Then and now in the Oval Office: President Nixon pictured with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir on September 9, 1969 (left), and President Obama pictured with now Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on May 18, 2009 (right).
Over at The National Interest in their weekly news compilation, TNI editors are stressing the importance in talking to Israel rather than declare an all or nothing ultimatum on the end to settlements, even to those in close proximity to Israel proper.
According to Aluf Benn editor at the Ha’aretz newspaper writing in the July 27th edition of The New York Times, President Obama’s indifference towards Israel will make Prime Minister Netanyahu less cooperative since he can galvanize a base that views Obama as a “shaky ally” and one that one wouldn’t help in resolving security issues that would come with disbanding settlement construction:
So far, Israelis have embraced Mr. Netanyahu’s message. A Jerusalem Post poll of Israeli Jews last month indicated that only 6 percent of those surveyed considered the Obama administration to be pro-Israel, while 50 percent said that its policies are more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israeli. Less scientifically: Israeli rightists have — in columns, articles and public statements — taken to calling the president by his middle name, Hussein, as proof of his pro-Arab tendencies.
According to historian Alistair Horne in his new book Kissinger 1973, The Crucial Year, under President Nixon the Middle East gained a renewed presence in U.S. foreign policy, albeit in the primary Cold War context.
In 1971, Nixon Secretary of State William Rogers became the highest ranking American diplomat to visit the region since John Foster Dulles landed there in 1952.
For his part President Nixon was already furnishing talks with the Egyptians and Jordanians as early as April 1969 during his first year in office, meeting with Jordan’s King Hussein and President Nasser’s personal emissary Mahmoud Fawzi to discuss the diplomatic tracks for establishing closer ties with the Arab nations and achieving territorial integrity with the Israelis. The meetings with the two Arab leaders were followed by a White House visit from Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir that September. Nixon re-assured Meir that he would maintain commitments to supply the Israeli air force with twenty-five Phantom Jets and eighty Skyhawk fighters, as well as $200 million per year in low interest loans for a period up to five years.
President Nixon echoed Dr. Kissinger’s critical sentiments on Secretary Rogers’ plans for the Middle East, to whom the President designated the region to. The plan closely resembles President Obama’s position on the settlement freeze, a stance interpreted by Mr. Benn to “please the Arab streets at Israel’s expense.” Nixon and Kissinger believed that giving up land in return for Arab assurances for peace would only encourage the “extremist elements among the Arabs,” offend the Israelis, and play “naïvely” into Soviet hands.
Nixon knew that he needed Israeli cooperation for a peace framework, but he dually recognized that it was important to make overtures to the Arab states concerning the occupied territory and to stave off military imbalance and international incident with the Soviets.
The delicate balancing act ultimately paid off. When civil war broke out in Jordan (dubbed their “Black September”), between Palestinian forces and the Hashemite Kingdom, the President gained assurances from Prime Minister Meir that Israel would not “precipitately move” on Jordan. But when 300 Syrian tanks crossed the (Soviet allied) Syria border, he authorized Dr. Kissinger to inform Israeli Ambassador Yitzak Rabin that he would approve of an Israeli airstrike on the Syrian military. Luckily Palestinian forces were defeated by the King Hussein and the Syrian tanks disengaged and went back home.
At the conclusion of his op-ed, Aluf Benn ultimately asked that President Obama “speak to us (Israelis) directly,” assuring him the peace that they “will surely listen.”
According to President Nixon, Prime Minister Meir was piqued when the United States wanted the Israelis to “scrupulously” observe a cease-fire that she believed the Egyptians were intent on breaking. Keeping all options open on the proverbial chessboard, he remained amenable to Israeli concerns, a flexibility that proved crucial to the Jordanian forces that “Black September” that even Ambassador Rabin credited it to — among other things — “a tough American position.”