Menu JTA Search

Watergate Implications Ignored Israel Gov’t. Planning Warmest Possible Welcome for Nixon

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

The Israeli government, though aware of the Watergate related domestic political motivations behind President Nixon’s current Middle East trip, is determined to disregard them and give the President the warmest, friendliest welcome possible when he arrives in Israel Sunday for a 25-hour visit. According to a highly placed government source, this attitude is motivated in part by Israel’s genuine belief that the President himself deserves a very large share of its gratitude for the unprecedentedly cordial and intimate relations that have evolved between the U.S. and Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.

Israeli leaders are also fully aware of the extent of Israel’s dependence on the U.S. for military, economic and political support. “We cannot manufacture the arms ourselves and we cannot pay for them ourselves,” the source said. The source noted that while there were obviously many components in the U.S. decision-making process, it was in the end the President who made the decisions that sent massive arms supplies to Israel over the past six years, culminating in the Yom Kippur War airlift; the $3 billion of financial aid between 1969-73; and the general political support for Israel in face of Soviet counter moves, Arab political and economic pressure and an essentially hostile Europe.

ISRAELIS EXPECTED TO DEMONSTRATE FRIENDSHIP

For these and other reasons, the government expects the citizenry to show Nixon their friendship and even enthusiasm as far as his tight, security-conscious schedule will allow. But there will be no attempt to compete with the tumultuous greeting he received in Egypt if only because Jerusalem is so much smaller than Cairo.

The Rabin government is hoping that it can continue the dialogue with the President on the same intimate level that was obtained with its predecessor government headed by Premier Golda Meir. Rabin built a cordial personal relationship with Nixon during his years as Ambassador in Washington. The close rapport that developed between Nixon and Mrs. Meir is evidenced by his announced intention to visit her in her present status as a private citizen.

Israel is convinced, and hopes that Nixon is equally convinced, that a strong Israel is in the long-term American interest, the source pointed out. While U.S. rapprochement with some of the Arab states may present Israel with short-term problems, Arab friendship is notoriously fickle; such Arab states as Iraq and Libya remain intensely hostile to Washington and the attitude of some others is equivocal, the source said.

GOV’T HOPES FOR WEAPONS, ECONOMIC AID PACTS

Israeli government officials who, according to informed sources, hope Nixon will sign here an agreement for long-term weapons aid to Israel, have estimated the aid at $1.5 billion annually for a five-year agreement. Israel also wants an agreement for long-term economic aid but observers do not see any figures worked out for such a pact until Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir returns from the United States.

Meanwhile, it was announced yesterday that plans have been cancelled for an official welcome to Nixon on the outskirts of Jerusalem by Mayor Teddy Kollek and dignitaries representing the three major faiths. The ceremony was called off on security grounds at the request of American security officials, according to the official announcement. But some observers believe the reason was political as the President would not wish to meet with Moslem dignitaries who consider themselves to be living under Israeli occupation in Arab Jerusalem. For the same reasons, apparently, Nixon will not visit the shrines of the three faiths as originally planned.

(After two days of exuberant displays by millions of Egyptians in Cairo and Alexandria and lengthy talks on various aspects of the Middle East problem and United States-Egyptian relations, Nixon flew Thursday to Riyadh for talks with Saudi Arabian officials.)

NEXT STORY