Man in the Middle: Abe Feinberg & US-Israel Relations, 1945-1968 Open Access

Rotenberg, Max (Spring 2021)

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This thesis is the first work I know of dedicated to the life of Abraham (Abe) Feinberg. Born and raised in the Bronx, Feinberg amassed a tremendous fortune in the hosiery business. Starting in 1945, Feinberg would play a significant, behind the scenes role in the US-Israel relationship through 1968. Feinberg was a confidant and key financier to three American presidents (Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson) and a useful figure for Israeli prime ministers, ambassadors, and defense officials. The Israelis trusted him to such an extent that he was asked to contribute to the development Israel’s most consequential secret—its nuclear weapons program. In his contacts with US presidents on behalf of Israel and the US Jewish community, Feinberg embodied the growing confidence of the American Jewish community that it could act as a political and economic force. As this thesis will show, Feinberg played a role in many of the key events that defined the US-Israel relationship from 1945-1968; from the establishment of the state, to US foreign aid, arms sales to Israel and its Arab neighbors, the June 1967 War, and most importantly—Israel’s secret nuclear program. Feinberg’s intermediation contributed to the shift in US policy from both stated and practiced neutrality in the Arab-Israeli conflict to one that was pro-Israel in practice. The success of his intermediation relied on a number of factors: direct access to the political leaders of the United States and Israel; the personal trust of high-level Israeli and American officials; his money; and genuine friendships he cultivated, especially with President Johnson. Once his credibility and reliability were established, Feinberg was used by both the US and Israel to shape and communicate their views and intentions to one another. In so doing, Feinberg illustrates how American Foreign policy can be shaped by those who have the ear of the president, whether they are government officials or not.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction                                                                                pg. 1

Chapter 2: Man in Motion                                                                             pg. 6

Chapter 3: Man with the Money                                                                  pg. 34

Chapter 4: Intermediary and Friend: The Johnson Years                       pg. 58

Appendix: A Note on Sources                                                                       pg. 87

Notes:                                                                                                               pg. 88

Bibliography:                                                                                                   pg. 99

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