Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger denied delaying essential airborne supplies to Israel during the first week of the Yom Kippur War in an interview for his 100th birthday with Israel’s Channel 12.
However, Kissinger calls this “rubbish,” claiming that “it takes a special Israeli attitude even to ask such a question.”
Three years later, the New York Times claimed that Kissinger had delayed the airlift because he wanted to see Israel “bleed just enough to soften it up for the post-war diplomacy he was planning.”
Kissinger emphasized that although Israel initially appeared to be winning, it did not immediately request the airlift.
By the time it did, a few days after the war started, America was already embroiled in a domestic crisis due to Vice President Agnew’s resignation and the start of Watergate.
Kissinger claimed that when he requested James Schlesinger, the secretary of defense and a Jewish convert to Lutheranism, to approve the airlift, which “had never before been done in war,” Schlesinger declined out of fear of the Russian response.
Kissinger goes so far as to say that he deserves praise for pushing the defense establishment to allow the airlift, which didn’t start until the second week of the conflict.
However, records of previously secret phone calls between Kissinger and Soviet envoy Anatoly Dobrynin made public in 2019 show that the US was not interested in seeing an Israeli win because that would enrage the US’s oil-rich Arab allies.
Kissinger would say different things to different people, but he may have worried that if either Egypt or Israel attained a decisive military advantage, it would weaken U.S. influence over post-war peace talks.
On 18 October 1973, after agreeing that the military situation was stable, if not stalemated, Kissinger declared, “my nightmare is a victory for either side.”
Dobrynin responded: “It is not only your nightmare.” Dobrynin probably felt the same way about the Soviet stance.
Kissinger’s post-war demands for Israeli territorial concessions added fuel to Israeli suspicions about his motivations, but he nevertheless had a significant impact on the negotiations that resulted in the 1979 peace accord between Egypt and Israel.