McGhee Files: Lot 53 D 468

Memorandum by the Director of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs (Jones) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (McGhee)1

top secret

Subject: Visit of Ambassador Eban.

The Ambassador of Israel is calling on you today, at 2:30 p. m., to review certain aspects of Israel’s problems before your departure for Istanbul. He has requested one hour of your time for this purpose. The subjects he will discuss fall into three main categories: (1) Defense, (2) Supply, and (3) Peace.

1. Defense

Background: The Israelis have indicated to the Department and the Defense Department on a number of occasions that Israel wished to contribute as effectively as possible to the security of the Near East and that Israel was prepared to participate in possible US–UK defense plans for the area in return for certain considerations.

On December 18, Israel Minister Kollek informed Mr. Rockwell and General Burns that the Israel Government was convinced that the only hope for its salvation lay with the West and it was accordingly prepared to offer the West full cooperation in one form or another in plans for defense of the Near East. Mr. Kollek said that if the UK were considered to have primary responsibility for the defense of the Near East, Israel was perfectly willing to consult with that country in this regard. Although we have not informed the Israeli that the UK has this primary responsibility, it is understood very confidentially from the British Embassy here that the British Foreign Office has so informed the Israel Minister in London, Eliahu Elath. Sir Brian Robertson, Commander in Chief of British Middle East Forces, will visit Israel on February 19 to hold exploratory talks with the Israel Government on the possibilities of UN-Israel military cooperation.

On December 23, Israel Foreign Minister Sharett submitted to Secretary of Defense Marshall a comprehensive memorandum2 of Israel’s military requirements suggesting, among other things, that the US (a) should turn over 150,000 American rifles to the Israel Army for the Czech and other rifles Israel presently possesses, thereby standardizing Israel Army equipment with that of the US, and (b) the US should utilize Israel’s excess production capacity in light arms and ammunition for the MDAP program.

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You may recall that Ambassador Eban first made the latter proposal to you on November 22. It is understood, however, that the Defense Department has decided against this Israel suggestion.

Recommendations: We are glad to note Israel’s increasing tendency to cooperate with the West. The Department and the Defense Department will, of course, consider any proposals Israel has to make along these lines. The Israel Government must remember, however, that there are many prior demands on US military assistance these days.

We understand that Sir Brian Robertson is going out to the area shortly to talk with the Israel Government. As far as Israel’s proposals to the Defense Department are concerned, we understand that they are under consideration at the present time.

2. Supply

Background: In December Israel Minister Sharett discussed with the Secretary, Mr. Averell Harriman, Secretary of Defense Marshall, and Secretary of Agriculture Brannan the possibility that the US might stockpile wheat and oil in Israel for use by the US in the Near East area in the event world hostilities should interrupt shipping to the Eastern Mediterranean. Meanwhile, Israel would be permitted to purchase the wheat or oil as required for internal consumption. It is understood that the Israel Government has now discarded this proposal as impracticable. Mr. Lavon, Israel Minister of Agriculture, presently in this country, has recently discussed with Mr. Brannan of Agriculture the possibility that the US might ship to Israel a two-year supply of wheat to be held for the account of the US Government and to be purchased by Israel as required. According to the Embassy here, Israel could not pay for a two-year supply of wheat at the present time but would be able to do so on the installment plan. The Embassy reported that the Secretary of Agriculture “viewed the suggestion with favor.” It is believed, however, that the Commodity Credit Corporation might be unwilling to approve a deal of this sort, since it would open the door to similar requests from a great number of other countries.

Recommendation: If the Ambassador should raise this matter, it is recommended that you inform him that the Department is aware of and sympathetic to Israel’s supply problems. The Department is glad to consider any proposal which the Israelis may make in this regard and discuss it with other interested Government agencies.

3. Peace

Recommendations: When the Ambassador broaches this subject you might bear the following points in mind in replying to him:

The PCC has had preliminary discussions in Beirut and will shortly take up its residence in Jerusalem where it will be urgently [Page 568] concerned with the question of compensation in addition to that of facilitating a peace settlement. We hope that the Israelis will cooperate fully with the PCC. We feel that the PCC is the UN organization primarily concerned with achieving a peace settlement in the Near East and can usefully continue its work in this regard. Even though no substantial progress has yet been made, the organization represents the continuing interest of the UN in exploring all possible means of reaching such a settlement.
We are glad to see that as a result of the Security Council Resolution of November 17, 19503 the Mixed Armistice Commissions are actively dealing with a variety of problems, some of them political. We hope it will be possible for the Commissions to assist in bringing about expanded areas of agreement between Israel and the Arab states. In that connection, we note with interest that the international boundary has finally been demarcated between Israel and Lebanon, that Egypt and Israel are in the process of discussing Egyptian restrictions on the Suez Canal and that Jordan and Israel have agreed to make every effort to carry out all the provisions of the Jordan–Israel Armistice Agreement. We hope in this regard that Israel will not adopt a too intransigent attitude toward the Arab states. The Commissions are almost the only direct official contact between Israel and the neighboring Arab states and they are valuable to both sides in that regard. We believe, however, that such incidents as the occupation by Israel of the Jisr Majami area and the somewhat aggressive and stubborn attitude of Israel on the issue of the road block between Beersheba and Elath are detrimental to the improvement of Israel–Arab relations. It would appear that Israel is unwilling to make concessions to the Arabs even on matters of no great importance to the Israelis and on which the Arabs may have at least a moral argument in their favor. We believe Israel should reconsider its attitude in this regard.
The Department welcomes Israel’s proposed contribution to the reintegration fund of the UNRWA. We hope, however, that Israel will see fit to make this contribution without insisting on any conditions or identifying it as a charge against compensation. While in the end this might turn out to be the case, it is believed that no such conditions should be made initially until the subcommittee of the PCC has had an opportunity to investigate the entire compensation situation.
Jerusalem: If the Ambassador raises this question, you might inform him that we are opposed to moving our Embassy to Jerusalem until the GA has had another opportunity to consider the question. We believe that the December 9, 1949 resolution,4 while impracticable, still remains on the books. We are not unaware of the practical difficulties of the present situation but hope that Israel will not be precipitate in changing the location of the Foreign Office.5

  1. Memorandum drafted by John A. Waldo of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs.
  2. Not found in Department of State files.
  3. For text, see U.N. Doc. S/1907.
  4. Reference is to Resolution 303 (IV) of the United Nations General Assembly.
  5. No memorandum has been found in Department of State files of Mr. McGhee’s conversation with Mr. Eban held January 29. A telegraphic summary is infra.