501.BB Palestine/11–2648: Telegram

The Acting Chairman of the United States Delegation at Paris (Dulles) to the Secretary of State

top secret

Delga 946. During past week, Bunche has expressed increasing concern to us privately regarding difficulties General Riley was having in getting Israeli acceptance of plan for withdrawal from northern Negeb pursuant to November 4 resolution. Three days ago, Bunche told Shertok he took most serious view of situation and would have to call meeting of Security Council committee within 24 hours if outstanding differences between Riley and Israeli military representatives were not settled. Bunche extended this first 24–hour period by an additional 24 hours which expired yesterday afternoon. He therefore requested a meeting of the committee for this afternoon.

According to Bunche, Shertok has been visibly concerned and had promised to cable Tel Aviv. Ross discussed matter with Eban yesterday morning who informed us that Shertok had urged Tel Aviv to find some way out of the difficulty. According to Eban, the Israeli delegation here is concerned regarding the possible effect this situation might have on the development of Assembly action. He implied that there might be differences of view between Israeli military and political leaders.

According to Bunche, one of his difficulties has been that Tel Aviv [Page 1631]has told Riley they must consult Paris, while the Israeli delegation here has told Bunche that they must consult Tel Aviv.

A major hazard to our efforts to secure effective Assembly action with regard to the political settlement and in turn Security Council and Assembly action looking to the admission of Israel to the United Nations, would be failure to settle the northern Negeb situation pursuant to the November 4 resolution. Accordingly, at our suggestion, Shertok and Eban called on Jessup this morning on their way to Committee One meeting to discuss this matter. Ross was also present.

Jessup initiated the conversation by indicating our grave concern based on the facts as they had been reported to us here that failure to settle this situation promptly would impair our efforts in the Assembly.

Shertok said that with regard to the procedural aspects of the matter, the decision had to be made in Tel Aviv and that while he did not want to remain in any way aloof from the matter, he preferred that the decision remain in Tel Aviv particularly since it was primarily a military matter.

Shertok went on to say that on the substance, Israel had complied with two of the major requirements of the withdrawal plan. First, they had withdrawn their forces from the coastal area allotted to the Arabs under the November 29 resolution, thus permitting the advance of Egyptian forces to the lines laid down for them. Second, Israel had withdrawn all surplus troops which had entered the Negeb since October 14.

As he understood the remaining differences, Shertok went on, there were three, which he then outlined as follows:

They could not possibly withdraw from certain areas in the Negeb where their troops were stationed, because to do so would leave dangerous vacuums in which Arab or Jewish irregulars might operate freely. The United Nations did not have any force at its disposal and it was impossible for the United Nations to fill such dangerous vacuums. Until the armistice lines were established, they could not possibly comply with such requests.
They could not comply with the request that mobile PGI forces which had been in the Negeb before May 14 should withdraw. These forces should be distinguished from mobile forces which had entered the area after May 14 as well as from static defense forces left in the settlements. The PGI considered it essential that the PGI forces which had been in an area, namely the Negeb, which they considered politically and militarily theirs since May 14 should be allowed to remain there and have freedom of movement.
They could not agree to allow the Egyptian brigade now in the Faluja pocket to be evacuated or supplied with food. No military commander could possibly allow a fully armed brigade to escape and remain available to the enemy for offensive operations. This would be [Page 1632]a suicidal move. The Egyptians at Faluja were prisoners of war in every sense of the term except the technical one. So far as feeding these Egyptians is concerned, for three months the Egyptians would not let food go through to peaceful Israeli settlements.

Shertok then made the general comment that they viewed the November 4 and November 16 resolutions of the Security Council as an organic hold [whole?]. They had indicated their desire to comply fully with the November 16 resolution and they were trying to comply with the November 4 resolution to the best of their ability.

Jessup commented very frankly along the following lines. Public opinion widely would believe that the Israeli attitude was very much like that of a lion which having caught a mouse in a trap would not let the mouse out because it would be suicidal for the lion to do so. It would be very hard to make people believe that it would be suicidal for Israel to let these Egyptians evacuate the Faluja pocket and withdraw to the lines, that is, Gaza, established for them under the November 4 resolution.

The general atmosphere in the Council and the General Assembly, Jessup went on, is that we are moving forward to peace through an armistice. If we are held up in our work now, because of the situation in the Negeb, this whole atmosphere will evaporate. And as Jessup had told Shertok on Sunday, it would be very difficult for us to help Israel in the Security Council and in the Assembly if a new unfavorable atmosphere should develop.

Jessup went on to say that the question might be reduced to a very simple formula. Israel had to balance a political risk against a military risk. The political risk of an atmosphere unfavorable to Israel developing was great while the military risk seemed to be insignificant in comparison. Shertok said that Israel had “an extreme anxiety to end the war and have peace”. But, he went on to say, there was no sign that the other side felt the same way about the situation.

Our discussion concluded for lack of time with assurances by Shertok that they would give careful consideration to the views Jessup had expressed.1

Sent Department Delga 946 repeated London 1364.

  1. During the afternoon of November 26, Mr. Eban advised the United States-Delegation that Mr. Shertok had cabled Tel Aviv immediately following the morning conference and had received a reply indicating that the “PGI had agreed (a) to let food convoys go through to beleaguered Egyptians at Faluja and (b) to discuss release of Egyptians in connection with armistice discussions contemplated 16 November resolution.” (Delga 952, November 26, 9 p. m., from Paris, 501.BB Palestine/11–2648)