The former U.S. Secretary of State and Cold War warrior Henry Kissinger passed away on Wednesday at his home in Connecticut at the age of 100.
Kissinger was born in 1923 to a Jewish family in the German city of Fürth in Bavaria. In 1938, his family fled Nazi Germany and relocated to the United States.
Kissinger later became a U.S. citizen in 1943 and served as a military interpreter in German for the U.S. Armed Forces during the Second World War.
Walter Isaacson, the author of the book “Kissinger: A Biography,” stressed the importance of Kissinger living through the Nazi era and its effect on the late top diplomat’s life.
“The Nazi experience could have instilled in Kissinger either of two approaches to foreign policy,” Isaacson wrote. “An idealistic, moralistic approach dedicated to protecting human rights; or a realistic, realpolitik approach that sought to preserve order through balances of power and a willingness to use force as a tool of diplomacy. Kissinger would follow the latter route,” Isaacson concluded.
Ambitious and intelligent, Kissinger quickly rose through the ranks of U.S. diplomacy. In the late 1960s, Kissinger served as the U.S. National Security Advisor under then-President Richard Nixon who infamously referred to Kissinger as his “Jew boy.”
Despite allegations of latent antisemitism, Kissinger was appointed as America’s 56th Secretary of State in September 1973, merely weeks before the Yom Kippur War broke out, when Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack against the Jewish state on the solemn observance of Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.
Kissinger’s ambivalent relationship with Israel was likely linked to his personal ambivalence towards Jewish identity, in general. Kissinger grew up in a largely assimilated German Jewish family and some believe the Nazi trauma likely made him less vocal about his Jewish family background.
As America’s first Jewish-born secretary of state, Kissinger introduced "shuttle diplomacy" in the Middle East, pressuring both Israel and Arab nations to reach a diplomatic settlement that advanced U.S. national security interests. The intense shuttle diplomacy between Cairo and Jerusalem in the 1970s eventually led to the historic Camp David peace agreement between Egypt and Israel in 1979, which became a blueprint for future Arab Israeli peace and normalization agreements.
Some pundits argued that behind his tough façade, Kissinger was a friend of the Jewish state. However, others were more critical of Kissinger. In his bestselling memoir “The Prime Ministers,” the late diplomat Yehuda Avner, who served as an advisor to several Israeli prime ministers, accused Kissinger of deliberately delaying U.S. military aid to the IDF during the Yom Kippur War’s early stages in an effort to extract political concessions from Israel. Nixon’s view of Jewish-born Kissinger having “double loyalties,” likely also contributed to Kissinger’s decision to apply a “tough love” approach towards Israel.
Later in life as a retired citizen, Kissinger became more vocally supportive of Israel.
In September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Kissinger in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
Kissinger, who lived to experience the global repercussions of the Hamas Oct. 7 massacre of 1,200 Israelis, argued in October that Germany’s mass migration policy was a mistake that had brought many pro-Hamas supporters from the Middle East to the nation.
“It was a grave mistake to let in so many people of totally different culture and religion and concepts because it creates a pressure group inside each country that does that,” Kissinger stated, adding that it was “painful” to watch crowds of Middle Eastern origin in Germany, where he was born 100 years prior, celebrating the mass murder of Jews in Israel.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.