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While the Russians moved swiftly to protect their multibillion dollar investment in Egypt, there was little the Israelis could do but sit back and wait—and hope. The government's television channels, after announcing news of Nasser's death, followed with an apt quote from Proverbs 24:17: "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles." The Cabinet, hastily summoned, ordered Israeli front-line troops on alert until events were sorted out. Foreign Minister Abba Eban pointedly offered Nasser's potential successor a nonbelligerent atmosphere in which to operate. With the 90-day cease-fire between his country and Egypt due to expire early next month, Eban said at the United Nations: "We do not recognize a deadline. Israel will not open fire just because a certain date has been reached on the calendar." Richard Nixon and Britain's Prime Minister Edward Heath lent weight to Eban's words at week's end when they proposed a 9-day extension of the ceasefire.
Nixon received word of Nasser's death earlier in the week, just after he had been ferried by helicopter from Rome to the Sixth Fleet aircraft carrier Saratoga during his Mediterranean tour (see THE NATION). The President, Foreign Affairs Adviser Henry Kissinger and other aides closeted themselves in a captain's suite aboard the carrier to evaluate the news. The White House group knew almost nothing about Nasser's possible successors. A list of candidates, accompanied by dossiers, was flashed to the Mediterranean via Saratoga's two radio links to Washington.
Forgiveness in Grief
Nixon chose Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Elliot Richardson to represent him in Cairo. One reason: Richardson, who until recently was Under Secretary of State, was more experienced diplomatically than Nixon's initial choice, Presidential Counsellor Robert Finch. Some U.S. observers nonetheless deplored the fact that Nixon had not sent Secretary of State William Rogers. It was Rogers who devised the cease-fire that Nasser accepted in August, and his presence might have helped mend the fractured relations between the U.S. and the Arabs. As one observer put it: "The Arabs forgive everything in their grief, you know."
In addition to attending the funeral, Richardson was instructed to determine the status of the cease-fire talks between Egypt, Jordan, Israel and United Nations Negotiator Gunnar Jarring. The talks, stymied by Nasser's missile movements near the Suez Canal and by Jordan's civil war, will almost certainly be suspended indefinitely. United Nations Secretary-General U Thant acknowledged as much last week when he decided to let Diplomat Jarring return to his regular assignment as Swedish Ambassador to Moscow. Nasser was indispensable to getting the talks going. Before his