Jump to content
The Education Forum

The Book That Demolishes "Final Judgment"


Tim Gratz
 Share

Recommended Posts

Support Any Friend: Kennedy's Middle East and the Making of the U.S.-Israel Alliance. By Warren Bass. Oxford, Eng.: Oxford University Press, 2003. 336 pages. $30.00. Reviewed by Christopher Hemmer, author of Which Lessons Matter: American Foreign Policy Decision Making in the Middle East, 1979-1987, Assistant Professor, Department of Strategy and International Security, US Air War College.

In the historiography of US policy toward the Middle East and the Arab/Israeli conflict in particular, the Kennedy Administration often garners little attention. What mention it gets is usually limited to a pro forma recognition that the Kennedy Administration approved the first major US arms sales to Israel. Into this relative void steps Warren Bass with his excellent study, Support Any Friend: Kennedy's Middle East and the Making of the U.S.-Israel Alliance. The central argument of Bass's book is that Kennedy's policies were pivotal in the development of the US-Israeli alliance. Whereas Truman may have started the special relationship between the Unites States and Israel, it was Kennedy, Bass argues, who turned this relationship into an alliance. In his close study of the brief Kennedy years, Bass succeeds in demonstrating that Kennedy's Administration does deserve to be treated as more than a mere "place-marker between Suez and the Six Day War."

While many authors may claim, as Bass does, that their book is "designed to be read with profit by the specialist and with pleasure by the general reader," few are likely to be as successful in meeting these twins goals as Bass. There is much here for the specialist. Bass has done extensive archival work, has conducted some interviews, and is well grounded in the secondary literature. The result is a well-documented and important study of a relatively overlooked area. Of importance to the general reader (and to the specialist as well) is that Bass also tells a great story. By weaving specific quotes and anecdotes with broader discussions of international, regional, and domestic political contexts, Bass produces a study that is gripping on both the policy and personality levels.

The Publishers Weekly review of the book:

A forested memorial in Israel, Yad Kennedy, includes the sculpted stump of a felled tree, a tribute to the president cut down in his youth. To Bass, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Kennedy presidency, despite the professional Arabists in the State Department, shifted America's Middle East policy toward Israel, selling arms to the Jewish state, fudging inspections of its nuclear initiative and openly engaging in security cooperation. The intransigence of Arab states toward Israel had eroded the stern limits on arms sales to Israel set by the chilly Eisenhower-Dulles regime. Egypt's Gamal Abdul Nasser had gambled on an unprofitable merger with Syria and a hemorrhaging venture into Yemen to try to create, with Soviet Cold War assistance, a noose around Israel. It failed, and Kennedy's suspicion of Nasser's pro-Soviet position distanced the two men. The young president found that he had little to lose in cautiously supporting Israel, as the Soviet Union was openly cajoling some Arab nationalists into becoming clients who would prove useless while repelling others who feared for their thrones. Despite breaking foreign policy taboos, the Kennedy administration, Bass concedes, hardly addressed the intractable regional problems. Readers may nod over Bass's relentless detail, but he establishes his case that the Kennedy administration was "the true origin of America's alliance" with Israel, illuminating in the process some new and humanizing facets of Kennedy's management style and rehabilitating the savvy and subtle leadership skills of Israeli prime minister Levi Eshkol, successor to the combative David Ben-Gurion.

Edited by Tim Gratz
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 58
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Here is a review of "Support Any Friend" by a diplomat who served in both the Bush AND Clinton administrations, Dennis Ross, the director and Ziegler distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy:

President John F. Kennedy, in his inaugural address, declared that the United States would "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, [and] oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty." Borrowing from that speech, Warren Bass, a former senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, has written a book titled "Support Any Friend: Kennedy's Middle East and the Making of the U.S.-Israel Alliance." It is the story of the Kennedy administration's policy toward the Middle East, and it is exceedingly well told.

That the story is also interesting may come as a surprise, especially to most observers of the

Middle East. Other presidents and their administrations are associated with particular events that encapsulate their policies. Harry Truman is known for his quick recognition of Israel, despite the opposition of his senior foreign policy advisers. Dwight Eisenhower is known for his opposition to the Israeli attack — coordinated with the British and French — against Gamal Abdel Nasser's Egypt in the Suez War of 1956, and his successful pressure to get Israel to withdraw from the Sinai after the war. Lyndon Johnson is known for his vacillation in response to Nasser's blockade of the Straits of Tiran and Egypt's deployment of six divisions to Israel's border in May of 1967 — events that immediately led to the Six Day War in June 1967. But he is also known for his readiness to provide weapons to Israel and the framing of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 in November 1967. Richard Nixon and his administration are known for the critical support provided to Israel during the war in 1973 and Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy following the war.

From Gerald Ford's "reassessment" and subsequent assurance letter to then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1975 to Clinton's shalom chaver in 1995 following the assassination of Rabin and his summit diplomacy in 2000, each administration is known for something when it comes to the Middle East. But there has not been an easy handle to describe President Kennedy's administration.

While there may not have been dramatic events during the Kennedy tenure, Bass points out that the Kennedy presidency shifted America's approach to the Middle East, making possible a "full-blown U.S.-Israeli alliance." It was, he says, the Kennedy administration that "broke the taboo on arms sales to Israel... fudged a compromise that smoothed over the nuclear issue... set the precedent of professionalized security talks...and began the process of minimizing the costs of friendship with Israel by discovering the limits of friendship with the Arab states." If, as Bass writes, "Harry Truman was the father of the U.S.-Israel special relationship, John Kennedy was the father of the U.S.-Israel alliance." [Emphasis supplied.]

Bass does not simply assert these conclusions; he demonstrates their validity by describing the legacy of policy that Kennedy inherited, and by providing extensive detail on Kennedy's efforts in three areas: reaching out to Nasser's Egypt, selling Hawk anti-aircraft missiles to Israel, and trying to get David Ben-Gurion to permit inspections of Israel's nuclear plant at Dimona.

Bass's discussion of the legacy reminds us that it was the opposition of George Marshall, Robert Lovett, and Dean Acheson — known as the "Wise Men" — to Truman's recognition of Israel that established one of the myths about American policy toward the Middle East: That U.S. support of Israel is only a function of domestic political factors, not of the shared interests and bonds of two democracies.

Marshall, then secretary of state, was dead-set against U.S. recognition of the state of Israel, believing it would be a disaster for us with the Arab world. In a pivotal meeting held to decide what to do as the British departed from Palestine, Marshall objected to the presence of Clark Clifford — a presidential political advisor — and then, as Bass recounts, boldly said to President Truman: "If you follow Clifford's advice and in the election I were to vote, I would vote against you." For Marshall, Truman's decision was all politics. He ignored Truman's sense of responsibility to the Jewish people after the Holocaust as well as Truman's anger at the State Department for reversing his policy supporting the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state — a shift in policy at the United Nations that caught Truman by surprise.

For Middle Eastern experts in the State Department, the lesson seemed clear: Politics, not our national interests, determine our policy toward Israel. In Bass's words, "The accusation of impropriety in Israel policy was the Wise Men's greatest gift to the Arabists." The guiding assumptions for those who worked on the Middle East were that we had no real interests in Israel, Israel could only complicate our relationship with the Arabs, and the Soviets could exploit that complication. The Eisenhower administration embraced these assumptions, and added one of its own — i.e., Israel was also expansionist: Israel was not so much threatened by the Arabs as it threatened them. As with most mythologies, no one questioned what became the conventional wisdom.

With the advent of the Kennedy administration, there was very little questioning among the specialists about the approach to Israel, but there was much questioning of the efficacy of the policy that Kennedy was inheriting more generally. Kennedy and those around him felt the Eisenhower policies were hidebound. Kennedy was attracted to leaders in the Third World who were independent, progressive, noncommunist and governed largely by national pride. In the competition with the Soviet Union, Kennedy believed, America could be successful if it reached out to such leaders — and Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt was seen as one such leader. Reaching out to Nasser represented a profound departure from the Eisenhower administration's approach.

While Kennedy was prepared to see what an initiative with Nasser might produce, he was not nearly as enthusiastic about the possibilities as the specialists in the State Department and his own specialist at the National Security Council, Robert Komer. Nasser's pan-Arabism was seen less as a threat and more as a reflection of the Arab ethos, giving Nasser a commanding presence in the Arab world — or so the specialists believed. Kennedy was more skeptical but willing to explore what might be possible with Nasser.

One theme that emerges in the book is that Kennedy was hands-on, paid close attention, and often seems to have had a better grasp of the realities than his Middle Eastern experts. He was more dubious of Nasser, was more skeptical of the Johnson plan on refugees that asked Israel to absorb Palestinian refugees without any clear end point, and was instinctively more inclined to see that Israel faced a threat. Unlike the prevailing wisdom in the bureaucracy, which portrayed Israel as expansionist, as early as his presidential candidacy, Kennedy declared that Arab state belligerence to Israel was the "threshold obstacle" to peace in the Middle East. While the political benefits of this posture should not be discounted, it seems consistent with his subsequent approach to Israel.

Until Kennedy's decision to sell Hawk missiles to Israel, there was a taboo on weapons sales or a military relationship of any kind with Israel. Ben-Gurion had felt it essential for Israel to have a security relationship with America, but he had been repeatedly rebuffed by the Eisenhower administration — which, fearing Arab reactions, excluded Israel from the security alliances it sought to forge in the Middle East against the Soviet threat. Those reactions also precluded selling arms to Israel.

Measured against the realities of the current U.S.-Israel relationship and the repeated declarations of "America's ironclad commitment to Israeli security," it is hard to imagine that the sale of anti-aircraft missiles to Israel would be seen as destabilizing. But the argument in the Eisenhower administration and by the State Department in the first years of the Kennedy presidency was precisely that: Selling defensive missiles to Israel would trigger an arms race with the Arabs, give the Soviets an opportunity to fish in troubled waters and whet the Israeli appetite for more arms. That the Soviets had been providing arms to Egypt, Syria and Iraq made no difference to the State Department arguments. The U.S. would not sell to Israel, and the State Department repeatedly said Israel faced no real threat from its neighbors.

So why did Kennedy decide to break the taboo arms sales to Israel? Bass offers several reasons: First, the Defense Department, in the person of William Bundy, made the case that Israel had a legitimate need for the Hawk missiles, given the growing arsenals of its neighbors — effectively providing a Defense Department assessment that undercut the State Department argument. Second, Israel, in the person of Shimon Peres — then Ben-Gurion's deputy in the Israeli defense ministry — met with President Kennedy and convincingly worked the Washington bureaucratic scene to make Israel's case. Third, Nasser's war in Yemen — his Vietnam — roiled the inter-Arab waters, making it clear that the conservative Arab regimes were far more focused on Nasser's threat to them than anything else. (In addition to limiting what would be possible with Egypt, this also signaled that the Arab reaction to the sale was likely to be muted.) Fourth, Kennedy's preoccupation with nonproliferation was paramount, and he felt he would have more leverage over Israel's nuclear program at Dimona if he responded to Israel's request for the Hawk missiles.

Interestingly, Bass attributes no role to the "Jewish lobby" in the sale. Indeed, in general terms, he sees the influence of the Israel lobby as being exaggerated, entitling one section the "Overrated Israeli Lobby."

As someone who spent more than a decade in senior positions in the first Bush and two Clinton administrations, I was struck by certain continuities and changes from the past. The most profound change is, of course, the relationship with Israel. While the legacy of fearing the consequences of too close an identification with Israel still exists among many of our diplomatic corps serving in the Arab world, no one questions the U.S. commitment to Israel. Ironically, for all those who bemoan our "bias" toward Israel, Arab leaders always emphasize that the U.S. is the only one capable of influencing Israeli behavior. Whatever their complaints about our policy, they are always asking us to do more, not less on the peace issue.

The most striking continuity is in the bureaucratic battles on Middle Eastern issues. Though far tamer in the Kennedy administration than those we see today, Bass suggests that they were decisive in changing the direction of the U.S.-Israel relationship. This is one area in which I would have liked to see additional discussion in the book: Why the change in the Defense Department attitudes from the Eisenhower administration? Was it only the change of personalities, as Bass suggests? Would that explain why later in the Nixon and Carter administrations the Defense Department was more skeptical of the relationship with Israel? Or, were there other factors at play, like greater preoccupation with the "Arab cold war" at the Defense Department — given relations with the Saudis — than at the State Department? How might that have affected bureaucratic perspectives later on?

While interesting for enhancing our understanding of the roots of bureaucratic dissonance on the Middle East, Bass can hardly be faulted for not delving deeper into these questions. He has written a superb book — one that a scholarly and more general audience will find fascinating and useful for understanding some of today's realities.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is it reasonable to suppose that neither Mark nor Jeff were aware of the fact set forth below?

Until Kennedy's decision to sell Hawk missiles to Israel, there was a taboo on weapons sales or a military relationship of any kind with Israel.

From the Ross review of "Support Any Friend:"

So why did Kennedy decide to break the taboo arms sales to Israel? Bass offers several reasons: First, the Defense Department, in the person of William Bundy, made the case that Israel had a legitimate need for the Hawk missiles, given the growing arsenals of its neighbors — effectively providing a Defense Department assessment that undercut the State Department argument. Second, Israel, in the person of Shimon Peres — then Ben-Gurion's deputy in the Israeli defense ministry — met with President Kennedy and convincingly worked the Washington bureaucratic scene to make Israel's case. Third, Nasser's war in Yemen — his Vietnam — roiled the inter-Arab waters, making it clear that the conservative Arab regimes were far more focused on Nasser's threat to them than anything else. (In addition to limiting what would be possible with Egypt, this also signaled that the Arab reaction to the sale was likely to be muted.) Fourth, Kennedy's preoccupation with nonproliferation was paramount, and he felt he would have more leverage over Israel's nuclear program at Dimona if he responded to Israel's request for the Hawk missiles.

Interestingly, Bass attributes no role to the "Jewish lobby" in the sale. Indeed, in general terms, he sees the influence of the Israel lobby as being exaggerated, entitling one section the "Overrated Israeli Lobby."

Piper would no doubt attribute a great role to the "Jewish lobby" in JFK's lifting the taboo on arms sales to Isreal. But he's stuck. To the best of my knowledge, Piper conveniently ignores that fact in his book. He has to. That fact demolishes completely the scenario he sets up as Israel's motive to kill JFK.

Edited by Tim Gratz
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Indeed Israel had gotten by without arms sales from the US up to that point because thay had found other countries to arm them. The Dimona project counted on help from Britain, Norway and France. If Kennedy had cut off arms sales there is no reason to believe that Israel couldn't have gotten weapons froms it's previous suppliers esp. those nations that were willing to help it develop atomic weapons.

I assume the US knew about the help was getting from Europe, is there any sign Kennedy put pressure on them to stop? If not how serious were his efforts to prevent Israel from developing such weapons?

Is there anything in Kennedy's White House tapes or biographies or memoirs etc of those who served in his administration that supports or contradicts Piper's thesis?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another review of the book

A friend of Israel — with reservations

JOHN F. KENNEDY AND ISRAEL

by Herbert M. Druks.

Praeger, 2005, 214 pages, $64

by Jack Fischel

Special to NJ Jewish News

John F. Kennedy’s presidency disproves the adage that the apple does not fall far from the tree. Kennedy’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ambassador to Great Britain, sought to appease Hitler, displayed hostility toward Jews, and, following Roosevelt’s death, wrote in his diary that “Truman…will kick out all these incompetents and Jews.” Kennedy pere’s eldest son, Joe Kennedy Jr., who was being groomed to some day become president before meeting his death as a volunteer Navy flier during World War II, wrote that the “[German] dislike of Jews was well founded,” and he accepted the Nazi claim that “the Jews were at the head of all big business, law, etc.” According to Herbert Druks, “young Joe seemed undisturbed by the German atrocities against the Jews.” Yet, his brother, John, was the first president to sell Israel a defense system and commence a “special relationship” with the Jewish state, thus altering the “even-handed” policies of his predecessors, Eisenhower and Truman.

Druks, who teaches history at Brooklyn College, is the author of several scholarly books on American policy toward Israel. In this important study, he contends that the present close relationship between Israel and the United States owes a great deal to Kennedy’s administration. That special relationship wasn’t always there. Although Truman was the first to recognize the State of Israel, his administration would not sell the country arms, although the Soviet Union was supplying Egypt with sophisticated weapons. The Eisenhower administration was even colder toward Israel, insisting that by selling arms to the Jewish state it would provide strong support and thus move the Arabs into the Soviet camp. During the 1956 Suez crisis, Eisenhower threatened Israel with sanctions and worse if it did not pull back from Sinai.

When Kennedy became president, he was determined to separate his administration from the policies of his predecessor. As Druks writes, “Israel represented hope and progress to [Kennedy], not just for Jews, but for all mankind.” The president believed that it would be easier to live with an Israel that was secure than an Israel that might undertake unpredictable adventures like the Suez conflict. He also calculated that Israel might become an effective deterrent against Soviet ambitions in the Middle East.

Kennedy, however, had to deal with a State Department that viewed Israel as a liability in regard to America’s cultivation of the Arabs and their oil, let alone as a countering agent to Soviet influence in the Middle East. Dean Rusk, secretary of state under Kennedy, for example, blamed Israel for all the difficulties that the United States faced in the Arab world.

During the Kennedy presidency, the State Department opposed the efforts of Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and his successor, Levi Eshkol, to attain a formal alliance between their country and the United States. Kennedy agreed with the State Department, fearing that such an agreement would move the Arab states closer to the Soviet Union. What the president was willing to do, however, was assure Israel that should the Jewish state come under attack, the United States would come to its assistance. So, although refusing to form the Israeli-American dual alliance, Kennedy believed America could uphold its friendship and commitments both to Israel and the Arabs.

Israel was unhappy with Kennedy’s response and, lacking a formal alliance with the United States, Ben-Gurion embarked on a nuclear program that brought the Israeli premier into conflict with Kennedy. Although Israel insisted that its nuclear program was not designed to produce nuclear weapons, Kennedy nevertheless insisted on inspections at the Dimona nuclear facility, as well as passing on its findings to the Egyptians so as to assure them that Israel was not engaged in producing such weapons. Druks details this controversy, which strained the relationship between the United States and Israel and led to a compromise whereby Kennedy accepted Israel’s promise to allow U.S. scientists to visit Dimona but not pass on the information to Egypt.

When it became apparent, however, that the Soviet Union was enabling Egypt to test rockets, Kennedy responded by providing Israel with a Hawk defensive missile system. Subsequently, Israeli leaders requested and received ground-to-air missiles, tanks, and naval craft to counter the weapons supplied to the Arabs by the Russians. The sale of the Hawks marked a major change in American policy from the Truman-Eisenhower position — albeit one-sided, since the Soviet Union was supplying weapons to the Arabs — of withholding arms sales to Israel lest it encourage an arms race in the Middle East.

Although the sale of the Hawks marked a turning point in America’s support of Israel, Druks concludes that Kennedy’s most important contribution to moving Israel closer to the United States was his repeated promise that he would not tolerate any harm to the Jewish state. He gave assurances that Israel was as important to the United States as Great Britain. But he would go no further; Israel would not be included in any NATO-type alliance. In short, although Kennedy believed strongly in America’s moral commitment to Israeli security and took steps to strengthen the Jewish state’s ability to resist aggression, he continued the State Department policy of placating Arab ambitions, despite the Soviet Union’s continued efforts to encourage the Arabs to plant the next “round” against Israel.

Jack Fischel is emeritus professor of history at Millersville University in Pennsylvania.

http://64.233.179.104/search?q=cache:x7CMh.../ltkennedy.html

Edited by Len Colby
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nor does it seem that US policy changed so much after LBJ became president.

Overview

President Lyndon B. Johnson sought to continue his predecessor John F. Kennedy's policy of pursuing good relations with Gamal Abdul Nasser's Egypt, then called the United Arab Republic (UAR), while maintaining good relations with Israel. Keeping the Arab-Israeli dispute "in the icebox" was central to this approach. Mounting tensions in the area, fueled by terrorist attacks on Israel and the flow of Soviet arms to the UAR, undermined this policy. The administration reluctantly agreed to provide increasingly sophisticated arms to Israel and Jordan. U.S. relations with the UAR cooled, as UAR intervention in Yemen and Nasser's vocal criticism of U.S. policies annoyed Johnson and stirred Congressional opposition to U.S. economic aid. Still, the administration tried to take an even-handed approach to the Arab-Israeli dispute, to prevent a buildup of advanced weapons in the area, and to prevent the increasingly frequent incidents on Israel's borders from flaring into armed conflict. The volume concludes on the brink of the crisis that preceded the Six-Day War.

The Question of Arms for Israel and Jordan

As the year 1964 began, Israel launched an intensive effort to obtain modern U.S. tanks to counterbalance Soviet-equipped UAR forces. The request ran counter to established U.S. policy to avoid becoming a major arms supplier to either side in the Arab-Israeli dispute. Although the Kennedy administration had diverged from the policy with its 1962 sale of Hawk missiles to Israel, Johnson administration officials were reluctant to depart further from it. While there was much sympathy for Israel's request within the administration, as well as awareness of the domestic political benefits of providing the tanks in an election year, there was also concern over the likely Arab reaction and the impact of a sale on U.S. interests in the Near East and influence in the Arab world. (3, 7, 10, 13, 28, 29, 42) After an interdepartmental review, the National Security Council Standing Group agreed that the anticipated Arab reaction precluded a direct U.S. tank sale to Israel, but that the United States should assist Israel in obtaining British, French, or German tanks. White House aide Myer Feldman was dispatched to Tel Aviv to tell the Israelis that the United States would not sell tanks directly but would help them obtain tanks from Europe. (47, 48, 54-57) When Israel's Prime Minister Levi Eshkol visited Washington in June 1964, Johnson told him the United States would help Israel in every way possible to obtain British and German tanks at an affordable price. (64, 65) Subsequently, a complicated arrangement was worked out in which Israel would purchase U.S. tanks from Germany, with modernization kits to be supplied by the United States, supplemented by British tanks. The German tank deal was contingent on secrecy. (98)

http://www.fas.org/sgp/advisory/state/frusmide.html

Does any the date the US delivered the Hawk missiles to Israel?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Indeed Israel had gotten by without arms sales from the US up to that point because thay had found other countries to arm them. The Dimona project counted on help from Britain, Norway and France. If Kennedy had cut off arms sales there is no reason to believe that Israel couldn't have gotten weapons froms it's previous suppliers esp. those nations that were willing to help it develop atomic weapons.

I assume the US knew about the help was getting from Europe, is there any sign Kennedy put pressure on them to stop? If not how serious were his efforts to prevent Israel from developing such weapons?

Is there anything in Kennedy's White House tapes or biographies or memoirs etc of those who served in his administration that supports or contradicts Piper's thesis?

You're wrong, Len. De Gaulle immediately halted French participation in the Dimona project when he was elected in 1960. The Israeli Government then turned to Norway. I'm not sure about Britain, I'll have to check it up.

The US probably did know about Israel obtaining help with the construction of the plutonium separation plant. However, I can assure you JFK was very serious about Israeli non-proliferation.

Most researchers know about Kennedy's letter to Ben Gurion on 15 June, 1963 and to new PM Eshkol on 5 July. Ben Gurion resigned and refused to open his letter and it was returned to Washington. The Eshkol letter has been posted previously, but its language is plain, direct and unambiguous. In part:

"As I wrote Mr. Ben Gurion, this Government's commitment to and support of Israel (my italics) could be seriously jeopardised if it should be thought that we were unable to obtain reliable information on a subject as vital to peace as the question of Israel's effort in the nuclear field."

Avner Cohen, in "Israel and the bomb", describes the language as blunt and threatening.

There's also NSAM 231, issued by JFK in March, 1963:

"The President decrees, as a matter of urgency, that we undertake every feasible measure to improve our intelligence on the Israeli nuclear program as well as other Israeli and UAR advanced weapons programs and to arrive at a firmer evaluation of their import. In this connection he wishes the next informal inspection of the Israeli reactor complex to be undertaken promptly and be as thourough as possible....."

JFK knew that Israel were planning to produce nuclear weapons at Dimona, despite repeated assurances from Shimon Peres and other Israeli officials that they were not.

On April 2, 1963 JFK by chance happened to run into Peres and Myer Feldman in a White House corridor (Peres was in Washington on Hawk related missile business). JFK hastily arranged a twenty minute meeting with Peres which included the following exchange:

JFK: You know that we follow very closely the discovery of any nuclear development in the region. This could create a very dangerous situation. For this reason we kept in touch with your nuclear effort. What could you tell me about this?

PERES: I can tell you most clearly that we will not introduce nuclear weapons to the region and certainly we will not be the first. Our interest is in reducing armament, even in complete disarmament.

Peres and other officials reassured Kennedy repeatedly. They lied. They did introduce nuclear weapons to the region and they were the first. JFK was determined to stop them.

Edited by Mark Stapleton
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is a review of "Support Any Friend" by a diplomat who served in both the Bush AND Clinton administrations, Dennis Ross, the director and Ziegler distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy:

President John F. Kennedy, in his inaugural address, declared that the United States would "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, [and] oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty." Borrowing from that speech, Warren Bass, a former senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, has written a book titled "Support Any Friend: Kennedy's Middle East and the Making of the U.S.-Israel Alliance." It is the story of the Kennedy administration's policy toward the Middle East, and it is exceedingly well told.

That the story is also interesting may come as a surprise, especially to most observers of the

Middle East. Other presidents and their administrations are associated with particular events that encapsulate their policies. Harry Truman is known for his quick recognition of Israel, despite the opposition of his senior foreign policy advisers. Dwight Eisenhower is known for his opposition to the Israeli attack — coordinated with the British and French — against Gamal Abdel Nasser's Egypt in the Suez War of 1956, and his successful pressure to get Israel to withdraw from the Sinai after the war. Lyndon Johnson is known for his vacillation in response to Nasser's blockade of the Straits of Tiran and Egypt's deployment of six divisions to Israel's border in May of 1967 — events that immediately led to the Six Day War in June 1967. But he is also known for his readiness to provide weapons to Israel and the framing of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 in November 1967. Richard Nixon and his administration are known for the critical support provided to Israel during the war in 1973 and Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy following the war.

From Gerald Ford's "reassessment" and subsequent assurance letter to then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1975 to Clinton's shalom chaver in 1995 following the assassination of Rabin and his summit diplomacy in 2000, each administration is known for something when it comes to the Middle East. But there has not been an easy handle to describe President Kennedy's administration.

While there may not have been dramatic events during the Kennedy tenure, Bass points out that the Kennedy presidency shifted America's approach to the Middle East, making possible a "full-blown U.S.-Israeli alliance." It was, he says, the Kennedy administration that "broke the taboo on arms sales to Israel... fudged a compromise that smoothed over the nuclear issue... set the precedent of professionalized security talks...and began the process of minimizing the costs of friendship with Israel by discovering the limits of friendship with the Arab states." If, as Bass writes, "Harry Truman was the father of the U.S.-Israel special relationship, John Kennedy was the father of the U.S.-Israel alliance." [Emphasis supplied.]

Bass does not simply assert these conclusions; he demonstrates their validity by describing the legacy of policy that Kennedy inherited, and by providing extensive detail on Kennedy's efforts in three areas: reaching out to Nasser's Egypt, selling Hawk anti-aircraft missiles to Israel, and trying to get David Ben-Gurion to permit inspections of Israel's nuclear plant at Dimona.

Bass's discussion of the legacy reminds us that it was the opposition of George Marshall, Robert Lovett, and Dean Acheson — known as the "Wise Men" — to Truman's recognition of Israel that established one of the myths about American policy toward the Middle East: That U.S. support of Israel is only a function of domestic political factors, not of the shared interests and bonds of two democracies.

Marshall, then secretary of state, was dead-set against U.S. recognition of the state of Israel, believing it would be a disaster for us with the Arab world. In a pivotal meeting held to decide what to do as the British departed from Palestine, Marshall objected to the presence of Clark Clifford — a presidential political advisor — and then, as Bass recounts, boldly said to President Truman: "If you follow Clifford's advice and in the election I were to vote, I would vote against you." For Marshall, Truman's decision was all politics. He ignored Truman's sense of responsibility to the Jewish people after the Holocaust as well as Truman's anger at the State Department for reversing his policy supporting the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state — a shift in policy at the United Nations that caught Truman by surprise.

For Middle Eastern experts in the State Department, the lesson seemed clear: Politics, not our national interests, determine our policy toward Israel. In Bass's words, "The accusation of impropriety in Israel policy was the Wise Men's greatest gift to the Arabists." The guiding assumptions for those who worked on the Middle East were that we had no real interests in Israel, Israel could only complicate our relationship with the Arabs, and the Soviets could exploit that complication. The Eisenhower administration embraced these assumptions, and added one of its own — i.e., Israel was also expansionist: Israel was not so much threatened by the Arabs as it threatened them. As with most mythologies, no one questioned what became the conventional wisdom.

With the advent of the Kennedy administration, there was very little questioning among the specialists about the approach to Israel, but there was much questioning of the efficacy of the policy that Kennedy was inheriting more generally. Kennedy and those around him felt the Eisenhower policies were hidebound. Kennedy was attracted to leaders in the Third World who were independent, progressive, noncommunist and governed largely by national pride. In the competition with the Soviet Union, Kennedy believed, America could be successful if it reached out to such leaders — and Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt was seen as one such leader. Reaching out to Nasser represented a profound departure from the Eisenhower administration's approach.

While Kennedy was prepared to see what an initiative with Nasser might produce, he was not nearly as enthusiastic about the possibilities as the specialists in the State Department and his own specialist at the National Security Council, Robert Komer. Nasser's pan-Arabism was seen less as a threat and more as a reflection of the Arab ethos, giving Nasser a commanding presence in the Arab world — or so the specialists believed. Kennedy was more skeptical but willing to explore what might be possible with Nasser.

One theme that emerges in the book is that Kennedy was hands-on, paid close attention, and often seems to have had a better grasp of the realities than his Middle Eastern experts. He was more dubious of Nasser, was more skeptical of the Johnson plan on refugees that asked Israel to absorb Palestinian refugees without any clear end point, and was instinctively more inclined to see that Israel faced a threat. Unlike the prevailing wisdom in the bureaucracy, which portrayed Israel as expansionist, as early as his presidential candidacy, Kennedy declared that Arab state belligerence to Israel was the "threshold obstacle" to peace in the Middle East. While the political benefits of this posture should not be discounted, it seems consistent with his subsequent approach to Israel.

Until Kennedy's decision to sell Hawk missiles to Israel, there was a taboo on weapons sales or a military relationship of any kind with Israel. Ben-Gurion had felt it essential for Israel to have a security relationship with America, but he had been repeatedly rebuffed by the Eisenhower administration — which, fearing Arab reactions, excluded Israel from the security alliances it sought to forge in the Middle East against the Soviet threat. Those reactions also precluded selling arms to Israel.

Measured against the realities of the current U.S.-Israel relationship and the repeated declarations of "America's ironclad commitment to Israeli security," it is hard to imagine that the sale of anti-aircraft missiles to Israel would be seen as destabilizing. But the argument in the Eisenhower administration and by the State Department in the first years of the Kennedy presidency was precisely that: Selling defensive missiles to Israel would trigger an arms race with the Arabs, give the Soviets an opportunity to fish in troubled waters and whet the Israeli appetite for more arms. That the Soviets had been providing arms to Egypt, Syria and Iraq made no difference to the State Department arguments. The U.S. would not sell to Israel, and the State Department repeatedly said Israel faced no real threat from its neighbors.

So why did Kennedy decide to break the taboo arms sales to Israel? Bass offers several reasons: First, the Defense Department, in the person of William Bundy, made the case that Israel had a legitimate need for the Hawk missiles, given the growing arsenals of its neighbors — effectively providing a Defense Department assessment that undercut the State Department argument. Second, Israel, in the person of Shimon Peres — then Ben-Gurion's deputy in the Israeli defense ministry — met with President Kennedy and convincingly worked the Washington bureaucratic scene to make Israel's case. Third, Nasser's war in Yemen — his Vietnam — roiled the inter-Arab waters, making it clear that the conservative Arab regimes were far more focused on Nasser's threat to them than anything else. (In addition to limiting what would be possible with Egypt, this also signaled that the Arab reaction to the sale was likely to be muted.) Fourth, Kennedy's preoccupation with nonproliferation was paramount, and he felt he would have more leverage over Israel's nuclear program at Dimona if he responded to Israel's request for the Hawk missiles.

Interestingly, Bass attributes no role to the "Jewish lobby" in the sale. Indeed, in general terms, he sees the influence of the Israel lobby as being exaggerated, entitling one section the "Overrated Israeli Lobby."

As someone who spent more than a decade in senior positions in the first Bush and two Clinton administrations, I was struck by certain continuities and changes from the past. The most profound change is, of course, the relationship with Israel. While the legacy of fearing the consequences of too close an identification with Israel still exists among many of our diplomatic corps serving in the Arab world, no one questions the U.S. commitment to Israel. Ironically, for all those who bemoan our "bias" toward Israel, Arab leaders always emphasize that the U.S. is the only one capable of influencing Israeli behavior. Whatever their complaints about our policy, they are always asking us to do more, not less on the peace issue.

The most striking continuity is in the bureaucratic battles on Middle Eastern issues. Though far tamer in the Kennedy administration than those we see today, Bass suggests that they were decisive in changing the direction of the U.S.-Israel relationship. This is one area in which I would have liked to see additional discussion in the book: Why the change in the Defense Department attitudes from the Eisenhower administration? Was it only the change of personalities, as Bass suggests? Would that explain why later in the Nixon and Carter administrations the Defense Department was more skeptical of the relationship with Israel? Or, were there other factors at play, like greater preoccupation with the "Arab cold war" at the Defense Department — given relations with the Saudis — than at the State Department? How might that have affected bureaucratic perspectives later on?

While interesting for enhancing our understanding of the roots of bureaucratic dissonance on the Middle East, Bass can hardly be faulted for not delving deeper into these questions. He has written a superb book — one that a scholarly and more general audience will find fascinating and useful for understanding some of today's realities.

Tim,

The sale of the Hawk missiles was tied to Israeli concessions on the Palestinian refugee problem. In mid-August 1962, JFK sent Myer Feldman to Israel to craft the deal*--why didn't Mr. Bass mention this?

Then, according to the fawning reviewer, Bass attributes no role in the sale to the Jewish Lobby! You must be joking. In fact, the Jewish Lobby is "overated" and the author devotes an entire section to this, entitled "Overated Jewish Lobby"! I give the author credit for a keen sense of humor.

Are you going to drown us with this stuff?

*From "Israel and the Bomb"--Avner Cohen, Columbia University Press, 1998 ISBN 0-231-10483-9: The conversation between Ben-Gurion and Feldman is recorded in an outgoing Foreign Ministry cable to the embassy in Washington, dated 20 August 1962 (ISA, FMRG 3377/7. Also, Myer Feldman interview by author 10 June 1992, 14 October 1994 and 14 July 1997.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So our resident anti-Israeli "expert" Mark Stapleton deems himself qualified to rebut the works of prominent scholars e.g. Herbert M. Druks and Warren Bass, both of whose books have received positive reviews from other mid-East scholars: that is, people who study and teach mid-east politics for a living.

What do you think, Len, do you think Mark has actually read either book? I seriously doubt it.

It is interesting that the premise of both books is essentially the same: that the close relationship between Israel and the United States really began with President John F. Kennedy. That, in my opinion, is a very important foreign policy development for which JFK deserves great credit.

Len, I have a number of books in my library about the Kennedy administration, written by insiders. Tomorrow (per your suggestion in a previous post) I will try to research what those books say about changing US policy toward Israel under JFK.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Through this post I am requesting John to change the title of this thread to The Books That Demolish "Final Judgment" (ie change singular to plural) and to delete the second line about the publisher.

The book that Len found seems like a very worthwhile read as well. This thread ought to relate to both books.

I have been doing some research about Mr. Druks. I have discovered that he has been a member of the American Historical Association for over twenty-five years.

Mr. Druks is a Professor of History and Politics in the Department of Judaic Studies at Brooklyn College. He has taught at Hafia University, The School of Visual Arts and Yale University. He has authored many books and has specialized in the relationship between Israel and the United States.

What it comes down to is this: Piper is not a serious historical scholar. Bass and Druks are, and their books demolish Piper's premise.

Edited by Tim Gratz
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Also see my Post #300 in the "Final Judgment" thread regarding the closeness of JFK to one of the founders of the State of israel.

It appears Mr. Piper was unable to defend his views on this Forum. He has probably returned to the Storm Front organization, the members of whom are so rabidly anti-Jewish they will uncritically accept his nonsense.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So our resident anti-Israeli "expert" Mark Stapleton deems himself qualified to rebut the works of prominent scholars e.g. Herbert M. Druks and Warren Bass, both of whose books have received positive reviews from other mid-East scholars: that is, people who study and teach mid-east politics for a living.

What do you think, Len, do you think Mark has actually read either book? I seriously doubt it.

It is interesting that the premise of both books is essentially the same: that the close relationship between Israel and the United States really began with President John F. Kennedy. That, in my opinion, is a very important foreign policy development for which JFK deserves great credit.

Len, I have a number of books in my library about the Kennedy administration, written by insiders. Tomorrow (per your suggestion in a previous post) I will try to research what those books say about changing US policy toward Israel under JFK.

Finally I have a title, "the resident anti-Israel expert". Does that supercede "liberal" and "socialist"? What took you so long. I thought you might come up with something like that much earlier.

Er, no I haven't read the book. But yes I do have the temerity to challenge it's assertions. The one about the reasons for the sale of Hawk missiles is wrong so why wouldn't I challenge other elements of the book? Any book that would seriously have a section entitled, "Overated Jewish Lobby" has to be highly suspect. Does it have other sections like "Meagre, Underfunded, US Military"?

The reason I challenge that book by a real mid-East scholar is because I, too, have a book written by a real mid-East scholar. I must sound like I have a financial interest in this book but, once again, it's "Israel and the bomb" by Avner Cohen (1998). And I'm saying my book says your book is rubbish. I'll back it's credibility over your book, or any other you can throw up against it.

What do you think, Len--do you think Tim's read my book?

Tell you what, why don't we ask 10 or 20 of the most scholarly members to read both books (and I respect that some on the Forum don't want to get involved in this issue) and tell us which one has more credibility. I'll risk my credibility on Avner Cohen's credibility. Do you accept this challenge? Providing we can garner enough interested members, of course.

Cohen's book is an interesting read. It traces the entire history of Israel's nuclear procurement in a very accessable style. What's yours about? Oh yeah, how JFK was the best buddy Israel ever had (but we're sure glad we got that goddam bomb).

BTW, I have to ask. Tell me what it was Tim, my curiosity is killing me. Was this revelation that JFK was Israel's greatest ally just a recent breakthrough with very fortunate timing or did you know about all this before? If it was the latter, why have you kept it to yourself until now?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mark S wrote:

But yes I do have the temerity to challenge it's assertions.

Well, Mark, I know you rush in where angels fear to tread, but if you are going to try to play expert, why don't you at least learn the fundamental rules of grammar? I thought you stated you had graduated from high school at least.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mark S wrote:

But yes I do have the temerity to challenge it's assertions.

Well, Mark, I know you rush in where angels fear to tread, but if you are going to try to play expert, why don't you at least learn the fundamental rules of grammar? I thought you stated you had graduated from high school at least.

fundamental rules of grammar? -- That's it?.... oh-wee!

STRIKE ONE --

Edited by David G. Healy
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am sorry David but it just boggles my mind that a person who does not know the basic rules of punctuation will challenge a book written by an eminent Mid-east scholar, and he will do so without even reading the book.

There is a word for that.

His state of mind is one of bliss.

Edited by Tim Gratz
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...