The Secretary of State to Representative Jacob K. Javits

My Dear Mr. Javits: Thank you for your letter of December 28, 1949,1 in which you were kind enough to make available to the Department certain impressions which you gained during your recent trip abroad as a member of the European Study Mission of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. You made special reference to the furnishing of arms by Great Britain to certain Arab States and to inflammatory statements against Israel in the Arab press. We are grateful for your views on these matters in relation to the Palestine problem, the lasting solution of which is of such importance to the peace and security of the Near East.

The Department is in complete agreement with you that a renewal of the Arab-Israeli conflict would be a tragic development which the world community must bend every effort to prevent. This Government has been keeping a close watch on developments affecting Palestine and has carefully analyzed available information relating to the likelihood of renewal of hostilities. Our analysis does not lead to the conclusion that serious measures are being taken in preparation for a renewal of hostilities.

There have most certainly been inflammatory and bellicose statements made in both the Arab and Israeli press concerning a renewal of the fighting. While such an attitude on the part of journalists is deplorable and harmful to the eventual establishment of good relations between Israel and the Arab States, under the circumstances, with bitter fighting only so recently terminated, it would probably be too much to expect that highly aroused passions should quickly cool. Some of the warlike pronouncements of officials of Near Eastern Governments may well have been made for the purpose of domestic consumption. The Department does not believe that in this case the remarks of individual radio and press commentators should be taken as a reliable indication of any serious or immediate intent on the part of the respective Governments to resume hostilities.

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The British Government has made no secret of the fact that it is furnishing certain categories of arms to Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt, under the treaty arrangements which bind Great Britain to those countries. Great Britain faithfully observed the arms embargo imposed by the Security Council on the shipment of arms to the Palestine area, and now that the embargo has been lifted,2 it has resumed shipment of arms in accordance with its treaty obligations to the countries concerned. It should be recalled that the Arab States are but a part of the Middle East area, a region the security of which is of great importance to the West. It is desirable that the countries in this part of the world obtain from reliable and friendly sources such arms as they may need for their legitimate security requirements.

At the time the Security Council arms embargo was lifted, the United States and Great Britain stated that they did not wish to see an arms race develop in the Middle East. The United States stands by this policy, as does the United Kingdom to the best of the Department’s knowledge. Arms shipments to the Arab States and Israel should be limited to those necessary for the purpose of maintaining internal law and order by the Government concerned in the legitimate exercise of constituted authority, and for the purpose of providing for reasonable requirements of self-defense. With regard to the shipment of planes and light naval vessels to Egypt, it should be recalled that Egypt is an important and strategically located nation of 20,000,000 people.

In considering the export of arms to the Near East from the United States, and from other countries, the Department has constantly kept in mind the danger of enhancing the possibility of a renewal of the Palestine conflict. As I have stated above, our analysis of all information available to us does not indicate any serious preparations to this end. Should such information be received, the United States Government would be quick to use all of its influence in an attempt to prevent such a tragic eventuality, both within the United Nations and outside.

Sincerely yours,

Dean Acheson
  1. Not printed.
  2. The arms embargo was lifted by the Security Council on August 11, 1949, when it adopted Resolution 73 (1949); for text, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. vi, p. 1302. The resolution contains no provision which explicitly repealed the embargo. The editors suggest that the nature of the Council discussion immediately prior to August 11, 1949, as set forth in ibid. , and the content of paragraph numbered 2 of Resolution 73, leave no doubt that the Council considered that it had repealed the embargo. Indeed, in his note of August 12, 1949, the Secretary of State informed the Egyptian Chargé that the Security Council had taken action “which in effect removed the arms embargo imposed by its resolutions of May 29 and July 15, 1948.” ( ibid., p. 1304)