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Nixon Statements Foreshadow Stronger U.S. Commitment to Israel’s Survival

November 7, 1968
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

When Richard M. Nixon takes the oath of office as President of the United States on Jan. 20, the United States commitment to the survival of Israel will continue unaffected. If anything, a study of Mr. Nixon’s declarations and campaign pledges on Israel and the Middle East indicate that commitment may be strengthened. It would lay more stress on providing Israel with the sophisticated weaponry needed to maintain military superiority over its hostile neighbors, may involve a greater degree of American initiative in reaching a settlement and almost certainly will manifest itself by a harder line toward Soviet expansion in the Middle East, particularly the accretion of Soviet naval power in the Mediterranean which is regarded as a menace to NATO, apart from the Arab-Israel conflict. The U.S. may also take a more explicit stand than hitherto on the denial of religious and cultural rights to Soviet Jewry and the official anti-Semitism rampant in Poland.

The narrow margin of Mr. Nixon’s victory indicates a cautious and conciliatory Administration, envisaging a coalition and seeking a consensus but reserving freedom to make great decisions on Middle East, Far East and other foreign policy matters. Observers here pointed out today that both houses of Congress remain under almost unchanged Democratic control. Most of Israel’s strongest friends in Congress have been re-elected. The new President will have to pay close heed to the will of Congress to achieve his programs.

It is regarded as significant that Mr. Nixon has heavily relied on three economists of the Jewish faith for advice on economic matters and has drawn heavily on Jewish advisors and collaborators in other areas. In the economic field, he has relied on Arthur F. Burns, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors in the Eisenhower regime; Dr. Milton Friedman, the University of Chicago economist, and Alan Greenspan, a leading economic consultant. As his chief adviser on urban and community affairs – an area that must be considered the most difficult facing the President in the domestic field – Mr. Nixon has relied on Max M. Fisher, chairman of the United Israel Appeal and one of the top leaders of American Jewry.


In outlining his position on the Middle East, Mr. Nixon told the triennial convention of B’nai B’rith last September that the U.S. must tip the balance of military strength in Israel’s favor. He based his advocacy of clear-cut Israeli military superiority on the premise that an exact balance of power with the Arabs “would run the risk that potential aggressors might miscalculate and would offer them too much of a temptation.” Pressed by reporters to say whether he was making a promise to supply Israel with F-4 Phantom jets, the supersonic fighter-bomber that Israel seeks to buy in the United States, Mr. Nixon replied, “If it takes Phantom jets, they should have Phantom jets.” He told other reporters later, however, that he would “not get into specifics of whether they get a Phantom or any other kind of jet.”

Mr. Nixon has frequently declared himself opposed to any peace settlement imposed by the Big Powers and has said he thought a solution was achievable only by negotiation. He has also stated a belief that the Middle East crisis is a potentially greater menace to world peace than the Vietnam war and the possible site of a more serious confrontation with the Soviet Union. “We have to make it crystal clear (to the Soviet Union) that the stake of the free world in the Middle East is great,” he said. “We must impress on the Russians the full extent of our determination; and then and only then will we cause them to reconsider their own policy to avoid a collision course.” At an Oct. 21 meeting in New York with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Mr. Nixon said it was necessary for the Soviet Union to “avoid any miscalculation and to understand that the U.S. would not tolerate any Soviet take-over of the Middle East or destruction of Israel.” He described that position as “preventive diplomacy.” Mr. Nixon has said that “the U.S. must take the lead in forging an acceptable settlement in the Middle East” which, he went on, should include free passage for ships of all nations through the Suez Canal and Tiran Straits, recognition of Israel’s sovereignty and right to exist and an end to the state of belligerency in the region. In a statement to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, he said that in his view, “for Israel to take formal and final possession of the occupied territories would be a grave mistake; at the same time, it is not realistic to expect Israel to surrender vital bargaining counters in the absence of a genuine peace and effective guarantees.” Mr. Nixon has said that “the U.S. has a firm and unwavering commitment to the national existence of Israel. America supports Israel because we believe in the self-determination of nations…because we oppose aggression in every form…because (Israel) is threatened by Soviet imperialism…because its example offers long range hope to the Middle East.” He added, “All these reasons add up to why we are not about to abandon Israel. America’s word is good. It has cost us enough to prove that.”


Mr. Nixon, a man who built his political career on opposition to Communism, is expected by those concerned with the plight of Soviet Jewry to express himself more forcefully than his predecessor on this issue and to waive some diplomatic niceties. Mr. Nixon outlined his views in a Sept. 29 letter to Rabbi Israel Miller, then chairman of the American-Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry. He wrote, “I deplore the discriminatory measures imposed upon Jews in the Soviet Union, and hope and trust that

The shape and tone of the Nixon Administration, as political observers here are aware, will be determined to a great extent by the men he appoints to Cabinet and other policy-making posts. Former Gov. William Scranton of Pennsylvania, who served as Mr. Nixon’s principal advisor on foreign affairs during the Presidential campaign, has been mentioned as a possible choice for Secretary of State. Mr. Scranton echoed Mr. Nixon’s stand on the Middle East Nov. 1 when he said the “U.S. will provide military support to Israel in order to bring a peaceful solution through negotiations.” He criticized the Johnson Administration for the sale of 88 Phantom jets to West Germany without setting conditions while “delaying the sale of promised jets to Israel.” Mr. Nixon’s Vice President, Spiro T. Agnew has also called for “a strong Israel equipped to deter any threat of war.”

Mr. Nixon’s campaign staff included a number of Jews in key positions, many of whom are expected to fill posts in the Nixon Administration. Among them is Leonard Garment of New York, Mr. Nixon’s law partner, who served as coordinator of media for the campaign and recruited key personnel for it. Another young Jewish attorney, Martin R. Pollner of New York, formerly a Robert Kennedy aide, directed Mr. Nixon’s advisory council on crime and law enforcement. Warren Adler, Washington publicist, had a significant role in the campaign as did Bernard Katzen of New York, veteran director of the Republican National Committee’s ethnic division.

Mr. Nixon was the first important non-Jewish political personage to visit Israel at the conclusion of the Six-Day War in 1967. He met with Israeli leaders and publicly supported the Israeli cause. He made the acquaintance of Gen. Yitzhak Rabin, then Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army. He met privately with Gen. Rabin in the United States following the latter’s appointment as Ambassador. The discussions covered topics reflected in Mr. Nixon’s public statements.

The Nixon attitude toward the State Department was revealed in the President-elect’s comments on his approach to decision making. While some authority on domestic decisions must be delegated, he said, the President “must be free to make the great decisions, particularly on foreign policy.”

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