Eye on Israel: How America Came to View Israel as an Ally

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Eye on Israel: How America Came to View Israel as an Ally, by Michelle Matt. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006. 242 pp. $65.00.

Michelle Mart describes how American moviemakers and writers came to regard Israel more favorably during the years of the Truman and Eisenhower presidencies. She assumes that the public view of Israel helped influence American officials to be pro-Israel. But it is an assumption not supported by fact. Truman recognized Israel in May of 1948, but throughout his years in the White House he did not lift the arms embargo against Israel. A loan was extended to Israel, but Mart does not mention that Israel paid back the loan with interest. She claims that the Eisenhower administration grew to like and admire Israel and readily quotes Secretary of State John Foster Dulles declaring his admiration for the contribution Israel and the Jews made to the development of Christian civilization. She likewise quotes Ambassador Abba Eban as saying that the U.S. "was obviously coming to regard Israel not as a burden to be chivalrously sustained, but as an asset in the global and ideological balance." Such observations were typical of Abba Eban. He talked that way when I interviewed him. But in his correspondence with the Israel Foreign Office he was greatly critical of Secretary Dulles. Frustrated by Dulles' refusal to allow Israel to puchase weapons for its own defense, Eban observed that with all of Dulles' reference to scripture he should have chosen to become a preacher rather than a diplomat. Moreover, Eban noted on February 26, 1953 that Dulles showed "nervousness and a lack of calm frightening in one holding so important a position. At times his left eye twitches, and at times, his right. He plays with his hair, now smoothing one side down with one hand and then smoothing the other side down with his second hand. He runs his pencil down the parting in his hair and then sucks his pencil. Dulles was scarcely still for a moment." While attending a Foreign Affairs Committee he doodled: "Dulles Must Go." "Freudians could explain what he really meant" (Israel Foreign Office Papers 2414/27B). In conversation with Dulles on February 26, 1953, Eban advised that Israel could be of great help to the United States in case of a Soviet threat. "Israel could put eight divisions into the field. If its airfields were enlarged and its industry increased in advance of an emergency Israel could be of great use in the event of an international crisis. One should not underrate the military value of Israel. Others might be hesitant, but we were prepared to fight along with the West." Dulles responded with: "You have given me a lot to think about. I have no reaction at the moment." But he added that he was concerned with Arab antagonism toward the British, French and to lesser extent the U. …