Nixon and Israel: Forg­ing a Con­ser­v­a­tive Partnership

Noam Kochavi
  • Review
By – August 26, 2011

In this slim vol­ume (78 pages of text), Noam Kochavi, a lec­tur­er in the Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions depart­ment of Hebrew Uni­ver­si­ty, has writ­ten an impor­tant work that details the intri­cate rela­tion­ship between Israel and the Nixon admin­is­tra­tion between 1969 and 1974. Assess­ing the rela­tion­ship between Nixon and the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty must rec­on­cile the Nixon tapes, which revealed the strong anti-Semit­ic feel­ings the pres­i­dent shared with his close sub­or­di­nates in regard to left­ist” Jews, espe­cial­ly those who opposed his Viet­nam pol­i­cy, and his even­tu­al sup­port for Israel dur­ing the Yom Kip­pur War. Fur­ther­more, how do we account for the shift in pol­i­cy dur­ing the Nixon admin­is­tra­tion that rec­og­nized Israel as a strate­gic asset,” a pol­i­cy that has remained stead­fast in sub­se­quent admin­is­tra­tions, with the president’s deep acri­mo­ny toward Amer­i­can Jews?

Using a wealth of recent­ly declas­si­fied Israeli and Amer­i­can doc­u­ments, Kochavi has unrav­eled the evo­lu­tion of Nixon’s pol­i­cy shift toward Israel that led to his dis­tinc­tion between, the rad­i­cal and left wing Amer­i­can Jews and the best Jews, the Israelis.” Although archival rev­e­la­tions indi­cate that Nixon first rec­og­nized Israel’s val­ue to Amer­i­can inter­ests when it inter­vened dur­ing Black Sep­tem­ber,” 1970, to pro­tect the over­throw of Jor­dan by Syr­ia, Kov­el also cred­its the Jew­ish state for mak­ing pol­i­cy deci­sions that led to a con­ser­v­a­tive part­ner­ship” between both countries.

The new direc­tion by Israel that led to the part­ner­ship took into account Nixon’s obses­sion with loy­al­ty as much as it did to insure the pres­i­dent that he could count on Israel to sup­port Amer­i­ca in the Cold War. Among the pol­i­cy changes ini­ti­at­ed by the Gol­da Meir gov­ern­ment was the assur­ance to the Unit­ed States that it would ful­ly inform it of Sovi­et feel­ers designed to open chan­nels with Jerusalem, pub­licly align­ing itself with Nixon’s Viet­nam pol­i­cy, and open­ing up chan­nels to Chris­t­ian evan­gel­i­cal sup­port­ers of Israel. Also includ­ed in Israel’s cul­ti­va­tion of the Nixon admin­is­tra­tion was its sup­port for the president’s reelec­tion in 1972. Accord­ing to Kochavi, Israel deemed a McGov­ern vic­to­ry as spelling America’s retreat from world affairs, and was thus inim­i­cal to Israel’s inter­ests. Indeed, states Kochavi, behind closed doors Yitzhak Rabin (then Israel’s Ambas­sador to the Unit­ed States, and some­one who had a friend­ly rela­tion­ship with Nixon) went to great lengths to pro­mote a Nixon victory.”

Alas, the diplo­mat­ic under­stand­ing between the pres­i­dent, Sec­re­tary of State Hen­ry Kissinger, and Israel soon dete­ri­o­rat­ed over the administration’s pol­i­cy of détente and the Meir government’s covert sup­port for the Jack­son– Vanik amend­ment, which tied trade with the Sovi­et Union with the emi­gra­tion of Sovi­et Jew­ry. Israel’s 1974 align­ment with con­ser­v­a­tive anti-détente Amer­i­can con­ser­v­a­tives infu­ri­at­ed both Nixon and Kissinger, states Kochavai, and restored the president’s pro­cliv­i­ty to cast Jews as his per­son­al ene­mies, which had cloud­ed his view of Israel at the out­set of his tenure, and now resur­faced with a vengeance fol­low­ing the pas­sage of the amendment.

Kochavi’s valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to our under­stand­ing of the rela­tion­ship between the Nixon admin­is­tra­tion and Israel also stands as a cor­rec­tive to those schol­ars who have tend­ed to treat the Nixon administration’s Viet­nam pol­i­cy and his Mid­dle East­ern pol­i­cy sep­a­rate­ly. The evi­dence sug­gests, states Kochavi, that the Meir government’s out­spo­ken sup­port for Nixon’s Viet­nam pol­i­cy played a cru­cial role in deep­en­ing the president’s com­mit­ment to Israel, cer­tain­ly evi­dent in the Yom Kip­pur War, when Amer­i­can assis­tance to Israel helped turned the tide of war in favor of the Jew­ish state. Thus, con­cludes Kochavi, far from being dis­tinct pol­i­cy domains, Viet­nam and the Mid­dle East were, in the ear­ly 1970s, close­ly linked.”

Abra­ham J. Edel­heit is an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of his­to­ry at Kings­bor­ough Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege (CUNY) and the author, co-author, or edi­tor of eleven books on the Holo­caust, Zion­ism, Jew­ish and Euro­pean his­to­ry, and Mil­i­tary affairs. His most recent pub­li­ca­tion appeared in Armor mag­a­zine, the offi­cial jour­nal of the US Army Armor and Cav­al­ry Command.

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