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Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon's resignation from the Presidency of the United States, and the news medias were all full of such discussion. None of them touched on what I remember about Richard Nixon.
Nixon was not popular among American Jews. He only won 17% of the Jewish vote in his first election in 1968, and a not much better 35% in 1972. One might think he had very little incentive to support Israel. When the Yom Kippur war of Oct. 6, 1973 broke out, Nixon was in the middle of the Watergate Controversy which would bring down his presidency. He had just had his Vice President Spiro Agnew resign under corruption concerns. And, he was embroiled in his own war, Viet Nam, which he had promised to end. He had previously told Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, that he would do whatever was necessary to support Israel. He told her to "wake him up in the middle of the night, if necessary." She did exactly that. Surprised by an attack on the eve of Yom Kippur, Oct. 6th, Egypt poured 100,000 troops, 1350 tanks, and 2,000 heavy guns across the Suez. In the Sinai, at the point of the attack, Israel had 450 men, and 200 tanks. Israel was similarly attacked from Syria at the same time. 28,000 Syrian troops, with 800 tanks, and 600 artillery pieces attacked 3,000 Israeli troops with 180 tanks. By October, 8th, Israel's position was desperate. Moshe Dayan had told Prime Minister Golda Meir that it was the end of the "Third Temple." Meir had Nixon awakened in the middle of the night on the 8th, who immediately instructed Henry Kissinger to get the Israeli's whatever they needed. The following morning, Nixon asked to see the request that Israel had sent to Kissinger, which, upon seeing it demanded Kissinger "double it! And go save Israel!" Nixon also told Kissinger to replace whatever armaments was lost due to the fighting. El Al, Israel's own planes immediately began flying necessary armaments, while the US began it's own air lift. That is when Nixon found out that no European Nation would permit US planes supporting Israel to land, or even cross air space. All European states feared an embargo of oil from Saudi Arabia, which in fact, was placed on Nixon and the US for their support of Israel. American planes had to refuel in the air over open seas, to complete the mission. By the end of the airlift, the United States had shipped 22,395 tons of armaments to Israel. 8,755 tons of it arrived before the end of the war. American C-141 Starlifter and C-5 Galaxy aircraft flew 567 missions throughout the airlift. El Al planes flew in an additional 5,500 tons of armaments in 170 flights. A couple of quotes from Prime Minister Meir's book stand out in this. After Israel had regained the ascendency in this war, the Prime Minister went to the floor of the Knesset and said this: And following the Yom Kippur war, on a trip to Britain she records this event:
I wanted also to make public our gratitude to the president and the people of America, and, equally clear, our rage at those governments, notably the French and British, that had chosen to impose an embargo on the shipment of arms to us, when we were fighting for our very lives.
Israel, surprise attacked by seven Arab states on their holiest of days, all Arab states heavily armed by the Soviet Union, but then delivered from certain destruction by the aggression of this American President who acted while under heavy political attack at home, and against the economic interests of his own country, without the assistance if any other world power, all the while pretty much despised by the American Jews, and while fighting his own major war in the Far East. Remarkable! Such are my memories of Richard Nixon.
I just want to understand, in the light of this, what socialism is really about today. Here you are, all of you. Not one inch of your territory was put at our disposal for refueling the planes that saved us from destruction. Now, suppose Richard Nixon had said, ‘I am sorry, but since we have nowhere to refuel in Europe, we just can’t do anything for you after all.’ What would all of you have done then? You know us, and who we are. We are all old comrades, long standing friends. What did you think? On what grounds did you make your decisions not to let those planes refuel? Believe me, I am the last person to belittle the fact that we are only one tiny Jewish state and that there are over twenty Arab states with vast territories, endless oil, and billions of dollars. But what I want to know from you today is whether these things are decisive factors in socialist thinking, too?"
When I got through, the chairman asked if anybody wanted to speak. But nobody did. Then someone behind me–I didn’t want to turn my head and look at him because I didn’t want to embarrass him–said, very clear. 'Of course they can’t talk. Their throats are choked with oil.'