78. Address by Secretary of State Kissinger1
American Resolve and the Security of Israel
I want to take a few moments this evening to recall some of our basic objectives and opportunities in the world—the permanent interests and concerns for which this nation is responsible—and why our commitment to the security and survival of Israel is an essential element of our global policy.
We have been committed for 30 years to the maintenance of global peace. No other nation has the strength to do so without us. The United States for 30 years has been the engine of the world economy and the promoter of economic development. No other nation has the resources or technology or managerial skill to do so alone. Without our commitment there can be no security; without our dedication there can be no progress.
This role is not an act of altruism, but a matter of vital self-interest. Upheavals in key areas such as the Middle East menace our friends and allies, jeopardize our prosperity, and raise the risk of global confrontation. The Middle East war of 1973 brought a confrontation with the Soviet Union and contributed to the most severe recession in the postwar period.
But neither peace nor progress comes inevitably or automatically. These goals are mere abstractions if they are not pursued with strength, vision, and conviction. For a generation, America has been the leader in maintaining the balance of power, in offering help to friends to insure their survival, in mediating conflicts, in building and sustaining international cooperation for economic progress. We could not have done so without our strength; we would not have done so without our convictions.
Today we can be proud of where we stand.
After 35 years of continual tensions and intermittent conflict, America is now at peace; no American is at war anywhere in the world. Militarily, our power is vast and growing, superior in technology and in the most important categories of strategic strength. We have solid and secure allies. Our readiness and our resolve deter wars and buttress global stability.[Page 425]
Economically, the United States and the great industrialized democracies have shown once again the resiliency and basic vigor of free economies. We have successfully come through a period of recession and inflation induced in large part by drastic and unwarranted oil price increases. The solidarity of our major alliances has dramatically proved itself in a new sphere of common endeavor—economic recovery and energy policy—adding another dimension of unity above and beyond our collective defense.
Our Founding Fathers were men of faith and vision. They had faith in the future of a free people. And they had the vision to understand, as Edmund Burke said, that “You can never plan the future by the past.”
We need these qualities as much today as 200 years ago: Faith, because, to our people, dedication to the cause of freedom transcends partisanship and ethnic or social division; vision, because while we must learn from the past, we are not, and must not become, its prisoner.
These qualities of faith and vision are characteristic also of another people—the people of Israel. They are qualities we need especially as we contemplate the future of the Middle East and seek to build there, together, a lasting peace.
There is no greater example of the power of faith than the creation of the State of Israel. For centuries it was a dream for the persecuted and oppressed; then it became a reality. And a reality it shall remain. The survivors never lost their faith, and they built a modern nation in the desert in our own lifetime. Now they dream of peace. And that, too, they will achieve.
The road ahead is almost certainly more difficult—but nonetheless inescapable—than the steps we have taken so far. But we are launched together on that road, and we shall continue together with confidence and dedication.
For our relations with Israel are central to and inseparable from the broad concept of our foreign policy. The United States has permanent and fundamental concerns in the world that reflect the values of our people. True to the origins of our own nation:
—We have always been inspired by moral aims, committed to use our power for the cause of freedom, justice, and international security.
—We have maintained a strong defense and supported our friends, knowing that we could not leave the future of freedom to the mercy of others.
—We have wielded our strength as a creative force for peace, promoting solutions to conflicts and new endeavors of cooperation, confident that mankind is not doomed to anarchy and destruction; that its power can be used for conciliation and progress.[Page 426]
—And we have exerted our leadership as well in the economic realm, conscious that the well-being of nations and peoples is a fundamental component of international order and of a better future.
These principles will guide our policy as we seek peace in the Middle East.
Morality and Foreign Policy
The genius of America has always been its moral significance. Since its birth America has held a promise and a dream to which others have clung and many have sought to emulate. As Gladstone said, “. . . the American Constitution is the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.”
Americans have always believed that what we did mattered not just for ourselves but for all mankind. We have been the bulwark of democracy, a refuge for those fleeing persecution, and the most humanitarian nation in history.
Since the end of World War II global peace and prosperity have depended to an extraordinary degree upon America. Throughout this period America’s might has always been used to defend, never to oppress. So it will be in the future.
The relationship between America and Israel rests fundamentally on this moral basis. If the world is to be peaceful and equitable, the conduct of nations must have an ethical foundation. Those who have suffered from its absence, who have been victimized by arbitrary power—and no people has been more than the Jewish people—know in their bones how without ethical principles the ruthless will rule and the weak will suffer. Peace with justice must have a special meaning for a people—like the Jewish people—who have, through history, sought it so fervently but experienced it so rarely.
For all these reasons, Americans look upon Israel as a loyal friend committed, as are we, to the principles of freedom and democracy. We value the part we played in creating the State of Israel and in sustaining its survival. The United States can never ignore its moral responsibility for the fate of nations which rely upon us as the ultimate defender of their survival and freedom. We are thoroughly convinced that Israel’s survival is inseparable from the future of human dignity, and we shall never forget that Israel’s security has a special claim on the conscience of mankind.
Nor will we forget that the true strength of friendship lies in our honesty and candor with each other. Our relationship with Israel is too important for us to delude ourselves with less than our honest opinions. We do not prove our friendship by ignoring the realities we both face. We undermine our common future if, for temporary expediency, we tell each other fairy tales. We prove our good intentions by [Page 427] working together with dedication, facing hardship and reality for the common good, and above all by never forgetting how important our partnership is for all that we each seek in the world.
America’s aim is a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, and so is Israel’s. During the U.N.’s consideration of the Palestine question over 25 years ago, an American diplomat expressed the hope that the day will come when the Jews and Arabs in the Middle East will live together in the true spirit of Christian brotherhood. We may be amused by the phrase, but it reflects a basic aspiration. Israel is entitled to live with its neighbors in the same sense of safety and normalcy that is taken for granted almost everywhere else in the world.
The United States and Israel can debate over tactics, but never over the basic reality that our relationship with each other is special for reasons that transcend tactics. What ties us together is not legal documents, but a moral connection which cannot be severed.
A Strong Defense
The second strand of American policy is a realistic appreciation of the importance of American strength. Aspirations for a better world are empty without the strength to implement them. No one should understand better than the Jewish people that weakness is not a virtue and that righteousness alone is no protection in a world of insecurity and injustice.
There can be no security without equilibrium and no safety without the restraint which a balance of power imposes. Only when the rights of nations are respected by necessity, when accommodation supplants force, can mankind’s energies be devoted to the realization of its higher aspirations.
For 30 years the United States has occupied a central place in the global balance of stability. Our strength or our weakness, our effectiveness or ineffectiveness, affect decisively the calculations of nearly every nation in the world and determine our ability to shape events to our purposes. We cannot surrender one strategic part of the world to those who oppose us and remain secure and unchallenged in another. So those who want America strong in one part of the world have a special obligation to keep it strong in all strategically important areas. Nations, wherever they are located, that rely on us cannot fail to be affected whenever America abdicates responsibility—whether in Asia or in Africa.
The American people have never been comfortable with weakness. We have never relished abdication. And when it is imposed on us by domestic divisions it has its inevitable reaction. It is reassuring to see the American people once again emphatically united on the necessity of a strong defense. This year’s defense budget will allow us to con[Page 428]tinue to improve our military forces—to insure that no other nation can threaten us, our interests, or our friends.
As President Kennedy wrote, we did not ask to be “the watchmen on the walls of world freedom.”2 But circumstances have made us so. History taught us that our own tranquillity depends on global stability. From Waterloo to Sarajevo, America benefited from the stability of a world balance of power which maintained global security and prevented international war. That responsibility now rests, in large measure, with us. It is a responsibility we cannot skirt.
The United States will keep its friends and allies strong enough to defend themselves with our support—to insure that peace is seen clearly by their adversaries to be the only feasible course.
We will not fail to provide for Israel’s security. American aid to Israel was $437 million in fiscal year 1973; since then it has increased to 2.3 billions of dollars for the current fiscal year—a fivefold increase in three years. Israel now receives about a third of our total foreign assistance. Israel has received $6 billion in aid since its founding; we have proposed $4.1 billion for the next two years. Those who opportunistically question our dedication to the security of Israel should examine these statistics.
Maintaining a Stable Peace
Strength alone is not enough. It is useful only in the service of a concept of the national interest and when wielded with creativity, wisdom, and compassion to shape the course of events. Thus our true strength is not military power, but the dedication of a free people which knows its responsibility, which has a vision of what it seeks and the courage to seek it.
The United States has never been defeated for lack of military power. All our recent setbacks, from Indochina to Angola, have been self-inflicted; they have occurred because of divisions among ourselves that paralyzed our action.
Together there is little we cannot do. Divided, there is little we can attempt.
The most urgent challenge before America is a national consensus on our purposes and objectives. As a nation, we must maintain the balance of power and have the vision to fulfill positive aspirations. There is no ultimate safety in a balance of terror constantly contested. We must vigilantly protect our own security and that of our allies and [Page 429] friends, but we must also seek to build habits of communication and relationships of cooperation.
With respect to our adversaries, we are determined to resist moves to gain unilateral benefits by military pressure, direct or indirect. The United States will not accept any further Angolas. At the same time, we owe it to ourselves and to the world to seek to push back the shadow of nuclear holocaust, to slow the strategic arms race, to resolve political problems through negotiation, and to expand our relations on the basis of strict reciprocity.
This process is meant to serve, not to sacrifice, our interests and values. The state of relations between the United States and the Communist powers is vastly better today for us and for global peace than it was 10 years ago, when crises were frequent, when communication was rudimentary, and when the world did not have the luxury of criticizing efforts to reduce tensions.
Our policy in the Middle East, similarly, is designed to serve our most positive goals. The extraordinary steps that have been taken in the last few years between Arab states and Israel have brought us progress undreamed of a few short years ago. The process of negotiation between the parties is continuing; the United States remains in a pivotal position to promote a balanced negotiation, to support friends, and dampen conflicts. The Middle East today is at a moment of unprecedented opportunity:
—Israel has shown in negotiation the boldness for which it is renowned in battle, and that in turn has made possible concrete political steps toward a durable peace settlement.
—Some of the Arab countries are now at last speaking openly and wisely of making peace and bringing an end to generations of conflict.
—The United States has shown its determination and ability to promote a just and enduring solution between the parties, to prevent this region from again becoming the focal point of global crisis.
—If we continue to conduct our relationship with the major outside powers with reason and firmness, we can move toward a global environment of restraint that will enhance even further the possibilities of constructive negotiation and progress.
The negotiations ahead in the Middle East will present difficult obstacles and difficult decisions. We understand the complexity of Israel’s position. Any negotiation will require Israel to exchange territory in return for political, and therefore much less concrete, concessions. Even Israel’s ultimate goals—a peace treaty and recognition from its neighbors—are inherently intangible. But they would be the greatest step toward security since the creation of the State. We do not underestimate the dilemmas and risks that Israel faces in a negotiation; but they [Page 430] are dwarfed by a continuation of the status quo. And we recognize our obligation, as the principal support for Israel’s security, to be understanding of Israel’s specific circumstances in the process of negotiations.
All of us who are friends of Israel and who are at the same time dedicated to further progress toward peace understand Israel’s uncertainties—and at the same time we share her hope. There will be no imposed solutions; there should be negotiations between the parties that will eventually have to live in peace.
It is a delicate but careful process, because no American and no friend of Israel can be ignorant of what is at stake. Much work and many dangers—most immediately the situation in Lebanon—remain, but the peace process has come further than all but a very few dared hope.
As the process continues, the United States will not weaken Israel by failing to perceive its needs, or by failing to understand its worries, or by abandoning our fundamental commitment to its survival and security. In this process there is hope; in stagnation there are mounting dangers. Together we can achieve what a few years ago seemed a vain dream: a Middle East whose nations live at peace and with a consciousness of security.
A Prosperous World Economic Order
A fourth element of American foreign policy is our commitment to sustain the world economic order. A dominant issue of international relations for the next generation will be the economic division of our planet between North and South—industrial and developing—which has become as pressing an issue as the division between East and West. I have just returned from Nairobi, from addressing a meeting of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, where I put forward new ideas for multilateral cooperation.3
Peace would be fragile indeed in a world of economic stagnation or frustration, in an era of economic warfare or unremitting hostility between the industrial world and the developing world. In the last few years the world community has been reminded dramatically by the oil embargo and the ensuing recession of the extent to which economic relations are an essential foundation of the international order. Bold new policies are needed to make the international economic system more secure and more dynamic. Therefore, just as we seek to move beyond a balance of power in East–West relations, so must we transcend tests of [Page 431] strength in North–South relations in favor of more creative and constructive relationships in tune with the sweep of human aspirations.
We do so in our own self-interest. As the world’s strongest power, the United States could survive an era of economic warfare. But the American people would not be true to ourselves were we to turn our backs on the legitimate hopes of tens of millions for a better life. Our own self-interest requires us to use our preeminent economic strength to strengthen and build upon the interdependence of all nations in the global economy.
No other country has our opportunity to build long-term relations of partnership in helping nations to develop their resources and economies. All over the globe American economic strength is admired and sought; it should be seen by us not as a “giveaway” but as an unmatchable advantage which can be creatively used to strengthen our diplomacy for peace and the prospects of a stable and just world order.
Israel, too, has made a great contribution to the cause of constructive relations between the advanced and the developing countries. The imagination and creativity which the pioneering settlers of Israel used to make the desert bloom have been generously offered to many developing countries. We support those initiatives, and we will do what we can to assist them.
Israel faces serious economic difficulties in the years ahead, partly because—let us face it squarely—Moses had some shortcomings as a petroleum geologist. In place of natural resources, Israel’s economy must be driven by creativity, hard work, and determination—assets which fortunately are in abundance in that little country. To prosper, Israel must have access to world markets, and countries and companies that wish to trade with her must be free to do so.
The United States will continue to help Israel’s economy overcome world recession, higher petroleum prices, and the costs of a strong national defense. The United States is committed to ending restrictions on Israel’s rights to trade and on the rights of others to trade with Israel. Steps toward peace in the political and military field must include steps to end the economic warfare.
America and Israel
As America makes progress toward all its broad objectives of global peace and well-being, the world is made safer for all countries that rely on us. But if legislative battles and domestic divisions weaken America’s leadership, it will not be America alone which pays the price. Our friends and allies will grievously suffer.
Americans and Israelis must work together creatively and boldly in the challenging period ahead. Diplomacy at its best is a process of creation, not of passive reactions to events. For Americans and Israelis [Page 432] above all, who have always shaped actions out of purposes, there is no excuse for political wrangling that in perilous times makes coherent and purposive action impossible.
America has a special responsibility. Never has there been any question about our physical power. As our economy rebounds from recession, there is every reason for confidence about our long-term—and indeed permanent—superiority in the economic and technological strength that is the basis of our military power as well as of our economic welfare. The challenge to us at this point in our history is whether we can restore the consensus and national confidence that can make this power effective for our goals.
I am optimistic. We are not weak; we are only hesitant. It lies within us to remedy our difficulties.
The former Foreign Minister of France, Maurice Couve de Murville, said on the floor of the French Assembly three days ago:
The instability in the world is above all a result of the American crisis caused by the defeat in Viet-Nam and the Watergate affair, rather than by the increase in Soviet power . . .
Americans know that when all is said and done, there cannot be peace for one nation; there must be peace for all nations, or all are in jeopardy.
The world looks to us. This is one fact that I have found, whatever continent I have visited—Africa, Latin America, Asia, or Europe. Although we no longer enjoy the preponderant power we once had, we are still the strongest single country and a nation recognized throughout the world for its honesty, its decency and unselfishness. If we persevere, if we use our great moral and physical influence to maintain the balance of power, promote world prosperity, mediate conflicts, and put our considerable weight on the scales of justice—if, in short, we do as we have always done—we will usher in an unparalleled period of progress and peace.
President Roosevelt once said that his generation of Americans had a rendezvous with destiny. Let it be said of our generation of Americans that they have had a rendezvous with peace and with progress.
- Source: Department of State Bulletin, June 7, 1976, pp. 720–725. Kissinger delivered the address upon receiving the Chizuk Amuno Synagogue Distinguished Achievement Award.↩
- For President Kennedy’s address prepared for delivery at Dallas, Tex., on Nov. 22, 1963, see “Public Papers of the Presidents, John F. Kennedy, 1963,” p. 890. [Footnote is in the original.]↩
- For details of Kissinger’s African trip, see footnote 1, Document 77. For Kissinger’s address to the UNCTAD IV conference in Nairobi May 6, see Department of State Bulletin, May 31, 1976, pp. 657–672.↩