WASHINGTON – The Middle East peace process is marred by concerns that U.S. policy is pro-Israel. U.S. officials are trying to prod the reluctant neighbors toward peace, but are stuck with a perception that they are not even-handed.
These are the U.S. Middle East policy problems faced by the Bush administration today, and these were the U.S. Middle East policy problems faced by President Nixon three decades ago, according to documents released by the National Archives Monday.
The papers are part of a 107,000-plus page release of Nixon administration papers made public for the first time.
"Your help to Israel is seen as hostile to the Arab world," the Saudi foreign minister told the president in a 1973 meeting in the Oval Office between U.S. officials and Arab leaders.
Nixon, in response, acknowledges the perception that U.S. administrations "are politically influenced too much on the side of Israel." But he adds: "As far as I'm concerned I am not now, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be, affected by domestic politics in my search for peace."
He also assured Arab leaders that his Jewish Secretary of State Henry Kissinger would not be biased in his deliberations to reach peace.
"Some of my Arab friends, I know, have asked how they can trust Dr. Kissinger," Nixon said. "But I can say that above all he wants a fair and a just peace."
State Department officials told Nixon: "Our position is that fighting should stop and that it should be followed by a serious diplomatic effort to reach a final peaceful settlement. We stand willing to play a part in working for a just and durable peace."
The conversation took place just weeks before Egypt and Syria attacked Israeli forces in the Sinai and the Golan in the Yom Kippur War.
Other documents in the release include records of Oval Office conversations and telephone calls, papers preparing Nixon for meetings and draft upon draft of evolving foreign policy initiatives.
Some of the pages still have redactions on them with stamps saying "sanitized copy," a measure meant to protect current national security interests.
Since 1986, the National Archives has released more than 7 million pages of material from the Nixon administration as well as thousands of videos, photographs and hours of tapes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.