Post Vietnam was a turbulent era for America and the world. Returning Negroes found no work for themselves and rioted viciously. The man who quelled the worst of the riots was Roy Wilkins, who proved himself a major leader of our times in Vietnam. He appeared in Watts. Literally walking into a firefight and begged for cooled tempers. He would find work for each and every returning veteran.
The press took this as a literal promise, and Kennedy appointed Wilkins to head the Office of Negro Employment.
A national campaign to hire Negroes was the result, and many people who thought they couldn’t afford live-in help decided that if they skipped vacation this year to do their part, well, maybe they could. It was the end of inner city unemployment that stopped the riots.
Of course when Castro decided to spread his revolution worldwide, that was his undoing. He gathered a meeting of revolutionary groups and Third World dignitaries in 1966 and began planning hijackings, bombings and kidnappings to bring down the capitalist order. He set an example by blocking water supplies to our naval base at Guantanamo Bay and Kennedy reacted forcefully. The invasion lasted a week before Havana fell, and though pockets of resistance still exist in the jungle, today Cubans are happy-go-lucky Latins, dancing and singing for the tourists who crowd the island. And President Ricky Ricardo is loyal to America and trustworthy to a fault. Today’s leader, Little Ricky Ricardo, follows in his father’s noble footsteps.
My own triumph on the world stage came after the Six Day War. The Arabs blockaded Israel in June of ’67, and Israel reacted with surgical strikes that won them the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria and Judea and Samaria from Jordan. The President conferred with Arthur Goldberg and a brilliant plan resulted. World opinion was so pro-Israel and so anti-Arab that the time was ripe for solutions.
Israel was asked by Kennedy to declare the Sinai Peninsula from the Gaza Strip to El A-rish and down to Ras Muhammed at the Southern tip, a Palestinian State. The land had a population of only 15 thousand Bedouin and could support a state with proper planning and a huge infusion of cash and Nile River water.
It was a daring plan, but something daring had to be done. When Saudi Arabia declared an oil embargo against the U.S. in retaliation for its pro-Israel stance during the humiliating war, other Arab nations followed. A serious energy crisis resulted from a shortage of oil at the refineries.
We had trouble dealing with the crisis and tempers in America rose when gas rationing combined with lowered thermostats became emergency law. People were actually killed in lines to gas pumps. Lyndon Johnson suggested a public relations ploy that we accepted. He suggested saving energy at the White House by shutting off the lights at night. The program was judiciously cancelled when Jackie broke her leg trying to find the bathroom.
My assignment was to fly to Israel and convince Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir, of the worthiness of Kennedy’s plan. I couldn’t understand why he chose me. He said it was because I was Jewish, and she’d be more sympathetic. But I told him, Arthur Goldberg was Jewish and it was his idea. Then he added that I was a recent war veteran who was wounded in action. She would respond to that.
Respond isn’t the word.
The lady practically smothered me to death. I sat in her kitchen explaining Kennedy’s plan point by point, and all she said was, “Please, have some more cheesecake.”
She told me she knew my former boss, Mr. Hoffa, very well. As a representative of the Israeli Labor union, the Histadrut, she met world union leaders. Apparently she and Mr. Hoffa had met in the early fifties and got along splendidly. In fact, in Detroit in 1956, Jimmy organized a huge fundraising dinner for the Jimmy Hoffa Children’s Home in Israel.
I got nowhere with her the first night and got up to leave for my hotel.
“Wait a minute,” she said.
I stopped. Had she had a change of heart?
“You forgot to put on a sweater.”
“It’s July,” I answered.
“You can never be too warm. One little wind, and you’ve got a cold. A strong breeze and it’s pneumonia. You don’t want you to get a stroke like your father.”
I was certain she had received false briefing. My father was healthy as a horse, and I told her.
“Oh, yes,” she replied. “And I’m glad to hear it. But put on a jacket, just for me, maybe?”
Well, the old Mandel charm broke her down. She finally accepted Kennedy’s plan, saying, “If you think it’s a good idea, then who am I to argue? What does an old lady know? But remember, when you get back home, always listen to your mother and be good. She may not live forever.”
The Palestinian state was rejected vehemently by Egypt, but Anwar Sadat’s triumphant visit to El Arish a decade later was the start of a new era in cooperation. Sadat offered the waters of the Nile for irrigation and with the help of Israeli agricultural technology the Sinai Desert is blooming again. I cannot but feel goose bumps when I consider my role in this feat.
12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
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