ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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Herzog: 'I always felt his love and compassion for Israel'

Israeli officials laud Kissinger, as global public reaction mixed to diplomat’s death

Netanyahu praises ‘great statesman, scholar and friend,’ as Chinese, German leaders pay tribute to former US secretary of state, while others remember him instead as a war criminal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger in New York on September 21, 2023 (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger in New York on September 21, 2023 (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Global reactions poured in following the death of former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, including in Israel where officials recalled his early efforts to secure peace between Israel and Egypt decades ago.

Meeting with current US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Tel Aviv on Thursday, President Isaac Herzog said those in Israel are “big admirers of Henry Kissinger, who laid down the foundations of so many great decisions and processes which he led, which brought results that we feel until today — peaceful results.”

Herzog said that Kissinger “laid the cornerstone of the peace agreement which was later signed with Egypt, and so many other processes around the world… I always felt his love and compassion for Israel and his belief in the Jewish state.”

Blinken responded that Kissinger “really set the standard for everyone who followed in in this job. I was very privileged to get his counsel many times including as recently as about a month ago. He was extraordinarily generous with his wisdom and his advice. Few people were better students of history. Even fewer people did more to shape history.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that he mourned the death of “a great statesman, scholar and friend.” Netanyahu lauded the diplomat’s “formidable intellect and diplomatic prowess,” which “shaped not only the course of American foreign policy but also had a profound impact on the global stage.”

Netanyahu noted that he met Kissinger most recently in New York in September: He was “not just a diplomat; he was a thinker who believed in the power of ideas and the importance of intellectual capital in public life. His contributions to the field of international relations and his efforts in navigating some of the most challenging diplomatic terrains are a testament to his extraordinary capabilities.”

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said he was “saddened to hear of the death of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, an iconic figure in world diplomacy and one of the pillars in forging the unbreakable alliance between Israel and the US.” The diplomat played a “pivotal role in Middle East diplomacy, and his unique perception and vision will be greatly missed, especially these days.”

Henry Kissinger plants a tree at Ness Harim near Jerusalem at a planting ceremony for his birthday on June 29, 1983. (Yossi Zamir/KKL-JNF archive)

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid also eulogized the former US secretary of state, calling him “an intellectual titan and a giant of international diplomacy. At a time when moral clarity and strategic thinking are needed more than ever, his voice and experience will be sorely missed.”

Around the world, reaction to the death of the controversial Kissinger was polarized, with many lambasting him as a war criminal, particularly on social media, while most world leaders praised him as a skilled defender of US interests.

“America has lost one of the most dependable and distinctive voices” on foreign affairs, said former US president George W. Bush, striking a tone that many high-level officials, past and present, tried to convey.

“I have long admired the man who fled the Nazis as a young boy from a Jewish family, then fought them in the United States Army,” Bush said in a statement. “When he later became Secretary of State, his appointment as a former refugee said as much about his greatness as it did America’s greatness.”

Kissinger served two presidents, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and dominated foreign policy as the United States withdrew from Vietnam and established ties with China.

Kissinger’s death was a leading topic on social media in China, where he is revered for having engineered the opening of relations between the ruling Communist Party and Washington under Nixon.

US Secretary of State Kissinger with Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and Yigal Allon initialing the Sinai II Agreement in Jerusalem on September 1, 1975. (Israeli GPO/ Moshe Milner)

Many online mourned the passing of “an old friend.” State broadcaster CCTV shared on social media an old segment showing Kissinger’s first secret visit to China in 1971, when he broached the possibility of establishing US-China relations and met with then-premier Zhou Enlai.

Chinese Ambassador to the United States Xie Feng said he was “deeply shocked and saddened” by Kissinger’s death. “He will always remain alive in the hearts of the Chinese people as a most valued old friend.”

Criticism of Kissinger, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, was especially strong on social media, where many posted celebratory videos in reaction to his death.

A Rolling Stone magazine headline said, “Henry Kissinger, war criminal beloved by America’s ruling class, finally dies.”

“Henry Kissinger’s bombing campaign likely killed hundreds of thousands of Cambodians — and set [a] path for the ravages of the Khmer Rouge,” Sophal Ear, a scholar at Arizona State University who studies Cambodia’s political economy, wrote on The Conversation. “The cluster bombs dropped on Cambodia under Kissinger’s watch continue to destroy the lives of any man, woman or child who happens across them,” Sophal Ear wrote.

Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger with then-president George W. Bush in New York City, March 14, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Kissinger exerted uncommon influence on global affairs long after he left office. In July, for instance, he met Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing while US-Chinese relations were at a low point.

Nixon’s daughters, Tricia Nixon Cox and Julie Nixon Eisenhower, said their father and Kissinger enjoyed “a partnership that produced a generation of peace for our nation.”

Kissinger initiated the Paris negotiations that ultimately provided a face-saving means to get the United States out of a costly war in Vietnam.

“Dr. Kissinger played an important role in the historic opening to the People’s Republic of China and in advancing détente with the Soviet Union, bold initiatives which initiated the beginning of the end of the Cold War. His ‘shuttle diplomacy’ to the Middle East helped to advance the relaxation of tensions in that troubled region of the world,” the Nixon daughters said in a statement.

Prime

Leaders of Kissinger’s native Germany paid tribute to the former secretary of state.

“His commitment to the transatlantic friendship between the USA and Germany was significant, and he always remained close to his German homeland,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz wrote on X.

In a message of condolences to Kissinger’s family, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier wrote that “with his détente and disarmament policy, Henry Kissinger laid the foundation for the end of the Cold War and the democratic transition in eastern Europe” which led to Germany’s reunification.

Steinmeier recalled that Kissinger traveled to his hometown Fuerth, in June, to mark his 100th birthday a few weeks earlier, “and it moved me very much to see that this country, which once pushed him out, had once again become a piece of home for him.”

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