Based on documents recently discovered in French archives, the article sheds new light on the role of France, especially of its Foreign Minister Georges Bidault, in providing arms and ammunition to the Etzel-the pre-state underground Zionist movement in Israel. The ship Altalena, which was sunk by the newly-formed Israel Defence Forces in the midst of the 1948 War of Independence, remains a centre of historiographical and political controversy in Israel. France's role in this affair is examined in the wider context of its clandestine intelligence, military and diplomatic assistance to Israel, as well as its rivalry with Britain in the Middle East. The article argues that Bidault's decision was intended to undermine Britain's secret support during the war in Palestine for King Abdallah of Jordan's occupation of Jerusalem. Documents, including a report of a committee of inquiry of the French Ministry of Defence into the Altalena affair, are annexed.