Memorandum of Conversation, by the Officer in Charge of Palestine, Israel, and Jordan Affairs (Rockwell)


Subject: Israeli Situation

Participants: Theodore Kollek, Chief, American Section, Israel Foreign Office
NE—Mr. Rockwell
[Page 987]

Problem: Mr. Kollek came in for a general discussion of matters affecting Israel.

Action Taken: Various aspects of the Israeli and Palestine situations were discussed with Mr. Kollek.

Action Required: None


Mr. Kollek called at his request. During the general discussion of the Israeli and Palestine situations the following points emerged:

[Here follow the views of Mr. Kollek on the volume of immigration into Israel and the methods of financing the immigration.]

2. Israeli-Arab Relations

I asked Mr. Kollek what he thought was the motive of the Arabs in placing the refugee question on the agenda of the GA. He replied that he believed the purpose was to embarrass Israel and to attempt to force the members of the GA to reaffirm the sections of the 1948 Palestine Resolution concerning refugees. The Israeli Government had seen no signs that the Arabs were any more disposed to reach a modus vivendi with Israel. Mr. Kollek said that a peace treaty was not the important thing. What would be desirable would be the normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab states. This would be profitable to both sides. However, Israel was not desperate for peace and could well wait until the Arab attitude changed. There was no possibility that Israel would make extensive prior concessions in order to lure the Arabs into a settlement. If Israel should give this sign of weakness the Arabs would only raise their price and meanwhile Israel would have abandoned its position.

3. International Position of Israel

We discussed Israel’s international position, with particular reference to the efforts of the free world to curb Soviet aggression. Mr. Kollek said that Israel’s position was very difficult. The vast majority of people in his country still ardently hoped to establish for Israel a position similar to that of Switzerland. They did not wish to see this possbility destroyed by alignment with any group of nations. Most Israelis were too preoccupied with internal and regional problems to think ahead into the future of the world outside. Mr. Kollek said that Israel had “not yet had its Korea”, while the United States had. I replied that we considered that Korea and its implications applied to every member of the free world, but Mr. Kollek stated that outside the Foreign Office in Israel this realization had not as yet come, principally because Korea was so far away. Prime Minister Ben Gurion was one of the very few people who were thinking ahead. His approach to Ambassador McDonald concerning possible future arrangements [Page 988] between Israel and the United States1 was an indication of this. Mr. Kollek gave me to understand that the Prime Minister’s ideas were definitely not those of the Israeli Government and I inferred that he was of the belief that such a program would not be supported in Israel at the present time. There was, however, progress in his country toward realization that the only salvation lay with the Western democracies. But should there be a general war and should Western troops come to the Near East, there would be serious problems as far as Israel was concerned. Anti-British feelings were still too high and it was likely that there would even be incidents should American troops come to Israel. Mr. Kollek compared the present Israeli attitude toward foreign troops to that of the Irish as regards the possibility of the entry of British troops into Ireland during the last war.

4. Soviet Activities in Israel

I asked Mr. Kollek if he felt that the Israel security forces were fully informed of the number of agents who might be coming in among immigrants from the Iron Curtain countries. He said that he believed Israeli intelligence discovered these people as soon as they made any moves in the intelligence line, but that he imagined the best agents were probably under instructions to do nothing for two or three years and to assimilate themselves completely in Israel. Israeli intelligence had received indications that the Czech Minister in Tel Aviv was a high ranking official of the Cominform. Mr. Kollek said that the local Russians were not particularly active in the intelligence field, as far as Israeli intelligence was aware.

I remarked that it seemed difficult for the Israeli authorities to control the local Communists, referring particularly to the recent Communist destruction of the screens of motion picture theatres showing films concerning the UN effort in Korea. Mr. Kollek conceded that the problem of controlling such Communist outrages was very difficult. I asked whether the Government was making an effort to keep Communists and doubtful MAP AM members out of confidential official positions in the Government and the Army. He said that this was definitely the case and that there were no such persons in key posts in the Israeli Government. This he regarded as another indication of the slowly growing realization in Israel of the menace represented by the Communists.

  1. See telegram 61, July 31, from Tel Aviv, p. 960.