Behind the Headlines Kissinger and the Middle East
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Behind the Headlines Kissinger and the Middle East

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For the first time in the 197 years of the American Republic, a Jew is to be its Secretary of State. Furthermore, in retaining his post as assistant to the President for national security affairs, Dr. Henry A. Kissinger is now being entrusted with authority in U.S. foreign relations never held by an American apart from the President himself.

His new role and the President’s drive towards achievements globally that have apparently escaped him domestically, presage fresh starts on world problems. The Middle East will be high on the agenda. John Scali, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, indicated as much yesterday, noting that initiatives on the Middle East will be made “not immediately but in the months ahead.” Presumably, this referred to developments following the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on Dr. Kissinger which are expected to start in mid-Sept, and the Senate confirms him.

Simple majorities in the Committee and the Senate are sufficient for confirmation, but not ever having appeared in a public or private session of a Congressional panel, his entire life and writings will be minutely explored before the Committee, headed by Sen. J.William Fulbright, gives its assent.

Manifestations of dismay by Arab diplomats and foreign offices at the departure of William P. Rogers and the accession of Dr. Kissinger are hardly credible. They know, as do the Israelis, that when it comes to the business of global strategy Dr. Kissinger’s complete focus is in the American national interest. The President’s own strategy is based on the policy five Presidents established over 25 years. But it is reasonable to expect anti-Kissinger propaganda from Arab sources if only to try to place Dr. Kissinger in a position of bending over backward to please the Arabs in order not to appear pro-Israeli because he is Jewish.


In a society that all too frequently assesses personalities in terms of race, creed and national origin, this raises inevitable questions. How will Dr. Henry A. (Alfred) Kissinger, Jewish and the first foreign-born citizen to reach that post, affect U.S. foreign policy, particularly in its relations with Israel, the Arab countries and the Soviet Union and the two Germanies from which his family had fled when he was 15 years old to escape the Nazi terror and in which Jewry has a natural and deep concern? The answer, summarized, is, in no way whatever.

Bald as this may sound, this is true because essentially President Nixon has been his own master of foreign affairs since his first inauguration. Rogers held the office of Secretary of State but hardly the traditional authority that went with it. As the President’s special advisor. Dr. Kissinger provided the concepts, drafted the papers and traveled the globe to negotiate with Russians, Chinese and Indochinese. But in every essential policy matter it has been, and probably will continue to be, Nixon who will point the direction and make the decisions.

No one has indicated, least of all the President, that the roles to the Nixon-Kissinger partnership are about to change. They are partners in the reshaping of the world but the President is sole custodian of Kissinger’s authority and he has not shown any disposition to abandon his power to the idea of Dr. Kissinger’s glowing vision of a world in balance as it never has been since the Conference of Vienna a century and a half ago.

Apart from the elemental political considerations of power, Dr. Kissinger is remarkably detached personally in his execution of foreign affairs. The son of intensely Jewish parents, a Bar Mitzvah boy in Nazi Germany, the father of two children, he is Jewish without question.

His family came to America in 1938 with Dr. Kissinger going to high school in New York while working in a factory to help the family income. Last Nov. it became known that he contributed towards the planting of a grove of trees in Israel’s Judean Hills in memory of a boyhood schoolmate, Kurt Fleischner, who also escaped from Nazi Germany and died in England in 1971. Dr. Kissinger knows prejudice and labor at first hand, and his memory is long.


Observers have noted that he speaks of Israel as if it is just another country. Israelis have been heard to say that they would rather discuss their problems with Rogers or his chief Middle East aide, Joseph J. Sisco, than with the former Harvard professor. Nevertheless, they recognize that he has shown deep understanding of the Middle East problems and he has been constructive on issues affecting the area.

Basically, he has sought until recently to avoid participating in Middle East policy formulation. This has been Rogers’ area of special interest since he unveiled his plan in 1969. Some observers believe that with Dr. Kissinger as Secretary of State, President Nixon will find it easier to harden the U.S. line toward Israel and soften it toward the Arab states to reach a decision satisfactory to the oil companies.

However the same observers feel that the President himself would not favor a change in that direction. Rather, both are said to see the danger of bowing to Arab threats regarding the so-called oil “crisis” since they recognize Israel as a bulwark in the defense of the Eastern Mediterranean and the oil-rich Persian Gulf states against Soviet domination or radical Arab control which would actually heighten the “crisis.”

Consistent with his studied detachment to avoid any charge of group partiality, Dr. Kissinger is not known to have any Jewish organization affiliation. But unlike many famous Jewish-born political leaders who shunned Jews and Judaism, he has asserted his origin and mingles comfortably with Jews of all economic and social categories. “You must remember I am Jewish,” he remarked to guests at the White House dinner for Golda Meir.

According to information reaching London, the Supreme Court of the Russian-Soviet Republic has ruled that Prof. Alexander Temkin loses custody of his daughter, Marina, 14, who was forcibly taken to a Komsomol camp last Feb. in order to prevent her father taking her to Israel. Marina had been on a hunger strike in the camp in protest against an order that has must wear a Komsomol tie. The Professor was permitted to visit his daughter, but she had to remain in the camp. The estranged wife of the professor had never claimed custody of the child.


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