“No Democratic president has ever strong-armed Israel”
Whenever the United States has put serious, sustained pressure on Israel’s leaders—from the 1950s on—it has come from Republican presidents, not Democratic ones…. Despite the Republican Party’s shrill campaign rhetoric on Israel, no Democratic president has ever strong-armed Israel on any key national security issue.
— Efraim Halevy, “Who Threw Israel Under the Bus?,”New York Times, October 24
Former Mossad head Efraim Halevy likes Barack Obama and dislikes Mitt Romney. He’s entitled to his opinion. What he isn’t entitled to do is make categorical statements that do violence to the historical record.
I’m teaching a graduate course this semester on relations between Israel and the United States, and one of my purposes in following a historical approach is to fortify my students against people who misrepresent the past for some present purpose. Just the other week, we spent two hours discussing how President John F. Kennedy (yes, a Democrat) put the screws on Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and his successor, Levi Eshkol, over Israel’s nuclear end-run. The story has been told at considerable length elsewhere, most ably by Avner Cohen, Zaki Shalom, Michael Karpin, and Warren Bass, so I’ll just recap it here. It’s relevant not only as a corrective to Halevy’s erroneous claim. It’s essential background to the renewed debate over Israel’s nuclear posture that the Obama administration has helped to prompt. [Read the rest]