Closed 1967 Senate protocols reveal bids to pressure Israel
Hundreds of pages released this week by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee contain protocols of closed committee hearings from the seminal year of 1967, including one in which former Senator William J. Fulbright is quoted as saying, "The trouble is they [the Israel lobby] think they have control of the Senate and they can do as they please."
April 12, 2007
Shmuel Rosner Chief U.S. Correspondent
Hundreds of pages released this week by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee contain protocols of the closed hearings of this committee from the seminal year of 1967. Many deal with Vietnam, but the more interesting are those dealing with the Six-Day War.
The senators of the prestigious committee grilled then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk over the meaning of the looming crisis days before the war, and the meaning of the remarkable victory during the war. This coming weekend, Haaretz will publish many anecdotes from the hearings in a longer feature, but here is one of the more amazing dialogs contained in these pages:
Date: June 9, 1967. The senators contemplate ways to pressure Israel and the Arabs and delve into the question of Jewish power in America.
Secretary Dean Rusk: Well, I do not want to underestimate influence in this situation, but I just want to point out that it is not necessarily decisive when you are talking with countries about what they consider the life and death issues for them.
Senator Bourke Hickenlooper of Iowa: Do we not give tax forgiveness for monies contributed to Israel, which is rather unusual? We could stop that.
Secretary Rusk: I believe contributions to the UJA [United Jewish Appeal] are tax exempt, yes.
The Chairman, J. William Fulbright of Arkansas: That is right. The only country. Do you think you have the votes in the Senate to revoke that?
Senator Clifford Case of New Jersey: Are you in favor yourself?
Senator Hickenlooper: I think we ought to treat all nations alike.
Senator Case: That is correct. But are you in favor of it?
Senator Hickenlooper: As long as we do not give it to other nations, I do not -
The Chairman: The trouble is they think they have control of the Senate and they can do as they please.
Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri: What was that?
The Chairman: I said they know they have control of the Senate politically, and therefore whatever the Secretary tells them, they can laugh at him. They say, "Yes, but you don't control the Senate."
Senator Symington: They were very anxious to get every Senator they could to come out and say we ought to act unilaterally, and they got two, three.
The Chairman: They know when the chips are down you can no more reverse this tax exemption than you can fly. You could not pass a bill through the Senate.
Senator Hickenlooper: I do not think you could.
The Chairman: Changing that tax exemption contribution to the UJA. I would bet you ten to one you could not begin to pass a bill You do not believe they could under any circumstances.
Senator Symington: A bill to do what?
The Chairman: To revoke the tax exemption of gifts to the UJA. That is one of their major sources of income. You yourself have pointed out the money they paid for the French arms they got from the U.S.
Senator Symington: Each year the money we give annually for this is less than 1 percent of the cost of Vietnam.
The Chairman: I agree with that.
Senator Hickenlooper: There you go.
The Chairman: But you know very well, you said yourself, that the arms they buy from France are largely paid for by contributions that come from this country.
Senator Symington: Because we would not sell it to them, so instead of selling them the arms...
Senator Albert Gore of Tennessee: Has the President recommended that this be repealed?
The Chairman: No, he has not. I do not wish to make the point except the Secretary is quite correct when he says his leverage on Israel is very limited because of the political situation.
Senator Hickenlooper: I am sorry I brought it up.
Secretary Rusk: I did not say it.
The Chairman: If you did not say it, you do not disagree with it anyway.
Secretary Rusk: I think it should be pointed out though on this tax exempt matter that there are many other organizations, institutions, that would fall into the same principle, private foundations in their expenditures abroad, churches, the voluntary agencies; there are very large sums of money going to foreign countries that are tax exempt in this country as the origin.
Senator Hickenlooper: I do not think it is analogous.
Senator Gore: It is tax deductible; you said tax exempt.
Secretary Rusk: Except the organizations are exempt. Contributions to them are tax deductible.
Senator Cooper: I suggest - it is possible after this that
Israel may ask that this be removed as a sign of showing they are not absolutely dependent on the U.S.