683.84A/5–1851: Telegram

The Ambassador in Israel (Davis) to the Department of State 1


771. Comment on Embtel 765, May 17.2

1. I take extremely serious view Israel’s statement ref tel and mood developing here because ultimate solution this area’s problem at stake and will be fundamentally affected by res. To understand Israel’s psychological reaction to res important to recall:

That Israelis were taken aback (with beneficial effect) by original Dept statements (Deptels 420, 421, April 7)3 to Israel and Syria re incidents in Huleh and Tiberias areas, and felt rebuke implicit in Dept’s statement to Israel bore down more heavily on Israel than Syria;
That Dept and UN silence re Tel Al Mutilla incident, as well as nature UN reporting of incident, were blow to Israel confidence in receiving objective treatment.

Coming on heel these two reactions, SC res understandably confirms Israel suspicion of powers which did not hesitate to criticize Israel sharply in early stages of incident but were not willing render Israel justice due her when she was attacked in her own terr by forces obviously militarily trained and equipped.

2. Problem is complicated by fact that Israel, smarting under conviction injustice has been done her, completely oblivious to how extremely irritating her initial handling of the Huleh incident has been. Moreover, as reported previously, Israelis feel their legal position in carrying on Huleh work was sound, especially since it went unchallenged for several months; and they seem completely incapable of realizing extent to which their gen attitude and actions have annoyed everyone concerned. If therefore SC res is based on assumption that Israelis have guilty conscience and that this firm follow-up will restore their perspective, such is far from case. Result more likely to be wave of cynicism concerning UN throughout country, with earlier sense of guilt felt by Israelis, over statement publicly attributed PriMin to effect that Israel wld not accept UN order to cease work, now likely to be replaced by feeling PriMin knew what he was doing. If res passes in form in which tabled, I wld not be surprised if Israel determinedly resists its implementation. Moreover, in event another attack like Tel Al Mutilla, army voices urging mil reprisals to put end to problems of demilitarized zone will have been strengthened. We must therefore face the fact that we have definitely weakened our position in Israel [Page 692] by failing to respond with sufficient flexibility to changes taking place in behavior Israel and Syria in recent border controversy, and by giving Israelis impression we are not willing give them their due even in conspicuous instance where they chanced to be in right.

3. I feel strongly that in dealing with these conflicting parties, each of which certain of its righteousness, we dare not underestimate importance of convincing both sides our absolute impartiality and our determination to get at the facts and act upon them. I had hoped therefore that final draft of SC res wld be at greater pains to “give devil his due” in each case. I still believe that it is desirable to make as clear as possible that we consider our disapproval of Israel disregard of request of Chief of Staff TSO in memo March 7, with respect to work on Huleh project, as distinct from and not at all inconsistent with our opinion that project is desirable and shld go forward after an equitable settlement has been reached. I confirm my recommendation that along with strong criticism of forcible removal Arab villagers and landowners from demilitarized zone, and in some cases the subsequent destruction of their homes, we propose a constructive and feasible alternative to simply return to villages, such as payment immed and adequate compensation. This admittedly makes concession to Israel fait accompli, but on other hand it might be one practical means of meeting understandable Israel fear that cessation work “until agreement arranged” will permit indefinite obstruction of project by small determined group of Arabs. This fear, we are convinced, is one of important factors at bottom of Israel’s consistently high-handed treatment of Arabs in border region and is basic to Israel’s obduracy with regard to stopping work in Huleh. Finally, in attempt regain some lost ground, it might serve useful purpose even belatedly to include in SC res statement censuring recent mil operations against Israel on Israel soil, making clear that UN is concern of an out aggression [apparent garble?] against either party from any source whatsoever.

4. Emb believes abortive res shld be avoided at all costs, and that prestige of UN requires that before res is voted in present form, powers involved decide if they are prepared to do what is necessary to implement it.

  1. Repeated for information to Amman, Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Jidda, London, and Paris.
  2. Ante, p. 686.
  3. Neither printed, but see footnote 3, p. 626.