867N.01/1–249: Telegram

The Special Representative of the United States in Israel (McDonald) to the Secretary of State

3. Following verbatim text statement issued by Foreign Office on December 31:

“It is a month and a half since Egypt and Israel were ordered by the Security Council to enter into armistice negotiations. Israel accepted immediately, thus once more affirming its desire to make peace without delay. The Egyptian Government not only ignored the Security Council resolution, but renewed their military activities in the Negev. They shelled Nirim, Mivtachim and Imara, captured and occupied certain fresh heights, such as Tel-el-Jamah, Tel-el-Farah and Kirbet Kutshan, carried out widespread sabotage against roads and water installations in the area, and launched armored attacks on Israeli positions and settlements, using tanks which had newly arrived from Egypt. These were the subject repeated complaints by the Israeli authorities to UN observer to no avail. These Egyptian activities, covered by delaying tactics regarding an armistice, went on for weeks.

When Egypt finally indicated its acceptance in principle of the armistice resolution, it coupled this with conditions which the resolution did not justify. The Acting Mediator, Dr. Bunche,1 then made certain proposals whereby the Egyptian forces at Faluja could be evacuated in stages concurrently with armistice talks. Once again the Israeli Government accepted these proposals, and its attitude was officially described by Dr. Bunche as highly satisfactory. The Egyptian commanders pretended at first that they were willing to cooperate, but when General Riley2 went to Cairo to arrange a time and a place for an armistice meeting, and to obtain the name of the Egyptian representative, the Egyptian Government reverted to its earlier uncompromising attitude, thereby recreating the deadlock. It appears that the resolution on Palestine adopted in the meantime by the UN General Assembly, and the failure of the Security Council to approve Israel’s application for membership of the UN,3 had encouraged Egypt to revive its intransigence. The refusal of Egypt to enter into armistice negotiations could have no other meaning than that it was set on the prosecution of the war. Faced with the choice between embarking on a course leading to peace or pursuing further the line of aggressive invasion, Egypt chose the latter. Israel could not possibly acquiesce in a situation exposing its safety and territorial integrity to an ever present menace and compelling it to carry in definitely the burdens of war readiness. The attacks perpetrated by Egyptian forces against Israeli positions at every convenient opportunity as well as the flow from Egypt of fresh men and equipment [Page 598] left no doubt as to the intentions of the Egyptian Government. Under those circumstances, not only the release of the Egyptian brigade encircled at Faluja was inconceivable, but the Government of Israel found itself constrained to resume its freedom of action in order once and for all to put an end to the intolerable situation and stabilize Israel’s security. It was Egypt’s choice that determined Israel’s action. In the course of that action, as in any war, only military considerations decided the fixing of the establishment of positions. The new facts created in that regard need not determine the final territorial settlement which awaits the conclusion of permanent peace between Israel and her neighbors.

For such a final and lasting peace settlement the Government of Israel is ever ready, in the firm conviction that the sooner it is achieved, the better it will be for all concerned.”

  1. Ralph J. Bunche, United Nations Acting Mediator on Palestine.
  2. Brig. Gen. William E. Riley, United Nations Chief of Staff charged with supervision of the truce in Palestine and senior United States military observer in Palestine.
  3. See footnote 3, Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. 1, Part 2, p. 1677.