232. Conversation Among President Nixon, the President’s Assistant for Domestic Affairs (Ehrlichman), and the President’s Assistant (Haldeman)1
Nixon: As long as we’ve got this problem with the Rogers-Kissinger thing, that—and I’ve said this before—you’ve got to allow me to see Rogers alone, particularly—and, in particular, when he reports on the Mideast problem. And, because I didn’t, I didn’t realize that—I thought I was seeing him alone and say that it’s my own schedule [unclear]. In case if Henry came bouncing in, well, we’ll have to pretend that it’s—I mean, don’t, don’t raise it with him, now.
Haldeman: I won’t raise it with Henry.
Nixon: Yeah, but he—but, but with—when I see Rogers, I just know that I could get a hell of a lot more done without Henry being there. And there’s no problem not being there—
Nixon: It’s no use to having the two sitting there. You know, they both irritate each other. And, so—and, particularly, the Mideast, Bob [unclear] ‘cause Henry’s wrong on the Mideast. I mean, he just happens to be wrong. He wants to sit tight and do nothing ’cause of the elections in ’72, now. [laughs] Well, we ain’t going to do it.
[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to the Middle East.]
Nixon: But I don’t want, in case Henry raises the Rogers-Mideast thing, for you to give him any comfort on that. I just don’t want you to do it, because the—[Page 853]
Haldeman: Well, I was planning, pretty much, to sweetheart Henry tonight—
Haldeman: —and say that our own—
Haldeman: —general stuff that—
Nixon: Well, the, the main thing is that on, on that, is that we, we simply cannot—I mean, Rogers is now working on the Mideast thing. Somebody has to work on it. We cannot just continue to go down the line with the Jews on that, and have no other friends in the world. Now, that’s just the cold turkey about it. And, the—so, it’s a curious thing, at the present, present time, in the whole world. The United States, at the present time, is the only country that is supporting Israel. There ain’t nobody else, now. None. None. Their vote in the UN would be the United States only.
Nixon: Now, goddammit, we just can’t continue that way. The Israelis are sitting there, right now, on this offer to open the Suez; just sitting tight, not doing a damn thing. We’ve got to pressure ’em, and we’re going to. They—Bill said today they’ve denied it—they said that, well, that their real thing is that they all think we’re coming up to an election again, and they can sit tight. And I said, “Never.” I said, “They pulled that in ’70,” and I said, “Just forget it.” And, now, I want Henry to hear it. Now, Henry’s arguments will be that, well, he’s worried about the fact that the, the Jewish editorial writers and columnists in this country will be—will be—if we’re nice to Israel, will be nicer to us on Vietnam. Who? Maybe one: Joe Alsop. Who? The goddamn Jews are all against us. [Joseph] Kraft—2
Haldeman: Well, what in the world difference does it make what the columnists do to us, or Democrats—
Nixon: That’s right.
Haldeman: —on Vietnam anyway. They just—
Nixon: It’s working out.
Haldeman: Vietnam is, is—
Nixon: We’re finished in Vietnam. It’s gonna go. But, let me say that on Israel—
Haldeman: [unclear] and there it is—
Nixon: —on Israel, my feelings there just happen to be different. That’s, then, very different from Henry’s. It’s the one thing he’s blind [Page 854] on. Now, he doesn’t—the Russian thing is brought in, and that’s to ensure the Russian thing is in there. But, it’s a much different game than that. He just—the United States just cannot continue to sit in there supporting Israel alone against 100 million Arabs, against the British, against the French. Forget the French, but the British, for example—the Italians. There isn’t a goddamn government in Europe that supports us on this, on the Israeli thing. You know that? Not one! Now, why in the hell is that? And so, there, there must—we must be doing something wrong. And they’re all doing it, because they think that Muskie’s gone over to Israel, and Humphrey will be going to Israel, and Teddy Kennedy’ll be going to Israel,3 and everybody else, and I have to go along. Screw ’em. You know, Connally4 says, “Sometimes, you’ve got to have an enemy.” Well, maybe it’ll be the Jews. And this is cold turkey, now. That’s what—don’t let it be raised. If it’s raised, just say, “Well, I don’t know anything about it.” Don’t let him—there’s plenty of things wrong with Rogers. We know that. We know that he plays his own game. But, on the other hand, on this particular issue, if—he is squeezing the Israelis because I want him to. You know? Do you understand, John? You see, that’s—he’s doing it because I want it done.
Nixon: I’m just not—I, I will not—I don’t buy Henry’s idea of, of just taking the Jewish line. I just don’t buy it, and we’ve, we’ve, we’ve gone too far, I mean, on everything. They’re out knocking, because they want $500 million more of economic assistance—the Jews do. And they want, they want about another hundred [million dollar] advance. [unclear] They expect us to give ’em that and not do a goddamn thing about opening Suez or anything else. They’re not going to get it.
Nixon: Now this is it. This is it. And so, another thing, another reason you’ve got to keep Henry out of it, is that when he gets involved in Israel, he is totally irrational about anything else. We’ve just got to keep him—keep his mind on, on Vietnam, Soviet-American relations, and China. And it’s really for his own benefit. And so, I just—I know that, in here, we don’t usually get into that. But, there’s plenty of things that—I don’t mind discussing his relation with Rogers in other ways, because Rogers is involved in many other places. And the State Department is not to be trusted, and I don’t trust them. But, on this one, we—we’ve just got to realize that Henry is not the fellow that can call the turn. I mean, if, if he would only realize it, we’d be a hell of a lot better [Page 855] off. That’s, that’s the way it is. Do you want to weigh in? Do you have any difference on it?
Haldeman: No. I haven’t talked to Henry at all, so it’s—
Nixon: Well, I don’t know what he’ll have to say.
Haldeman: I don’t know what his—
Nixon: Rogers, as a matter of fact, got—
Nixon: —got quite a—as we would expect, he got a very good reception over there. They’re all after [unclear]. They want our support. [unclear] We got that Sino-Soviet thing [unclear]. Otherwise [unclear].
Haldeman: He raise that at all?
Haldeman: ’Cause, he, he knew—
Haldeman: —when I talked to him about it, then.
Nixon: No, that—
Haldeman: —fully aware of what he had done.
Nixon: It’s just too damn bad that, too damn bad that you have, have a situation there with Rogers. I mean, he is—we need at the State Department a Secretary of State that will, will, frankly, be Secretary of State like Connally is Secretary of the Treasury. In other words, tries to do what we want, and tries to play it [unclear]. Rogers isn’t that way. On other hand, I—I, I separate out this issue, because I know Henry’s wrong on it. He takes the Javits5 line, and all the rest. He’ll say he doesn’t, but if [unclear] what do you think the Israelis ought to do? I mean, he won’t say another goddamn thing but what Mrs. Meir says. Nothing! Nothing. They—it’s a strange thing. It’s a—but, I think if we—if any one of us were Jewish, we’d do exactly the same thing. I never found a Jew that was rational about Israel—never one. [Admiral] Lewis Strauss? Half-way, half-way. But, put yourself in their position. And I understand it, I mean. But just—but, on the other hand, we are just damned fools. That’s why Johnson’s appointment of Goldberg to the UN was a terrible, terrible blunder. Send Goldberg up to negotiate with the Jews and the Arabs at the UN? I mean, geez, he’s—he cannot—no Jew can see the Israeli problem, except—just as no Irish, no Irishman can see the Northern Ireland problem. You don’t put him in charge of that, do you?
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 496–16. No classification marking. The editors transcribed the portions of the tape recording printed here specifically for this volume. Brackets indicate unclear portions of the recording or those omitted by the editors, except “[laughs]”, “[Joseph]”, “[million dollar]”, and “[Admiral]”, added for clarity.↩
- Syndicated newspaper columnists Joseph Alsop and Joseph Kraft.↩
- Senators Edmund S. Muskie (D–ME), Hubert H. Humphrey (D–MN), and Edward M. Kennedy (D–MA).↩
- Secretary of the Treasury John Connally.↩
- Senator Jacob K. Javits (D–NY).↩