Gideon Israel
Director of the Jerusalem Washington Center

A Soldier’s Impact on the Secretary of State

Alexander Haig was known as a great friend of Israel.  As Secretary of State, during Ronald Reagan’s first two years in office, he was the only one who defended Israel’s strike on Iraq’s nuclear reactor.  He went even further – saying not only should the US refrain from criticizing Israel, it should thank Israel for taking action.  Thus, it was only natural that Alexander Haig’s resignation as Secretary of State worried Israel’s friends.  Moreover, his replacement was George Schultz, an executive at Bechtel – an oil company associated with various Arab countries – and thus it seemed Israel would be at odds again with the State Department.  However, George Schultz turned out to be a good friend of Israel.

Many people recall events in their lives which significantly impacted who they are and how they think.  Sometimes these events can change a person’s opinion from one extreme to the other extreme.  George Schultz, during an event at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in 2007, told a story about a young Israeli soldier who had a deep influence on him; exemplifying how one man’s actions can influence a country’s policy.

“Here I am in 1967 dean at the University of Chicago. As dean, after the end of each quarter, I held a party at my house for students who were at the top that made the dean’s list, they could bring their girlfriends or wives.  And always there was a young man there named Joseph Levy; he was on the dean’s list all the time.  He wasn’t just smart, he was savvy; you could just see that this young man had it all, just had a way about him, wonderful!

And I had hardly heard that the Six Day war started when I heard that Joseph Levy had been killed.   He had somehow understood what was happening; he went right back to Israel, he was a tank commander and he was killed.  I remember it so well and it made a deep impact on me, because I said to myself what kind of a country must this be that can command that kind of loyalty from such a talented young man.  I think probably a lot of people in the US had experiences at that time, and they stay with you and have an impact on your feelings.”

About the Author
Gideon Israel is the Director of the Jerusalem Washington Center which focuses on strengthening US-Israel relations through mutually beneficial policy projects.