This won’t be news to astute researchers of the John F. Kennedy assassination (JFK being a strong opponent to the Israeli Nuclear weapons program) and the Israeli bombing of the U.S.S. Liberty and subsequent cover up in Washington which John McCain’s father played a key role in.
LBJ tapes show a strong connection to Israel
BETH MARLOWE – Associated Press
Wed May 28
JERUSALEM – Tapes of Lyndon Johnson’s Oval Office conversations, released to the public for the first time on Wednesday, reveal that the American president had a personal and often emotional connection to Israel, a scholar said.
In the first public presentation of the tapes Wednesday at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Professor Robert Johnson said this connection influenced his policy decisions and helped lay the foundation for the special relationship between the two nations.
“I sure as hell want to be careful and not run out on little Israel,” Johnson said in a March 1968 conversation with his ambassador to the United Nations, Arthur Goldberg. The recording was released to researchers on May 1, according to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, in Austin, Texas.
President Johnson was known by his initials, LBJ. While he was in office from 1963 to 1969, the United States became Israel’s chief diplomatic ally and primary arms supplier. He was also the first U.S. president to invite an Israeli premier on a state visit when he brought Prime Minster Levi Eshkol to Washington, D.C. in 1964.
“This is really the foundation of what we think of as U.S.-Israeli strategic partnership,” said Johnson, a professor of history at Brooklyn College in New York and this year’s Fulbright chair in the humanities at Tel Aviv University. He is not related to Lyndon Johnson.
The tapes document LBJ’s growing belief in the importance of Israel throughout his administration.
Relations solidified when the United States offered to support Israel against its Arab neighbors in the 1967 Mideast war, as long as the Jewish state did not act as an aggressor.
In a taped conversation from June 25, 1967, about three weeks after Israel defeated three Arab armies, LBJ relates a conversation with Soviet Premier Alexey Kosygin.
“He couldn’t understand why we’d want to support the Jews — 3 million people — when there are 100 million Arabs,” the president said. “I told him that numbers do not determine what was right. We tried to do what was right regardless of the numbers.”
Professor Johnson said, “It’s one of the starkest expressions of a moral obligation to Israel that came from an American President.”
Regina Greenwell, the foreign policy archivist at the LBJ Library and Museum, said all existing evidence backs up the argument that LBJ had positive feelings for Israel.
“He did always have support for Israel,” said Greenwell, who has listened to all the existing Oval Office tapes. But “he was also trying to balance both sides in the Cold War atmosphere.”
For example, other taped conversations reveal that LBJ supported bolstering King Hussein of Jordan with U.S. military assistance, she said.
“Hussein was a moderating force and the theory was that if Hussein couldn’t get arms from us he’d turn to the Soviets, just as (late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel) Nasser got assistance from the Soviets,” Greenwell said.
Professor Johnson said that LBJ, who died in 1973, had a romanticized view of Israel that paralleled his view of his home state of Texas: a frontier nation filled with self-made men, often misunderstood by the outside world.
Since LBJ, there have been ups and downs, but in general, U.S.-Israel ties have been strong.
“If you think of the U.S.-Israeli relationship now it’s certainly more complex,” said Johnson. “But the basic strategic partnership is the same as under (President) Johnson.”
Johnson said LBJ’s attitude toward Israel is similar to that of another Texan: President Bush.
“It’s not as if Bush has a grand strategic plan, because he doesn’t,” Johnson said. “It’s personal, it’s emotional, it’s the kind of context that you see with (President) Johnson.”
Johnson was one of six presidents to tape his Oval Office conversations with a specially installed recording system. Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Eisenhower taped some of their meetings. Kennedy, Johnson and, famously, Richard Nixon taped nearly all their conversations.