When President Bill Clinton won his second term, Rowland Evans and Robert Novak joined forces to put out a column urging him to follow the example of President Dwight Eisenhower to “stand up to Bibi Netanyahu.”
“Remember what Eisenhower did to Israel in Sinai!” is embedded in American middle east policy. For Zionists it is a reminder of the U.S. at its roughest. For Israel’s opponents, it is the optimal standard. In Israel’s 1956 joint military undertaking with Britain and France, Eisenhower warned Israel of severe consequences were she not to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and Sinai. All U.S. assistance would end and financial contributions to Israeli institutions would lose their tax exempt status. There would be serious U.N. declarations and the U.S.S.R. might intervene. After only two days of these warnings Israel complied.
Peter Golden in his “authorized biography” of Max M. Fisher “Quiet Diplomat” (1992) relates that in October 1965 Fisher met with President Eisenhower in Gettysburg to get agreement to accept the U.J.A. medal for his role in the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps twenty years earlier. French General Pierre Keonig leader of the French Resistance and British Field Marshall alexander were also to be honored.
Golden reports that toward the end of the visit Eisenhower “wistfully commented ‘You know, Max, looking back at Suez, I regret what I did. I never should have pressured Israel to evacuate the Sinai'” (all references are to pages xvii and xvix). Eisenhower’s remark astonished Fisher.
Fisher was not the only one who was told of Eisenhower’s change of mind. Nixon told Golden: “Eisenhower…in the 1960s told me — and I am sure he told others — that he thought the action that was taken (at Suez) was one he regretted. He thought it was a mistake.”
Although Fisher knew this for 27 years before publication of his “authorized biography” he evidently never sought to give it publicity beyond the biography. It is still essentially unknown. Had Eisenhower’s rethought position been known in 1965, it might well have been helpful to Israel.
After reading the biography, I wrote Fisher asking why he hadn’t publicized this change in Eisenhower’s thinking. Unfortunately, he canceled our scheduled meeting in Jerusalem.
The Gettysburg visit brought a change in Fisher’s life aspirations. Golden relates that Eisenhower “almost as an afterthought” as they started to depart said: “Max, if I had a Jewish advisor working for me, I doubt I would have handled the situation the same way. I would not have forced the Israelis back.” Fisher was “struck…with the impact of epiphany. If Fisher had been unsure of the of the extent of power an unofficial advisor could wield with a president, he now had his answer, and from an unimpeachable source: the influence exerted could be decisive. It was exactly the role Fisher hoped to play.”
Author Peter Golden regarded Fisher’s 1965 Gettysburg visit with Eisenhower so crucial that he related it in biography’s introduction titled “Eisenhower and the Revelation of Sinai”. Yet, somehow that revelation escaped the attention it deserved.
Dr Lerner was a white house economic advisor from 1952 until 1986. He now lives in Jerusalem and works with IMRA, Independent Media Review and Analysis