By Noam Kochavi
New insights into the cementing of the American-Israeli courting in the course of the Nixon years
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Extra info for Nixon and Israel: Forging a Conservative Partnership
58 This carefully constructed posture of straddling the issue was aimed at maintaining a balance between conflicting international and domestic pressures. 59 For several reasons, it is exceedingly difficult to confirm this claim. First, the records of Israeli cabinet (and intra-Nativ) deliberations on the issue are still under lock and key. 60 And third, the historian can hardly expect a hidden-hand policy, if successful, to leave conspicuous fingerprints in the historical record. Yet, the few clues available corroborate Levanon’s version: while support for Jackson-Vanik was unanimous neither in the cabinet nor inside Nativ,61 and Golda Meir hoped for a compromise between Nixon and Jackson more than Levanon is willing to concede,62 Israel did ultimately launch a covert and successful campaign on its behalf.
150 Meir also took every precaution to mitigate the only source of friction with Nixon during this period: Soviet Jewish emigration policy. Seeking to preserve détente, Nixon and Kissinger demanded that Israel expressly disavow the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. Rabin was inclined to comply,151 but Meir was torn, since the amendment spoke directly to some of her most pro- Joining the Conservative Brotherhood 25 found principles and commitments. 152 The strategy was well executed and largely kept Nixon and Kissinger’s anger over Jackson-Vanik from spilling over to other dimensions of their Israeli policy.
Kissinger’s (and Nixon’s) policy lay in ruins; Israel—its society, government, and prime minister—experienced an earthquake that proved nothing short of a national trauma. The Final Months: Picking Up the Pieces Nixon’s Israeli policy ended on a sour and deeply ironic note. The October War eroded popular support for détente in the United States. Brezhnev had actually alerted Nixon and Kissinger in advance about the likelihood of war, and fought attempts within the politburo to roll back détente after it started;177 nonetheless, Soviet actions prior to, during, and following the conflict confirmed the suspicions of some Americans, and convinced others, that Moscow could not be trusted.