Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of African and Near Eastern Affairs (Berry)1


Subject: (1) Israel request for postponement of PCC meetings and (2) Israel Ambassador’s views on Syrian-Iraqi union and alleged activities of Iraq in Syria.

Participants: H. E. Eliahu Elath, Ambassador of Israel
Mr. Berry, ANE
Mr. Waldo, ANE


To determine the Department’s position relative to the request of the Israel Government for the postponement of the scheduled meetings of the PCC pending conclusion of a final agreement between Jordan and Israel through direct talks.
To note the Ambassador’s views on Syrian-Iraqi union.

Action Required: As set forth in the Problem.

Action Assigned to: ANE, NEA, UNA.

The Ambassador called upon me this afternoon at 4:30 p.m. at his request. He informed me that he had been instructed by his Government to ask for a postponement of the meetings of the UN PCC, which is scheduled to reconvene shortly at Geneva. The Israel Government had determined to make this request of the US Government as a result of a discussion which had been held in Istanbul between Elias Sasson,2 newly appointed Israel Minister to Turkey, and Hussein Yalcin, Turkish representative on the PCC.

The Ambassador stated that Israel’s request was based on the fact that Israel was presently carrying on discussions with King Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of the Jordan, looking towards the negotiation [Page 675] of a final settlement between the two countries. As a consequence of Sasson’s talk with Yalcin it was felt by the Israel Government that the resumption of negotiations with the Arab States through the Palestine Conciliation Commission might prejudice the success of the direct talks between Israel and Jordan. The Ambassador said that Yalcin had indicated that the Turkish Government strongly favored direct talks between Israel and the Arab States.

The Israel Government was most anxious that the talks with Abdullah have a successful outcome. Agreement had already been reached on all major points at issue and it only remained to work out certain minor details. As an example, the Ambassador cited the fact that Jordan was desirous of obtaining a corridor to the Sea. Israel had agreed to give Abdullah this corridor. Unfortunately, however, Abdullah thought of the width of the corridor in terms of kilometers, while Israel was thinking in terms of meters. The Ambassador was certain that a compromise could eventually be reached on this point.

The Ambassador said that his Government believed these talks would soon bear fruit, since both sides were eager for agreement. Meanwhile it would be most unfortunate if anything should occur to jeopardize their success. The Ambassador said that the British Government had put no obstacles in the way of negotiations and was indeed encouraging them. The Ambassador also expressed his gratitude for the position the US had taken on the discussions. He stressed, however, that past experience had shown that when the Arab States got together they tended to adopt a unified, unyielding, and uncompromising position towards Israel. It was the Israel Government’s view that once this front had been broken and agreement had been signed with one Arab State it would be a comparatively easy matter to negotiate settlements with the other Arab States. For these reasons the Israel Government believed that it would be preferable to postpone discussions of the PCC until after agreement had been reached between Jordan and Israel on all outstanding questions. In this connection he mentioned that Lebanon was most anxious to reach agreement with Israel on a number of subjects, one of which was the development of the Litani Valley, but would not do so until one of the Moslem Arab States had first concluded peace with Israel.

I said that I would of course pass this infomation on to Mr. McGhee3 for his comments. I pointed out to the Ambassador, however, that one of the first questions I would be asked would be the length of time the Israel Government thought it would require to bring the negotiations [Page 676] with Abdullah to a successful conclusion. The Ambassador replied that his Government had specified that the time required would be a month and a half or a little more.

I also pointed out to the Ambassador that the US was only one member of the PCC. I inquired whether the Israel Government had made similar representations to the French and Turkish Governments. The Ambassador replied that he did not know whether the French and the Turks had been approached by his Government but presumed they had been.

The Ambassador continued that he had received official instructions from his Government to discuss the foregoing matter with the Department. He now wished to discuss another matter on his own initiative. The Ambassador said he was much disturbed by recent reports concerning the activities of Iraqi agents in Syria. He said that these agents were working with the various tribes and other persons in Syria attempting to foment a revolution which might bring about conditions of chaos which would permit implementation of a Syrian-Iraqi union.4 The Ambassador said that such a union could never be successful and would contribute to instability in the Middle East. The Abbasids and the Ommayads had never been able to get along together and it was doubted that they would be able to do so now. A centralized union of the two States would never work, since there would be a continual struggle between Baghdad and Damascus for control of the union. A decentralized union would likewise be unsuccessful, since no modern State can exist without a centralized government. The Ambassador also added that the establishment of such a union would create a new situation in so far as Israel was concerned. He stressed the fact that Iraq had never been willing to sign an armistice agreement with Israel. He said that if it became apparent that such a union might take place the extremists in Israel (the Herat) would claim that it threatened Israel’s security and would urge Israel intervention before an attack could be launched against Israel from the new unified State. The Ambassador also said that the Communists were working actively to foment trouble in Syria, not because they favored a Syrian-Iraqi union but because such a union would result in chaotic conditions in the Middle East which would be to the advantage of the Communists. The Ambassador said that he was well aware that the Communists in Israel constituted a Fifth Column which owed its loyalty to the Soviet Union. He said the position taken by the Communists on the Jerusalem question was ample proof of this fact.

[Page 677]

I told the Ambassador that I would pass on his remarks on these questions to Mr. McGhee.5

  1. Drafted by John A. Waldo, Jr., of the Office of African and Near Eastern Affairs.
  2. Rendered also as Sassoon.
  3. George C. McGhee, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs.
  4. See pp. 1201 ff.
  5. The Department of State summarized the discussion with Ambassador Elath concerning the meetings of the Palestine Conciliation Commission for Ambassador Palmer on January 16 (airgram 10 to Geneva, 357.AC/1–1650). The penultimate paragraph of this message read as follows: “The Department is informing the Israeli Ambassador that you are being apprised of the Israeli démarche. The Ambassador is also being informed of the Department’s understanding that the PCC does not intend immediately to begin substantive talks with the parties, but plans to devote some time to a study of the second ESM report. Furthermore, the Department does not believe that the Israeli-Jordan talks will necessarily be prejudiced by PCC meetings in Geneva, particularly in view of the fact that the conversations were not adversely affected by the meetings of the General Assembly on Palestine. Finally, the Department will state that in the light of the advanced preparations for the reconvening of the PCC, an attempt at this stage to postpone the meetings would be difficult to explain and would be likely to provoke unfavorable comment.”