NEW YORK – Israel’s “special relationship” with the United States, so often cited during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent U.S. visit, may not have always been so special, according to declassified White House documents.
References to the controversial file were featured in a recent editorial in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The transcripts cover some of the waning days of the Nixon administration and the 18 months of the Ford administration when Secretary of State Henry Kissinger directed U.S. foreign policy.
While it was never a secret that Kissinger had problems with several Israeli governments, the depth of antagonism was never as clearly illustrated as in the previously secret documents, copies of which were obtained by WND.
In the papers, Kissinger refers to then–Israeli Defense Minister Shimon Peres, currently Israel’s president, as a “liar.”
He refers to the Syrians as “my friends.”
He notably states that a fifth Arab-Israeli war might not be so bad for Washington and the Arabs.
WND attempted to obtain reaction from those mentioned in the White House papers.
Kissinger’s office in New York City explained he “was traveling in South Africa and not reachable.” Shimon Peres’ Jerusalem office did not reply to requests for comment. Retired Gen. Brent Scowcroft, Ford’s national-security adviser, also had “no comment.”
Even former U.S./U.N. ambassador and State Department arms negotiator John Bolton, an outspoken critic of the Obama administration and supporter of Israel, opted to “pass” on voicing any reaction to the White House transcript.
Kissinger’s comments came just two and a half years after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which, after initial setbacks, saw Israeli tank forces under Gen. Ariel Sharon surround and cut off 50,000 Egyptian crack troops before moving to within 50 miles of Cairo.
Sharon only stopped when Kissinger pressured then–Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan to personally fly to the general’s field tent and order a halt to the advance.
Kissinger, it was reported, was fearful of an intervention by the Soviet Union if Sharon moved on Cairo.
The war also pitted Kissinger and Nixon against Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.
In the early days of the war, when Egyptian and Syrian troops were making surprising inroads against the Israel Defense Forces, Kissinger opted to delay military aid to Jerusalem. The reasons were never made entirely clear.
What later became clear was a Meir message to Kissinger that Israel may have to consider a “nonconventional option” if Washington was not forthcoming with military supplies, and soon.
The option that later became known as the “Samson Option” was Israel’s right to activate and deploy nuclear weapons in the event its survival was threatened.
Kissinger quickly succumbed, and the U.S. Air Force began a massive resupply campaign to the IDF, but the U.S. foreign-policy chief never forgot the confrontation.
It seems the frayed nerves were still in play two and a half years later.
The scene is mid-December 1975, and Kissinger is at an international conference in Paris.
The U.S. secretary of state decides to invite his Algerian counterpart, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, an old friend and now president, to a breakfast at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Paris.
Kissinger refers to the Algerian foreign minister by exclaiming: “When I first met him, he was a revolutionary. Now he is a revolutionary diplomat.”
Bouteflika replied, “It is necessary, during certain parts of one’s life, if one is off on a tangent for a bit.”
Some small talk about the Paris conference takes place, then Kissinger adds: “You have to say certain things for your audience, to be conciliatory. It is a precondition for a conciliatory approach.”
Just a few months after the Algerian meeting, Kissinger concluded his disastrous negotiations with the North Vietnamese over a U.S. disengagement from South Vietnam, also in Paris.
The Bouteflika meeting touched on several African issues, but then Kissinger steered the agenda to the Middle East and the fallout from the 1973 war.
Israel, Egypt and Syria were stalled over the disengagement of Israeli troops from captured Arab land. Terrorist attacks from southern Lebanon were the subject of repeated Israeli Air Force strikes.
The impasse in the region infuriated Kissinger, and he made no effort to hide it.
“The attempt of the Israelis is to create maximum commotion in the Middle East,” he said. “They think we can’t do much to them. That is why they bombed in Lebanon. You saw in the Herald Tribune a report that we asked them to check with us. That isn’t what we asked: We said we wouldn’t be responsible for the actions they took without consulting with us. That is very different. And we protested their settlements on the Golan.”
Added Kissinger: “They (Israel) never tell us ahead of time. … They are deliberately provocative now. They establish settlements (on the Golan Heights); they announce they will never give up more than 200 meters of territory, which is an insult to Syria, because it is Syrian territory.”
Then the secretary of state takes a swipe at Israeli Defense Minister Peres, whom Kissinger brands a liar.
“When Peres comes to America. … The F-15’s (jet fighters) we promised a year and a half ago, there was a delay because of delivery (problems) and a (Pentagon) reassessment. … Then he (Peres) announced (the delivery) as a new thing, a response to (a recent Soviet delivery) of Syrian MiG-25’s. He did it to provoke the Arabs. It was a lie.”
Kissinger complains about Israeli influence on Capitol Hill: “In Congress, their supporters are putting in one amendment after another, directed mostly against Saudi Arabia. Why? They want a crisis this year rather than next. They want to divide the Arabs from the U.S.”
Kissinger was referring to the upcoming election battle between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter in 1976, which saw Ford lose and the new secretary of state, Cyrus Vance, tone down the State Department’s friction with Jerusalem.
But Kissinger drops his guard, telling the Algerian: “They (Israel) want to go back to the 1967-73 period, when they were our only friends in the Middle East. They know time is running out. They can’t get $2 billion (in U.S. aid) a year for many more years. … So we have all the means of pressure in our hands. That is why they are trying to undermine my authority. But that is not the main thing.”
He continues, remarkably: “The main thing I want to say is that the Arabs should show restraint for a year. A (new Arab-Israeli) war wouldn’t be so bad for us. … We could show (Israel) we are tough. The main thing is to make what little progress is possible this year and work for next (after the U.S. elections). I say this as a friend.”
Bouteflika tells Kissinger, “We are grateful.”
Kissinger, apparently concerned, worries Syria might react to the Israeli pressure and says he was thinking of traveling to the Syrian capital Damascus in March “to see my friends.”
Bouteflika added the Arab group “understands your electoral situation.”
Eleven months later, on Nov. 2, 1976, Carter defeated Ford to become the 39th president.