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Op-Ed: Kissinger’s Guilt

"It is painful to think that someone who fled Nazi persecution as a young boy in 1938 should do so much damage to the Jewish State."
Published: Sunday, August 01, 2010 2:37 PM


Recently declassified White House transcripts (featured in an editorial in the Israeli daily Haaretz) show former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger blaming Israel for the problems in the region, accusing Israel of being “deliberately provocative” and attempting “to create maximum commotion in the Middle East.”

In the newly released documents Kissinger refers to the Golan Heights as “Syrian territory” and the Syrians as “my friends.” He confides to an Algerian diplomat that “a (new Arab-Israeli) war wouldn’t be so bad for us. … We could show (Israel) we are tough.” Us? This strongly suggests Kissinger identified with the Arab side in the Arab-Israel conflict.

While these documents do not cover the period of the 1973 war (they cover the end of the Nixon administration and eighteen months of the subsequent Ford administration), they bear out Shmuel Katz’s devastating assessment of Kissinger’s role during the war as crucial in turning Israel’s military victory into a bitter strategic defeat. Just a year after the Yom Kippur War, in his 1974 pamphlet, “The Crisis of Israel and the West” Katz described Kissinger’s actions and their repercussions.

When Israel had recovered from her initial, nearly disastrous setback, the resourcefulness, and courage and qualitative superiority of her solders so succeeded that – in view of all the responsible military analysts – she was on the brink of achieving the greatest victory in her history. … [T]he Israel army had created an excellent bargaining position for whatever negotiations might ensue after the Cease Fire had been formalized in a resolution by the UN Security Council. It held firmly a wide salient deep into Egyptian territory proper with the road to Cairo open. The Egyptian Third Army, one of the two Egyptian forces that had crossed over the east bank of the Suez Canal, was encircled and its supplies completely cut off. …

But in two further decisive steps the U.S. Secretary of State dictated the conversion of Israel’s advantageous position into a posture of defeat. He insisted on the unconditional lifting of the siege of the Third Army. Brief Israeli resistance (by the Minister of Defense in a telephone conversation) was brusquely rejected….By February 1974 Israel had by diplomatic negotiation lost the Yom Kippur War, and the aggressor had been awarded the beginnings of a retrospective victory in the Six Day War. The Egyptians moreover made no secret of their confidence that this was only the first step to Israel’s being forced out of all of Sinai. The Egyptian President in particular repeatedly gave expression to this confidence, indicating without inhibition that this is what he had been promised by the U.S. Secretary of State whom he trusted absolutely in view of what he had already done for the Arab cause.

Twenty seven years later, in 2001, in a column “In Politics: No Friendships, Only Interests” Shmuel Katz returned to the theme of Kissinger’s 1973 game plan, this time with Kissinger’s own memoirs as evidence. Kissinger was determined, Katz wrote

on a diplomacy that would result in Egypt’s moving over from the Soviet orbit to the American. The price, as became evident, was to be a sacrifice of Israel….That is why the Egyptians to this day celebrate what they claim was a military victory over Israel. That is why, in Israel, the Yom Kippur War is remembered and felt as a bitter defeat. The harm done to Israel was and remains incalculable, not least in that sense of having been defeated.

Moreover, Kissinger accomplished his goals through deception. As Katz details in “The Man with A Plan” (Oct. 23, 2003), with Israel facing a “dangerous shortage of materiel” Kissinger held up the arms shipments to Israel, claiming falsely it was Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger’s doing. Kissinger then used Israel’s predicament to pressure American Jewish leaders to abandon their efforts on behalf of Soviet Jewry in return for his support in expediting the delivery of the sorely needed materiel – arms and supplies which he was responsible for holding up in the first place.

Kissinger also hinted to Defense Minister Moshe Dayan of a Soviet atomic threat if Israel didn’t comply with his demands. Katz says this was a bald-faced lie. The Soviets had made no such threat. Katz writes:

Dayan later realized that he had been hoodwinked, and indeed, on examination of Kissinger’s blow-by-blow negotiations with the Russians, there is not a smidgen of a hint of an atomic threat by the Russians. In a public lecture in May 1974, Dayan declared:

“The Americans denied us the fruits of victory. It was an ultimatum. Had the US not pressed us, the Third Army and Suez City would have had to surrender. We would have captured 30,000 to 40,000 soldiers and Sadat would have had to admit it to his people. We might have held them only for a day and let them walk out without their arms, but it would have changed the whole Egyptian attitude about whether they won the war or not.”

It is painful to think that someone who fled Nazi persecution as a young boy in 1938 should do so much damage to the Jewish State. Yet, a closer look shows that Kissinger has, at best, a tenuous connection with his Judaism. Rabbi Norman Lamm, former chancellor of Yeshiva University, spotted this early. In his article “Kissinger and the Jews” (Dec. 20, 1975), a devastating critique, he writes, “Dr. Kissinger is an illustration of how high an assimilated Jew can rise in the United States, and how low he can fall in the esteem of his fellow Jews.”

Lamm referred to a recent visit by Henry Kissinger and his parents to Furth, their hometown in Bavaria which they escaped before the war. They had only kind words for their native city, “but nary a word about the Holocaust, not a word about the Nazis who drove them out of that city!” On top of this, Lamm reveals that Kissinger didn’t want to visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial, during his first trip to Israel, and had to be “persuaded.” He “accepted only when he was told that every other foreign minister visiting Israel had done so.”

This hasn’t stopped Kissinger from portraying himself as one with the Jewish community, accepting awards from the Anti-Defamation League and bestowing awards on behalf of Jewish organizations like the United Jewish Appeal.

Kissinger’s guilt runs deep. Whether or not he feels it is another matter. Zionist writer William Mehlman offers a remarkable footnote involving Kissinger and Katz sometime after the Yom Kippur War. Kissinger got wind of a rumor – unfounded – that Shmuel had taken out a contract on his life (a fantasy Kissinger apparently believed based on the allegations about his role in delaying the resupply of munitions to Israel during the war).

“Shmuel, informed of what had transpired and anxious to put the rumor to rest, arranged a face-to-face meeting with Kissinger at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. ‘From the moment I entered his suite until I left three minutes later,’ Katz related to a small circle of friends in Tel Aviv, ‘he did not stop shouting at me. He never gave me a chance to refute the rumor. In fact I never got a chance to say a word. Finally, I just turned around and walked out.’”

Mehlman writes, “Whatever debt Henry Kissinger may or may not have felt he owed his conscience, he must surely have learned by now that it wasn’t Shmuel Katz who had come to collect.”

Kissinger is 87. It doesn’t look as if he will make amends in this world. Perhaps in the next.