790.5/1–551: Telegram

The Chargé in Israel (Ford) to the Department of State

top secret

392. Following is Embassy’s preliminary response to problems raised by Israel offer have its armament plants produce arms for use of West. Deptel 270, December 29.1

Military: Service attachés unable comment pending implementation Herzog’s suggestion they be invited inspect Israel munitions factories. If Israel extends facilities, comprehensive report will be submitted soonest.

Political: Reference proposal reflects degree to which Israel leadership now prepared to translate its Western orientation into tangible foreign political commitments. Offer is culmination of gradual change in foreign political thinking of Israel leaders during last six months. Shift in emphasis during that period from official policy of “neutrality” to “nonidentification” to what is now sometimes described as “independent” has prepared ground for shift to more overt ties to West. Recent developments Korea and growing fear that Third World War may be imminent have helped awaken public to danger that as price for neutrality Israel may, in event major hostilities, find itself cut off from West upon whom it is dependent. As result bulk of population now probably ready support complete break with neutrality if such break linked to political and military alliance with West.

Government motivation for reference proposal probably twofold. For one, concern Arabs may take advantage of western preoccupation with USSR to launch second round. Although no fresh evidence here of such Arab intentions, mere logical possibility has kept Israel on guard, and this factor is constantly stressed domestically to keep population alert and psychologically prepared for sacrifice. Probably more basic, however, is genuine conviction of top leaders and informed public that Israel cannot hope emerge from Third World War as independent national state unless firmly allied as active participant with Western powers.

Israel Government undoubtedly views its offer as critical decision at critical time, regardless of whether US accepts or rejects, offer will likely have widespread political consequences. If plan accepted, activities of small Communist party will undoubtedly be intensified. Communists can be expected extend their present efforts propagandize and infiltrate to direct sabotage. Reaction of Mapam members more difficult to predict because of absence any dependable estimate of strength various Mapam factions. Outlook at present is that small Extreme Leftist faction will cooperate with Communists, but that [Page 562] large numbers of rank and file will be bewildered and confused into inaction in early stages. Ultimate response of Mapam membership will probably depend on whether Government skillful enough to split party by convincing rank and file they are making choice for or against national survival. But regardless exact outcome here, Israel Government not likely to have much difficulty controlling Extreme Leftist elements. Mapam’s control Histadrut and certainty latter will support government policy would provide effective instrument for maintaining labor discipline.

Negative response would be psychological blow to Israel. First reaction likely to be overtures along similar lines to Britain with whom relations conspicuously cordial within last few weeks. Top political circles Israel are known to have speculated that at TrumanAttlee talks2 Great Britain may have been assigned primary responsibility for Middle East in event of war. Further consequences difficult to forsee, but safe guess is that outright rejection by both US and Britain would weaken position of pro-Western spokesmen in Israel political life and encourage those who advocate salvation through increasingly uneasy neutrality.

In summary, Embassy’s preliminary appraisal reference proposal is that it is little short of revolutionary in Israeli thinking, that the very fact Government leaders have made it is vivid proof of their determination to take whatever steps are necessary to insure their survival as national state, and that it is sufficiently significant to our Near Eastern policy to warrant careful top level attention.3

  1. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. v, p. 1086.
  2. For documentation on the talks held between Prime Minister Attlee and President Truman in Washington, December 4–8, 1950, see Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. iii, pp. 1698 ff. and ibid., vol. vii, pp. 1237 ff.
  3. For additional documentation on the attitude of the United States toward Israeli participation in Middle East defense, see pp. 1 ff.