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Kissinger Urges Jews Against ‘self-flagellation’ over Lebanon

June 5, 1985
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Henry Kissinger national security advisor to two Presidents, warned that Jews should be wary about partaking in “self-flagellation” on account of the just-ending invasion of Lebanon.

The former Secretary of State under Presidents Nixon and Ford told an overflow audience at a synagogue forum here that “Israelis and Jewish people should be very careful about wallowing in a defeatist attitude. It was bad enough when the U.S. did it,” he said, but the U.S. is “a superpower,” and better able to rebound.

Kissinger’s 90-minute address at Manhattan’s Sutton Place Synagogue was heard by an estimated 2,000 spectators, including 1,000 on closed circuit television in the facility’s basement and seated in the closed-off street.

Kissinger, who helped arrange a cease fire in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in evaluating the Israeli incursion into Lebanon, recognized that the ongoing military withdrawal “in the face of Arab pressure,” was unprecedented.

He gave a decidedly mixed review to the Israeli operation, dubbed “Operation Peace for Galilee.” “I think the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) suffered a very heavy blow,” said Kissinger who throughout the evening responded to questions posed by the temple’s rabbi David Kahane. “It has contributed to the (peace) moves the PLO is making, however inadequate they may be,” he said.

He added that “it was a mistake to attempt to forge the unity of Lebanon” under Christian authority.

It is important for Israel not to engage in excessive “self-flagellation” about the failure represented by Lebanon rather than addressing the future.


He gave a less than optimistic view on current attempts to initiate direct negotiations between Jordanians and non-PLO Palestinians on one hand and the U.S. and Israel on the other. “I will not make a judgement that is very optimistic until someone gives me an answer to these questions,” he said, referring to such sticking points as the status of Jerusalem and the make-up of a Palestinian delegation to contemplated talks.

“I have trouble seeing what a Palestinian delegation is — who these Palestinians could be,” said Kissinger. “If they’re genuinely not related to the PLO, they will have no status.”

The question of Jerusalem would be left to the end of any Arab-Jewish negotiations, predicted Kissinger. Israel’s capital since it was reunited following the Six Day War in 1967, Jerusalem could be “given special status,” taking into account its importance to Christians, Jews and Moslems. But, he said, “I do not believe the sovereignty of Jerusalem as such should be subject to negotiation.”

The apparent willingness of Jordan’s King Hussein and the PLO wing headed by Yasir Arafat to negotiate on the basis of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 is “just a procedural” gesture to spur negotiations, said Kissinger. These are “formalisms” to be disposed of before significant progress towards peace can be seen as realistic, he said.

Kissinger said he supports the plan put forward by Yigael Allon to provide self-determination for the vast majority of Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza while maintaining those territories thought needed for Israel’s security. The plan calls for returning to Arab control the occupied territories with the greatest concentration of Arab population, a plan supported by the Labor Party.

A return to ’67 borders would put Israel in “an indefensible position” and would place Israel in a position similar to that of Czechoslovakia following the Munich Pact in 1938 when Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland was handed over to Nazi Germany by Great Britain, France and Italy.

“I do not believe there is room on the West Bank for a PLO entity,” said Kissinger. APLO-dominated state would turn first on Jordan and then on Israel, he said.

A compromise based on the Allon plan “is much more difficult than in 1982, “he said referring to Israel’s strong military position then.


Kissinger decried the prisoner exchange made two weeks ago as “a great mistake for Israel” and “a great mistake” in the fight against international terrorism. While professing a lifelong friendship with Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Premier Shimon Peres, two main figures in the exchange of some 1,000 Arab terrorists for three captured Israeli soldiers, he said he found their position “nearly incomprehensible.”

Once accomodations on that scale are made with terrorists, it is nearly impossible to adopt a hard line with them, he said.

Kissinger, who reportedly was consulted by President Reagan prior to the President’s recent participation in a commemoration at Bitburg military cemetery in Germany, reiterated his advice that “to cancel the visit would do more damage than good.” Kissinger, while saying that the site “was inappropriate,” had previously stated that Bitburg was a test of American commitment and resolve to our allies.

While the “Jewish community had every right and every duty to be sensitive to this issue,” Kissinger said “one does not help by accusing President Reagan of being insensitive to the Jewish community.”

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