WASHINGTON (Dec. 26)
Maj. Gen. Mordechai Gur, Israel’s chief representative in the military disengagement talks with Egyptian officers in Geneva, is confident that Israel will emerge from the Middle East conference as a secure and independent Jewish state. “I am an optimist,” the tall, 43-year-old Jerusalem-born soldier said to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in Washington a week before the Israeli government announced his assignment to Geneva. “I am not afraid that Arabs and Israelis cannot live together in peace and harmony. I grew up with Arabs. When I was a boy my companions were Arabs. We had no troubles between us. They understood me and I understood them. We were boys together. With European-born Israelis in Israel it may be different. We who have always lived with Arabs know we can have peace with them and they know they can with us.”
These words from the Israeli Military Attache in Washington reflect an optimism and feeling of assurance that goes beyond himself. Other Israelis here, including newsmen, also are optimistic that results in Geneva will bring Israel and its Arab neighbors closer to relationships expected of civilized nations. This optimism, however, is not shared by some others who continue to look with foreboding towards Israel’s future. They see the U.S. government and the Israelis too, giving way to demands from the Soviet Union and the Arab states, particularly Egypt, going back to the 1970 missile crisis and the whole set of diplomatic and tactical advantages won by the Soviet-Arab alliance. How, they ask rhetorically, can there be trust in those who staged the attacks on Yom Kippur
Despite these polarized sentiments and feelings of uncertainty of the U.S. ultimate position, pro-Israelis agree that peace talks had to start somewhere sometime. Since they are in being, remote as they still may be from the friendliness hoped for, they are taking place. The consensus seems to be that the possibility exists for advancement towards normalcy at least in the Egyptian-Israeli area. The conference, they indicate, may result in that “interim agreement” that former Secretary of State William P. Rogers had for so long unsuccessfully advocated and which Israel had agreed to negotiate. That alone would be a substantial achievement if its practical results bring first evidence of trust and security in both sides, it is pointed out. The “interim agreement” advocates always have held that was its purpose.
Meanwhile, rumblings are being heard of a domestic political earthquake that may send shock waves throughout the world and especially in the Middle East. It now appears that the “Nixinger” image of perfect ideological and tactical accord between President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry A, Kissinger is on the verge of disappearing. Signs of a division between them have not come from the principles themselves in any way. Rather, they have emerged mainly from Nixon’s political enemies and friends. Some who would like to see Nixon leave the White House argue that the only support he now has in the country rests on the view that he is indispensable in guiding America’s foreign policy. Since Kissinger is the “President” of foreign affairs, as one Nixon antagonist put it, Nixon is no longer necessary. Kissinger’s retention by Vice-President Gerald Ford would maintain continuity in U.S. policy.
Friends of the President are finding flaws in Kissinger’s strategy and tactics. Thus it is argued by a former White House speech writer that the Kissinger method does not square with the moral content of the Nixon Doctrine. Another defender believes Kissinger has spread himself too thinly and suggested all his efforts have not been successful. One implication is that Kissinger’s personal negotiations with heads of state on his hurried visits at numerous capitals within short periods plus the intense limelight in which he appears everywhere does not suit Nixon, whose role as the country’s leader emphasizes mastery of foreign affairs.
It is not an accidental editorial quirk, one observer noted, that the Washington Post, a bellwether among anti-Nixon forces, included an 83-year-old cartoon on its full page presentation of the case against Nixon’s foreign policy pedestal. The resurrected cartoon illustrated Kaiser Wilhem’s dismissal of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in 1890 under its original caption “Dropping the Pilot.” The implication was clear in the analogy between what might happen now according to the Post and that event in Germany that created shock waves.
It may be or may not be only coincidental that the Nixon-Kissinger relationship in these terms is being discussed at a time when rival Republican Party forces are shaping up for the Presidential campaign although the first primaries are 18 months away. Thus the drama of Nixon, beleaguered at home while re-asserting his authority in all aspects of world affairs, and particularly towards the Middle East with its enormous domestic political implications, may be forthcoming soon.