Eshkol Congratulates Nixon; New President Regarded As Friend of Israel

Prime Minister Levi Eshkol cabled congratulations yesterday to President-elect Richard M. Nixon and extended warm wishes for successful leadership “not only of the great American nation but of all forces of freedom throughout the world.” Mr. Eshkol said that he retained “fond memories of our meetings in Jerusalem and in New York, of your dedication to stability and peace in the Middle East and of your friendship for Israel reborn.”

Mr. Nixon’s electoral victory Tuesday was generally welcomed in Israeli political circles where the consensus appeared to be that he is a sincere friend of Israel who will fulfill his campaign pledges concerning Israel’s security needs and who is acutely aware of the menace of growing Soviet military power and political influence in the region. Particular stress was put on Mr. Nixon’s public advocacy of military superiority for Israel over the Arab states to serve as a deterrent against renewed Arab aggression. Some sources predicted that under a Nixon Administration, Israel would receive American arms aid even beyond Phantom jets to offset the flow of Soviet military supplies to the Arabs.

The closest thing to an official comment to appear so far was a statement by Dr. Yaacov Herzog, director-general of the Prime Minister’s office, which was published yesterday in the newspaper Haaretz before the final outcome of the American elections was known here. Dr. Herzog said that if Mr. Nixon becomes the next President of the United States he will not be bound by the interpretations given by the State Department to President Johnson’s five points of June, 1967. Dr. Herzog said that unlike his rival, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, who has not ventured beyond statements made by Mr. Johnson, Mr. Nixon has said publicly that Israel must be stronger than all the Arab states combined to deter them from starting another war.

Observers here said that Mr. Nixon was following more or less the line of President Johnson and the late Secretary of State John Foster Dulles who were watchful to prevent a further expansion of Soviet influence in the Middle East. They pointed out, however, that during the election campaign and in his private conversations with Prime Minister Eshkol last January, he said nothing that could be construed as a binding commitment to aid Israel if she is attacked. However, according to these sources, Mr. Nixon is expected to be no less adamant than President Johnson on direct Soviet intervention. If the USSR should consider intervening militarily in any future Arab-Israeli confrontation, there is little doubt, they said, that the Russians would be countered by American units in the Mediterranean, including the Sixth Fleet.

Israeli newspapers today confined their editorial comment on the American elections to analyses of the political situation in the U.S. in light of Mr. Nixon’s narrow victory and the relatively weak support received by third party candidate George C. Wallace. Al Hamishmar, organ of the left-wing labor Mapam Party noted that both the Republican and Democratic Parties have recognized Israel’s urgent security requirements and observed, “there is, of course, a difference between promises before the elections and after them. If Mr. Nixon really believes in conducting a foreign policy from a position of strength, then his intention to keep Israel’s power at a level designed to deter war may be taken seriously.”

(The London Times said in an editorial today that Mr. Nixon “may live to regret his unguarded commitment to Zionism when dealing with the Middle East.” The Guardian noted that Mr. Nixon was the first candidate to advocate the sale of Phantom jets to Israel and support a policy that would give Israel a military margin of superiority over her neighbors. “It is Nixon’s theory that an adequately armed Israel is the best guarantee against a possible U.S.-Russian confrontation in the Middle East,” the paper said.

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