Answer: Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir
“Syria Buildup Alarms Israel.” That could be a front-page story this week, but it was in fact one of the headlines following Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir’s first interview on Meet the Press, in December of 1956. Meir appeared on the program while in America for meetings at the United Nations, amidst simmering tensions between Israel and its neighbors in the Middle East. Much of her interview focused on the crisis with Egypt in the Suez Canal, but when MTP moderator Lawrence Spivak asked Meir a question about Syria, she issued a strong warning about one of her country’s deepest fears. Spivak noted that Syria had asked the UN General assembly to take up the complaint that Israel and other countries were preparing aggression against it. Meir told Spivak that she hoped the Assembly would take up the complaint in order to draw attention to the threat Israel felt from Syria, particularly the Syrian-Soviet Union relationship. The Soviet Union had recently strengthened its ties to Syria, as it did with other Middle Eastern countries in opposition to Israel. In the months leading up to Meir’s appearance, top Syrian and Soviet officials had exchanged visits, and seemed to be providing arms and building bases in Syria. Spivak pointed out that the American government did not believe the situation in Syria was critical. Meir replied forcefully that she hoped the United States was right, but according to her information, the threat in Syria meant that “the very existence of Israel is in danger.”
At the time of her Meet the Press appearance, Golda Meir was the only woman to hold her title in the world, and she would of course go on to become Israel’s first female Prime Minister. You can watch a clip from her 1956 warnings about Syria and its allies in the video below.