President Johnson Has Reputation As Consistent Friend of Israel
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President Johnson Has Reputation As Consistent Friend of Israel

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President Lyndon B. Johnson has assumed office with the reputation earned as Senate Majority Leader and as Vice President for consistent friendship for the State of Israel. Washington observers compared him today, in his attitude toward Israel, with former President Harry S. Truman who first granted recognition to the new state in 1948.

Mr. Johnson exerted his power as Senate Majority Leader on behalf of Israel in a number of crisis situations. His most memorable pro-Israel action took place in February 1957. when the Eisenhower Administration threatened Israel with punitive sanctions. The White House was then exerting what Sen. Johnson considered “one-sided” pressure on Israel to withdraw from the Sinal peninsula.

Mr. Johnson summoned his chauffeur and drove to the White House. A heated session ensued. Mr. Johnson bluntly informed President Eisenhower that the Senate would not approve economic sanctions against Israel.

The outspoken Texan told the late Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and former United Nations delegate Henry Cabot Lodge that their threats to impose sanctions on Israel were unwise and unfair. He was against “pressure on one side in a two-sided dispute.”

Mr. Johnson called for a just peace, deploring the attempted “coercion” of Israel as a “method of settlement.” He told the Eisenhower Administration it had lost sight of the basic facts in the Israel-Arab dispute.

Addressing fellow Senators, he said that “contrary to widespread assumptions in the United Nations and in Washington, the issue is not originally the result of Israel’s armed invasion of Egypt. The issue was raised by Egypt’s long-standing insistence of maintaining a ‘state of war’ with Israel and implementing it by both guerrilla raids and a double blockade in the Suez Canal and Strait of Tiran. It was this Egyptian maintenance of a ‘state of war’ and the exercise of belligerent rights… that resulted in Israel’s military counter-action.”


Mr. Johnson made clear his affinity for Israel after his election to the Vice-presidency. In addresses before Jewish audiences and during his visit to the State of Israel, Mr. Johnson left no doubt of the continuity of his sentiments.

As a Senator, Mr. Johnson fought to obtain for Israel a fair share of economic aid programs, noting that Israelis were forced to divert their own resources for defensive arms against the Russian arms flowing into Egypt.

Chairman J. W. Fulbright of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on May 2, 1960, introduced an amendment aimed at nullifying the Douglas-Keating “freedom of the seas” amendment. Sen. Fulbright sought to shield the Arab blockade and oppose Israel’s shipping rights. But Mr. Johnson arose with a motion to table the Fulbright amendment. The motion, coming from the Majority Leader, was carried by 45 to 39.


Mr. Johnson served as chairman of the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity. In this capacity he insisted that individuals be afforded an equal chance for employment without regard to their race or religion. His efforts in this connection were cited by Jewish organizations.

Under the leadership of Mr. Johnson, the Senate recognized its responsibilities on civil rights and enacted the first legislation in decades. As a Senator he also actively fought “McCarthyism” and extremism of the right.

During his last year in the Senate, the participation of a few members of the U.S. armed forces in George Lincoln Rockwell’s American Nazi Party came to Mr. Johnson’s attention. In his capacity as Chairman of the Senate Preparedness Investigating Committee, he demanded an immediate explanation from the Defense Department. Within days, the Department moved to have the Marine Corps discharge a marine who had joined the Nazi movement.


Mr. Johnson was reportedly vexed last June when Arab diplomats demanded that his wife resign as honorary chairman of an Israel Independence Ball, sponsored by Israel Bonds, in Washington.

In a letter replying to the Iraqi Embassy Charge d’Affaires, Mrs. Johnson stated that ‘I have, for whatever small value it may be, tried to be accessible and available to as many as possible, without distinction as to religion, race, or region, and certainly including all States of the Near East.” She added that “I shall continue to do so.”

The Iraqi diplomat had insisted on Mrs. Johnson’s resignation because “the State of Israel is based upon the usurpation of another nation’s land by force, displacing one million Arabs from their homeland.” In her reply, Mrs. Johnson said “the easiest course for the wife of a public official would be, of course, never to lend name, hand or heart to any endeavor, charitable or commemorative.”

The Arab diplomats in Washington charged that 13 Arab embassies had invited Mrs. Johnson to their social affairs but she had “not honored one of them” with her presence.

Members of Congress of both parties later asked the State Department to declare offending Arab officials persona non grata, and to expel them from Washington. The State Department agreed that the Arabs were at fault, but said that drastic action was not in the diplomatic interest of the United States.

Mr. and Mrs. Johnson are known to have given private support to Israeli philanthropic needs. Mr. Johnson, on one occasion, while purchasing a $1,000 Israel Development Bond, told an Israel Bond official that he thought highly of the bond undertaking, and had previously purchased a number of bonds.

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