The Future Foretold: Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Congressional Support for Israel

Mar 20, 2017

Former Postdoctoral Fellow Olivia Sohns published an article in Diplomacy & Statecraft about President Johnson's early congressional support for Israel. 

Abstract: Lyndon B. Johnson became a senator the year of Israel’s creation: 1948. Moral, political, and strategic considerations guided Johnson’s outspoken support for Israel from an early point in his political career. This analysis reveals that Johnson’s advocacy of Israel whilst a senator foreshadowed his policy as president of championing the Israeli-American military-strategic alliance. Beginning with his time in Congress, Johnson had many Jewish American friends supporting the establishment of a Jewish state and, due to the importance of Jewish-American backing of the Democratic Party, Johnson supported Israel for significant political reasons. From a moral and strategic perspective starting in the 1950s, Johnson believed that Israel served as a humanitarian refuge for Jews in the aftermath of the Holocaust and, as a liberal democracy, was well suited to oppose the expansion of Soviet influence and communism in the Cold War Middle East. For these reasons, Johnson supported the initiation of American aid to Israel in the early 1950s, which would presage decisions to arm Israel with the first American tanks and fighter jets as president. As a senator, Johnson staunchly opposed President Dwight Eisenhower’s threat to impose sanctions against Israel if it did not withdraw from Egyptian territories occupied in the 1956 Suez crisis. Johnson’s stance on Suez – that Israel deserved greater security guarantees prior to withdrawal – would starkly parallel his policy following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. 

Read the article here