Kollek: Soviets Are Not in the Mideast Just to Protect Egypt from Israel
Menu JTA Search

Kollek: Soviets Are Not in the Mideast Just to Protect Egypt from Israel

Download PDF for this date

Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem said in a television interview scheduled for broadcast tomorrow night that the “tremendous” Soviet presence in the Middle East “outweighs anything that would be necessary in order to protect the Egyptians against our possible attack.” On the contrary, he said, “It certainly is directed toward strengthening Russia in the sweet waters and in the warm waters of the Mediterranean, to give them a chance, maybe, to control the oil flow to Europe and to Japan. All these efforts wouldn’t be made just to defeat little Israel.” Mayor Kollek was interviewed on “The David Frost Show.” The Mideast crisis is thus more “an American show, maybe a major show, than ours,” the Israeli mayor said, adding: “But the United States is so concerned and so much involved in Vietnam that maybe they don’t see what’s happening in the Middle East.” A few moments later, asked whether an American Jew is an American first or a Jew first, he drew laughter and applause by saying: “It depends about which country has more to worry, and that’s doubtful at the moment.”

Asked to compare Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser with Hitler, Mayor Kollek replied: “I think Hitler was a madman with a mad idea, to liquidate the Jews, and while Nasser has been a very aggressive enemy, and while we are the only country which is in danger of being eliminated should the Arab succeed–after all, nobody has gassed Jews in Egypt or killed them with cyanide or something of the kind.” And despite the Mideast hostilities, he said, Israelis “certainly enjoy themselves.” He recalled the recent 22nd Independence Day celebration: “A hundred thousand people were in the streets and dancing and singing until four o’clock in the morning or five o’clock in the morning, and to hell with Nasser, to hell with Brezhnev–they won’t tell us when we should be jolly.” But there are “personal” aspects to the war that are not as joyous, he observed, noting that of his son’s graduating class at high school, “four are gone so far and two have lost a limb or are invalids.” He continued: “You know what’s happening, you know the people. The same as I know the streets of Jerusalem, I know the community and the country, and so does everybody else, and if something happens, you know who is involved. And that makes it very personal.”


Mayor Kollek said, however, that he has no fear–“not at all”–of walking through the streets of Jerusalem unprotected. He said a delegation of American mayors was “astonished at the fact that I walk around the city without escort, that there is no policeman outside my house.” He explained that in Jerusalem “there has been no clash in over three years” between Arabs and Jews–“not in streets, and not in places of amusement, and not in shops, and not in working places where they work together.” Violence, he said, “is not the atmosphere of the city”; rather. “Arabs come to my house, I come to Arab houses. We meet, we disagree, we have different opinions. They can tell them openly.” Mayor Kollek conceded that “The Arabs regard us as an occupying force…They would like to see it (the city) run as a condominium. Or they would even better like us to disappear, by the force of Allah, or by pestilence, or whatever it might be.” But meanwhile, he said, the Jews of Jerusalem “have taken a very simple formula,” namely, “We have told them, ‘Look, we’re running the city now. We don’t mind you coming in every day and starting every meeting by saying that you are against us as an occupying force. But once you have made that speech, come, let’s discuss sidewalks, and sewage, and education, and garbage collection, and everything else.’ And that has worked.” Mayor Kollek observed that the Arabs of Jerusalem are “a very decent lot–very, very good people.” He noted that “We have taken over five hundred Arab city officials–they certainly aren’t inferior to the Jewish city officials; they are first-class people.”

Jerusalem has always been an essentially Jewish city, her Vienna-born, 59-year-old mayor observed. “Nobody else made it their capital,” he said, “not the Babylonians, and not the Assyrians, and not the Turks, and not the British. And the Arabs, when they had it. or half of it, they didn’t make their capital there, but Hussein could have been King of Jerusalem–quite a nice title. He preferred to be King of Amman, which was a Berber village.” Thus, he said, “we say we are the only ones who have a deep relationship with the city, a deeper one than the others.” But, he added. “I think everybody is united in the fact that they like Jerusalem. There is a particular attachment of patriotism about it.” Asked about the chance for peace in the Mideast, Mr. Kollek replied: “Well. I’m getting my salary as the mayor of Jerusalem, not as the Foreign Minister of the State of Israel. But certainly in Jerusalem you would say that it proves that people can live together.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund