In 1968, Robert Kennedy ran for President on the Democratic ticket. In June 1968, he took his campaign to California. In fact, he won the Californian primary on June 5, 1968, the anniversary of the outbreak of the Six-Day War. Kennedy's staff requested a photo opportunity with Yitzhak Rabin, the Chief of Staff in Israel during that war and was then Israel's Ambassador to the U.S., to commemorate the day.
However, that photo opportunity never took place. On that evening, Kennedy was shot to death by a young Jerusalem-born Muslim named Sirhan Bishara Sirhan. As Rabin wrote in his memoirs: "The American people were so dazed by what they perceived as the senseless act of a madman that they could not begin to fathom its political significance."
What was its political significance? According to a report made by a special counsel to the L.A. County District Attorney's office, Sirhan shot Kennedy for his support of Israel, and had been planning the assassination for months. In an outburst during his trial, he confessed, "I killed Robert Kennedy willfully, premeditatedly, and with twenty years of malice aforethought." [Twenty years, of course, date back to Israel's declaration of nationhood in 1948.] In a notebook found in Sirhan's apartment, investigators found a passage written on May 18, 1968 at 9:45 AM: "Robert F. Kennedy must be assassinated before 5 June 68."- the first anniversary of the beginning of the Six-Day War.
It is well known that Robert Kennedy, John's Attorney General and younger brother, was also one of the President's most trusted advisors. What isn't so well known is that it was a younger Robert Kennedy, fresh out of Harvard and reporting for the Boston Post, who was in Israel when she declared herself a nation, and through the early days of her War for Independence. The Kennedy brothers also went to Israel in 1951 on a seven-week congressional tour of the Middle East. They left with a further respect for the young country's willingness to "bear any burden" in pursuit of their dreams. It seems likely that President Kennedy saw in the young country the friend in the Middle East he had really been looking for-a friend worthy of the dreams of Camelot.
When Robert first met with Shimon Peres during the negotiations over the Hawk Missile purchase, the memory of Robert's 1948 visit was the first thing they talked about. The second was Israel's desire to break America's "elegant arms embargo."  It seems unlikely that Robert didn't exert at least some influence on Peres' behalf to allow Israel to acquire the Hawk. Others saw Robert's influence in this decision as something that Arabs of the world could do without-especially after the U.S. arms purchased by Israel helped it win the Six-Day War of 1967. If the young Kennedy was to be despised for helping to end the arms embargo as the Attorney General, how much more would he be a problem as the President?
When Yasser Arafat's Black September terrorist stormed the Saudi Embassy in Khartoum in March of 1973 and took US Ambassador Cleo Noel, Charge d'Affaires George Curtis Moore, and others hostage, Sirhan's release was one of their main demands. On March 2, 1973, after Nixon rejected that demand, Arafat was overheard and recorded by Israeli intelligence and the U.S. National Security Agency giving the code words for the execution of Noel, Moore, and Belgian diplomat Guy Eid, who were shot to death. James Welsh, a Palestinian analyst for the N.S.A., went public with charges of a cover-up of Arafat's key role in the planning and execution of these kidnappings and murders. (There is no statute of limitations on murder.) If Sirhan had acted independently of the P.L.O., why were they willing to kill Americans to try to gain his freedom?
(Michael D. Evans, Jerusalem Prayer Team)
The Berean Call This Week - June 15, 2004
Republished with permission.