WASHINGTON (Nov. 18)
Jewish and non-Jewish supporters of President Richard M. Nixon’s Vietnam war policies had boundless praise today for Premier Golda Meir of Israel whose message to the President supporting his Nov. 3 Vietnam speech has created a stir in Washington. The praise came chiefly from Republicans and others who have previously denounced war critics and the mass anti-war mobilization here last week end in which thousands of Jewish youth and adults participated.
House Republican leader Gerald R. Ford, of Michigan, said he commended to all Americans “the bright vision” of Israel “which the Premier expresses in her congratulatory message to President Nixon on his Nov. 3 speech to the nation.” Rep. Ford attacked “the simplistic and myopic view of the struggle in Vietnam which some strident critics of President Nixon’s policy take” and said it was “sharply refuted by the Prime Minister of Israel”. He praised her “indomitable courage and independence of mind” which “cannot be questioned.” He said Mrs. Meir “knows as do her countrymen that the fate of small, still free nations everywhere is deeply involved in Vietnam.” Rep. Ford is a strong advocate of the sale of Phantom jet bombers and other military equipment to Israel.
Bernard Direnfeld, national commander of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States, which has always taken a hawkish stand on the Vietnam war, claimed that Mrs. Meir’s support of Mr. Nixon was “highly relevant to the security both of Israel and the United States.” Mr. Direnfeld claimed, in a statement issued today, that “there are many parallels between Israel’s long search for peace and America’s present efforts to negotiate a meaningful peace in Vietnam.”
Meanwhile, Congressmen were cautious in their reaction to Mrs. Meir’s message. Except for Rep. Ford, none of the Senators and Representatives contacted by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency were willing to be identified by name. Their comments followed party lines. One high ranking Republican praised Mrs. Meir as a “brilliant, perceptive woman.” But a prominent Democratic Senator expressed disbelief that Mrs. Meir had in effect endorsed the President’s speech. A Democratic member of the House told JTA that he was reserving comment because “many of my supporters strongly support Israel but just as strongly oppose the President’s Vietnam policy.”
Mrs. Meir’s letter was made public by the White House Sunday. It was conveyed to the President through Walworth Barbour, the U.S. Ambassador in Tel Aviv. It said: “The Prime Minister wishes to congratulate the President on his meaningful speech, and expresses her hope that he will speedily succeed in bringing about peace in Vietnam. The President’s speech contains much that encourages and strengthens freedom-loving small nations the world over, which are striving to maintain their independent existence looking to that great democracy, the United States of America.”
Gen. Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., addressing the Women’s National Democratic Club in Washington yesterday, he said he thought Mrs. Meir’s letter referred to the following passages in the Nixon speech: “Our defeat and humiliation in South Vietnam would, without question, promote recklessness in the councils of those great powers who have not yet abandoned their goals of world conquest. This would spark violence wherever our commitments help maintain peace–in the Middle East, in Berlin, and eventually even in the Western Hemisphere…Let historians not record that when America was the most powerful nation in the world, we passed on the other side of the road and allowed the last hopes for peace and freedom of millions of people of this earth to be suffocated by the forces of totalitarianism.”
Strong dissent from Mrs. Meir’s position was voice by Rabbi Balfour Brickner, a war critic and national director of the commission on Interfaith Activities for Reform Judaism. He said he had no alternative as a liberal Jew but to reject Mrs. Meir’s support of President Nixon on the Vietnam issue. Rabbi Brickner said, “Golda Meir has driven wedge between herself and the liberal, intellectual Jews of America who saw no conflict in supporting Israel’s struggle while opposing the unjust, unwise war in Vietnam.” He expressed fear that the Meir endorsement would alienate “many of Israel’s friends in America’s academic community, among liberal Protestants and Catholics and the clergy, and among politically active young people with liberal inclinations.”