WASHINGTON (Jul. 13)
In an exclusive interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Sen, Henry Jackson (D., Wash.), President Nixon’s first choice for the post of Secretary of Defense, blamed “continuing rhetoric about withholding arms from Israel as a means of appeasing Egypt” on State Department bureaucrats. Jackson said that the State Department has a history of Arab bias because most of the career personnel received their training in Arab countries.
No major pro-Israel move, down to the original recognition in 1948, has had the support of the State Department, Jackson said. He added that whereas in the past professional soldiers in the Defense Department, admiring the Israelis for their military acumen, engaged State Department career types in productive debate, now Nixon Administration appointed civilians in the Defense Department implement State Department policy. Jackson referred to the holding up of Israeli arms requests in both the State and Defense Departments to pressure Israel into concessions on an interim settlement on reopening the Suez Canal, Jackson emphasized that “whereas the President himself personally wants to protect the existence of the State of Israel, he determines his policy on the basis of advice from State Department career people.” Jackson characterized State advice as being naive about the relation of the drive for Soviet hegemony in the Middle East and the Israeli issue. He maintained that the State Department advisors “made a serious mistake” in their attitude after the Soviet and Egyptian violations of the cease-fire, and in not making clear that the U.S. would stand by Israel against Soviet support of Egypt. He added the recent American pressure to get a reopening of the Suez Canal to the list of State Department-directed mistakes. He condemned what he called “the drive to open the canal to satisfy allegedly the desire of Egypt which is in reality the Russian wish.” He advocated “strongly supporting” Israeli use of the Canal as a “trump card” and resisting a Canal opening unless it is a part of an overall settlement.
Jackson said that the present Rogers plan is supported by Nixon, who despite his attitude as an individual “made serious errors” in not relating the strength and survival of Israel to American national interests. Jackson said that “our policies are not working” because by denying strength to Israel, in the form of not approving her arms requests, “we are weakening our bargaining position.” He added that the state Nixon policy of “evenhandedness” in the Middle East would be fine if the Soviets were also even handed. But in face of huge Soviet arms shipments to Egypt and Syria, “the U.S. must work out a clear understanding with Israel that we will back her security” with adequate and prompt shipments of arms, Such an understanding is not necessarily a treaty between the U.S. and Israel, Jackson said. He said that the best understanding and “real assurance” is the understanding of the American people of Israel’s relationship to the problem of Soviet imperialism, and the long standing traditional friendship with the Israeli democracy. Jackson said that the only way to overcome the State Department Arab bias is by “the system of checks and balance.” However, he expressed the fear that U.S. attitudes would have a “real effect on Soviet intentions in the Middle East” and encourage their incursions.
Jackson told the JTA that he “would like to see a real drive to get NATO members to relate the Middle East to the security of NATO.” He added that the “single biggest allied deficiency” is their failure to support Israel and to recognize the relationship between Soviet desires in the area and Israeli security. He called the recent crisis in Malta “another example of NATO allies not doing their jobs.” (Malta, a small but strategic island state in the mid-Mediterranean southwest of Italy, recently elected the regime of avowed neutralist, Prime Minister Dom Mintoff. Mintoff told the American Sixth Fleet that it was no longer welcome in Malta, pending re-negotiation of defense and other economic agreements with the British, former rulers of Malta. The Soviets have reportedly sent a mission to Malta to investigate the possibilities of establishing a consulate there after several unsuccessful attempts under the previous pro-American regime.)
Jackson said that a “large part” of recent Mintoff maneuvers has been to get a bigger concession from the British, but the NATO allies should be in the front to make sure the port is not opened to the Russians. On other elements of the settlement of the Mideast crisis, Jackson rated Sharm el-Sheikh, Sinai and the Golan Heights as first priorities and “vital” to Israel’s security. He separated Jerusalem into another category and said that whereas the others are non-negotiable, there is “an opportunity” in the case of the status of Jerusalem for negotiations. Jackson said that he had no specific position on Jerusalem from the defense point of view, but would not give it back to the Arabs. He suggested some kind of internationalization of the city, as part of a permanent settlement, under joint Israeli-Arab rule.