Behind the Headlines Haig Favors Strong U.S. Support for Israel; Opposes U.S. Talks’ with or Recogni
Menu JTA Search

Behind the Headlines Haig Favors Strong U.S. Support for Israel; Opposes U.S. Talks’ with or Recogni

Download PDF for this date

Retired Gen. Alexander Haig Jr., named today by President-elect Reagan to be his Secretary of State, has expressed himself in favor of strong U.S. support for Israel both as a strategic ally and as a friend on moral grounds.

He also has endorsed the U.S. commitment by Presidents Ford and Carter in 1975 and 1979, respectively, opposing U.S. recognition of or negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization until it accepts UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and Israel’s right to exist.

Haig, who retired last year as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), is certain to face prolonged scrutiny by the Senate which must confirm his appointment.

Three prominent Democratic Senators — outgoing Majority Leader Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Alan Cranston of California and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts — have expressed strong opposition to him on the basis that he was President Nixon’s last Chief of Staff at the White House during the Watergate scandals and for his role in the Vietnam war. Some Senators dislike the idea of a military officer in charge at the State Department.

However, since Republicans will control the Senate when Haig’s nomination is considered after Reagan’s inauguration Jan. 20, it is expected that he will be confirmed.

On Israeli-American affairs, Haig made his views known in a speech in Miami on October 27, 1979 before a conference of the Zionist Organization of America. At that time he was considered a possible Republican Presidential candidate. It is understood here that he has not deviated from the positions he expressed on that occasion. He posed several questions relative to American policy toward the Middle East. The following are the questions and his responses


Q: “Is Israel a strategic liability to American national interests, being worthy of support only on moral grounds?”

A: “No. It is moral to support the right of the Jewish people to their own State. It is gratifying and important that Israel is a lively democracy, sharing our basic political values in a world hostile to democracy. As the strongest military power in the Middle East, Israel’s very existence serves to deter Soviet aggression. As in the past, a strong, viable Israel will continue to offer assistance to American interests and activities which bolster our friends in the region and elsewhere.”

Q: Does Israel have an unfair veto over U.S. communications with the PLO that hampers the peace process?”

A: “No. As the U.S. pledged in 1975 and reiterated in 1979, so long as the PLO advocates views incompatible with the peace process, the U.S. will not recognize or negotiate with the PLO. It is simply wrong to believe, as some of our diplomats seem to suggest, that official recognition is necessary to communication. Communication is not the issue between the U.S. and the PLO. Attempts to draw the PLO into the negotiations without agreement on the goals of the (Comp David) process undermines President (Anwar) Sodat (of Egypt) as well as Premier Menachem) Begin (of Israel). We should not compromise what we have accomplished already through concessions to the outspoken opponents of Sodat’s courageous policy.”


Q: “Is the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty contrary to, U.S. interests because it leaves out other parties to the conflict?”

A: “No. The Egyptian-Israeli treaty does not bar of her states from joining the peace process. The treaty of peace between the leading Arab state and Israel is a deterrent to war. Without the treaty, neither U.S. invests nor those of others can be realized.”


O: “Will the price of oil be stabilized by a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict?”

A: “No. The ‘link’ between on Arab-Israeli settlement and oil prices is tenuous. First not all members of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) are Arab. Second, oil prices are determined more by supply and demand and the value of the dollar than the issue of who rules Jerusalem. Third, to speak of such a link is dangerous, not only to the U.S. but also to the leading Arab oil producers. Fourth, it is illusory to be considered a superpower if foreign policies are distorted by domestic needs. Linking oil, needs and prices to foreign policy only invites more dictation by radical or anti-American states. This is not in our interests nor is it in the interests of such states as Saudi Arabia.”

Q: “Is recognition of the PLO necessary to strengthen U.S.-Saudi ties?”

A: “No. Our apparent differences with Saudi Arabia do not rest solely with the Arab-Israeli conflict. Several differences are rooted in these developments: 1. Our failure to contest Soviet activity in Africa and Asia; 2. the Soviet-Cuban build-up in South Yemen; 3. our inability to prevent the fall of the Shoh; 4. our mismanagement of the dollar. Recognizing the PLO would not deal with these issues.”

Haig, 56, is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and holds a Masters degree in international relations from Georgetown University. He worked at the Pentagon during the Kennedy Administration and was a specialist on European, Middle East and Latin American affairs. Regarded as a protege of former Secretory of State Henry Kissinger, Haig is reported to have played major roles in the Vietnam peace talks and in policies involving the Middle East, China and other areas.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund