John F. Kennedy entered the White House hoping to make America and the world a better and safer place in which to live. Through diplomacy, he wanted to achieve a settlement of the East-West tensions and to bring about a peaceful resolution to such issues as the Israeli-Arab conflict. Although his provision of defensive HAWK anti-aircraft missiles, in response to Russian, French, and British arms sales to the Arabs, made him the first President to supply arms to Israel, Kennedy feared both exacerbation of the arms race and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. While he remained an honest and loyal friend to Israel, he also attempted to further America's relationship with the Arab states and to encourage a settlement of the Arab refugee issue.
Kennedy was an independent thinker who learned how to rely upon his own best judgment and intelligence rather than upon his father or officials like Dean Rusk or Allen Dulles. Kennedy ultimately agreed to regular consultations between Israeli and American military personnel, but he would not agree to a dual alliance nor would he allow America to become Israel's main source of military equipment. The author contends that it was this precarious and uncertain diplomatic and military situation that encouraged Israel to develop its own defense industries and to investigate the possibilities of producing its own nuclear weapons systems.
About the Author:
Herbert M. Druks is Professor of History and Politics in the Department of Judaic Studies at Brooklyn College. He has taught at Haifa University, The School of Visual Arts, and Yale University. His previous books include The Uncertain Friendship: The U.S. and Israel, from F.D.R. to Kennedy (Greenwood, 2001) and The Uncertain Alliance: The U.S. and Israel from Kennedy to the Peace Process (Greenwood, 2001).