Amid Middle East Strife, Nixon Brought Hope
By the late 1960s, conditions in the Middle East were tumultuous. Israel had captured and held mass swaths of territory, and tensions with its neighbors were at an all-time high. However, the election of a new U.S. President brought hope in 1969 that stability and security might soon be in reach.
In a letter dated January 5th, 1969, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser wrote to President-Elect Richard Nixon to congratulate him on his victory. Nasser told RN that the potential for newfound diplomatic ties between Egypt and the United States was “evidence of the deep feeling shared by the great American and Arab nations that the desire for mutual understanding is stronger than all the accumulated cases of doubt and suspicion.” Moreover, though still cautious about becoming overly hopeful, he stated his belief that Nixon’s election and impending inauguration “might be suitable for a wider exchange of thought.”
Read the entire letter below:
Egypt had not maintained particularly strong relations with the United States since the Eisenhower administration, and following the Six Day War Nasser was certain that America was implicit in securing the Israeli victory. However, RN’s telegram response of the following February was characteristically amicable, telling Nasser that he welcomed “the opportunity for a frank and friendly exchange,” and stressing that the United States would make every effort to achieve a lasting peace.
Following his Egyptian counterpart was Levi Eshkol, the Prime Minister of Israel, who wrote the newly inaugurated President commenting on how “The high visions of peace expressed in [his] moving inaugural address have struck a responsive chord in the opinion and sentiment of our people,” referencing RN’s words regarding peace: “Where peace is fragile –make it strong, where peace is temporary – make it permanent.” He closed his letter hoping that Israel and the US together could achieve “common ends of freedom, welfare, and peace.”
Read Eshkol’s letter below:
Though the two rival leaders could not tell each other directly, both made their independent desires for peace very clear to the new President, since he previously expressed desire to serve as an intermediary and bring stability to the region. RN would later live up to this ambition, setting the groundwork for peace there in 1974.