its own borders on a daily basis and in Israel military service is compulsory.
Col. de Marisy was surprised to discover the age of his Israeli counterparts.
At first, the young age of most IDF soldiers was surprising. Although I generally work with high-ranking officers from the IDF’s General Staff, I am also in daily contact with young soldiers. I have excellent relations with all of the young soldiers that have crossed my path.
On July 14, France and the French army celebrate our National holiday. Today, in particular, there’s a feeling of sadness mingled with pride, because yesterday we lost five soldiers in Afghanistan and this morning another. My thoughts are with the bereaved families of these soldiers; I know [the Israeli army] understands how it feels to suffer these types of losses.