WASHINGTON (JTA) — Alexander Haig, the secretary of state whose siding with Israel during the Lebanon War was a factor in his resignation, has died.
Haig succumbed Saturday to complications from an infection at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He was 85.
Haig was the Reagan administration official who was perhaps closest to Israel.
Israeli reporting after Israel’s ill-fated June 1982 invasion quoted unnamed officials in Israel and the United States as saying that Haig "greenlighted" the operation. Haig strongly denied the assertion, saying in his 1984 book "Caveat" about his 18 months with Reagan that he repeatedly warned Israel that only an "internationally recognized" provocation would justify a "proportionate retaliation."
Israel’s pretext — an assassination attempt on its ambassador to London by a group not under the control of Israel’s Palestine Liberation Organization enemy — did not qualify, he wrote.
Nonetheless, Haig continued to attempt to protect Israel from tough Reagan administration condemnation that he said originated not with Reagan but with Vice President George Bush and National Security Adviser William Clark.
According to his account, Haig organized a last-minute veto on a U.N. condemnation of Israel. He resigned in July 1982, barely a month after the invasion, saying he could not work with an administration that ran competing foreign policies.
Before his tenure as secretary of state, Haig had a sterling reputation as an Army general who was named chief of staff to President Richard Nixon and who helped preserve the dignity of the office even as the scandal-plagued president resigned.
Haig ended his own bid for the presidency in 1988 when polls showed him running last.