Zionism, Nixon-style

Nixon’s readiness to come to Israel’s aid in time of need underlines the critical mutual importance of the Israeli-American strategic alliance.

December 12, 2010 21:32
3 minute read.
Henry Kissinger

Kissinger 311. (photo credit: AP)


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A new batch of recordings released by the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum provides further evidence of former US president Richard Nixon’s animosity toward Jews and other minorities. Particularly appalling were comments made by Nixon and his national security adviser Henry Kissinger after a March 1973 meeting with prime minister Golda Meir at the White House.

Nixon and Kissinger brutally dismissed Meir’s requests to come to the aid of refuseniks.

“The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy,” Kissinger said.

“And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”

“I know,” Nixon responded. “We can’t blow up the world because of it.”

Nixon also ordered his personal secretary Rose Mary Woods to block entry to a state dinner held in honor of Meir – he called it “the Jewish dinner” – to any Jew “who didn’t support us.”

And the president disparaged top Jewish advisers – among them Kissinger and William Safire – for supposedly sharing the common trait of needing to compensate for an inferiority complex.

“What it is, is it’s the insecurity,” Nixon said. “It’s the latent insecurity. Most Jewish people are insecure. And that’s why they have to prove things.”

In tapes released in 2007, Nixon said of Kissinger “Anybody who is Jewish cannot handle” Middle Eastern policy. Henry might be “as fair as he can possibly be, but he can’t help but be affected by it. Put yourself in his position. Good God ... his people were crucified over there. Jesus Christ! Five million of them popped into big ovens! How the hell’s he feel about all this?”

COUNTER-INTUITIVELY, this is the same Nixon who, during the Yom Kippur War, overrode intra-administration bickering and bureaucratic foot-dragging to implement a breathtaking transfer of arms. Code-named Operation Nickel Grass, the operation, over a four-week period, deployed hundreds of jumbo US military aircrafts to deliver more than 22,000 tons of armaments to Israel.

And Nixon acted at a time when Washington was in the throes of a post-Vietnam War trauma, embroiled in Watergate and reeling from the forced resignation of vice president Spiro Agnew.

Finally, Nixon braved the threat of an Arab oil embargo, which convinced the Europeans not to get involved.

Indeed, the day after Nixon asked Congress for an emergency appropriation of $2.2 billion for Israel, Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal announced an embargo of oil to the US.

White House chief of staff Alexander Haig, CIA deputy director Vernon Walters and historian Walter Boyne all credited Nixon with coming to the aid of Israel at a time when no European country was willing to, as Jason Maoz noted in a recent article in Commentary.

“It was Nixon who did it,” recalled Nixon’s acting special counsel, Leonard Garment. “I was there. As [bureaucratic bickering between the State and Defense departments] was going back and forth, Nixon said, this is insane. . . . He just ordered Kissinger, ‘Get your ass out of here and tell those people to move.’” Haig, in his memoir Inner Circles, wrote that Nixon, frustrated with the initial delays in implementing the airlift and aware that the Soviets had begun airlifting supplies to Egypt and Syria, summoned Kissinger and Schlesinger to the Oval Office on October 12, 1973, six days into the war, and “banished all excuses.”

The president asked Kissinger for a precise accounting of Israel’s military needs, and Kissinger proceeded to read aloud from an itemized list.

“Double it,” Nixon ordered. “Now get the hell out of here and get the job done.”

Meir herself referred to Nixon as “my president” and told a group of Jewish leaders in Washington shortly after the war: “For generations to come, all will be told of the miracle of the immense planes from the United States bringing in the materiel that meant life to our people.”

THE NEW York Times, attempting to explain the apparent contradiction between Nixon's anti-Semitic remarks and his pro-Israel behavior, ascribed it to a distinction the president made between Israeli Jews, whom he admired, and American Jews.

Perhaps so. Whatever the case, Nixon’s readiness to come to Israel’s aid at a time of dire need, his appreciation that this was an American interest, has an ongoing relevance, underlining the critical mutual importance of the Israeli-American strategic alliance.

With all its implications for policy-making in Washington and in Jerusalem, this remains as true today as it ever was.

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