JERUSALEM (VINnews) — In an interview with Israel’s channel 12 marking the occasion of his 100th birthday, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger denied having delayed vital airborne supplies to Israel during the first week of the Yom Kippur War.
The New York Times reported three years afterwards that Kissinger delayed the airlift because he wanted to see Israel “bleed just enough to soften it up for the post-war diplomacy he was planning.” However Kissinger claims that this is “rubbish”, stating that “it takes a special Israeli attitude to even ask such a question”.
Kissinger stressed that initially Israel had appeared to be winning and did not immediately ask for the airlift, and when it did make the request a few days after the outbreak of the war, America was already mired in domestic crisis after vice-president Agnew resigned and Watergate was already beginning.
Kissinger said that he asked Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, a Jewish-born convert to Lutheranism, to authorize the airlift, which “had never before been done in war” and Schlesinger, wary of the Russian response, refused to comply. Kissinger even claims that he should be seen as the hero for pressing the defense establishment to enable the airlift, which only began in the second week of the war.
However transcripts of previously classified telephone conversations between Kissinger and Soviet envoy Anatoly Dobrynin released in 2019 demonstrate that the US interest was not to achieve an Israeli victory, which would anger the US’s oil-rich Arab allies.
During a conversation on 18 October 1973, after he agreed that the military situation was stable, even stalemated, Kissinger declared that “my nightmare is a victory for either side.” Dobrynin observed: “it is not only your nightmare.” Kissinger would say different things to different interlocuters, but he may have worried that if either Egypt or Israel attained a decisive military advantage it would weaken U.S. influence over post-war peace talks. Dobrynin likely had the same concern for the Soviet position.
Israeli suspicions about Kissinger’s motives were compounded by his post-war demands from Israel for territorial compromise, but Kissinger still had a major influence on the peace talks which eventually led to the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.