Memorandum of Conversation, by the Acting Secretary of State1


Subject: Visit of the Israel Ambassador.

Participants: Mr. Webb, Acting Secretary
H. E. Abba Eban, Israel Ambassador
Mr. Theodore Kollek, Minister, Embassy of Israel
GER—Mr. Lewis
NE—Mr. Waldo

The Israel Ambassador called at his own request to discuss three matters: (1) Israel demand for reparations from Germany; (2) Israel’s attitude toward the Middle East Command and Middle East defense; and (3) Israel’s request for aid from the United States for the coming year.

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1. The Ambassador outlined generally Israel’s position on reparations from Germany and referred to previous discussions in the Department and the earlier Israel note2 on this question and the Department’s reply thereto.3 He deplored the fact that the Western Powers were apparently preparing to welcome Germany back into the Community of Nations, and said that this would be tantamount to rewarding the Germans’ evil doing. In connection with Israel’s request for reparations, Israel considered a step forward Chancellor Adenauer’s statement concerning Germany’s recognition of its guilt toward the Jews and its obligation to pay its just debts.4 The Ambassador felt that further and more concrete evidences of Germany’s good intentions were necessary, however. He was aware of the US position in this matter: that Israel should negotiate directly with Germany on the question of reparations, but said that Israel could not take such a step at this time in view of public opinion in Israel, which was strongly against such a move. He referred to the fact that a group of American citizens representing certain American-Jewish organizations had recently discussed the overall problem with me. Nahum Goldmann, Chairman of the American Section of the Jewish Agency, who had participated in these discussions, would shortly take up the problem with Chancellor Adenauer. Although no Israel official would participate in these talks, the Israel claim was the principal one outstanding and would therefore be covered by Mr. Goldmann. The Ambassador said that he hoped Mr. McCloy would give his strongest support to the principal of these discussions and would urge the Germans to cooperate.

The Ambassador handed me a note5 which he said was in reply to our note on reparations, with the request that the Israel position be supported vis-à-vis the Germans. I told the Ambassador that I would read the note most carefully and would refer it to the officers of the Bureau of German Affairs for study and comment. Mr. Lewis said that the Ambassador knew what our position was in this matter and that we still felt that Israel should make every effort to negotiate directly with Germany as soon as that were politically feasible.6

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2. The Israel Ambassador reviewed generally Israel’s attitude toward the MEC and Middle East defense, and again reiterated Israel’s desire to cooperate with the West without any formal commitment for relationship to the incipient Middle East Command. The Ambassador summarized the Israel position, which was identical with Israel’s views expressed to the American Embassy in Tel Aviv by the Prime Minister of Israel, and to Mr. McGhee by the Ambassador himself. He mentioned the following new development:

The Israel Government had informed the British Government that Israel was now prepared to continue with Britain the preliminary and tentative discussions which had been held in Israel last February between General Robertson and Prime Minister Ben Gurion. I told the Ambassador that, with regard to Israel’s attitude toward the Middle East, we were appreciative of their views; that I thought it was very possible it might be determined that an informal relationship between Israel and the MEC might be in the best interests of everyone, but that this matter would have to be worked out in due course. So far as the discussions between the Israel Government and the British were concerned we were glad to be informed that they would take place and welcomed them, but, as the Ambassador well knew, we were not yet at the point where we were prepared to enter into similar discussions.

3. On grant-aid the Ambassador said that he had recently submitted to Mr. McGhee a note on behalf of his Government requesting $126 million. He said that this request embodied Israel’s economic needs as represented by the estimated gap in its balance of payments for the coming year. He expressed the hope that the US would give strong consideration to the request. I told him that we would certainly take the Israel request into account in studying plans for economic assistance to Israel in the coming fiscal year.

  1. Drafted by Mr. Waldo.
  2. Dated March 12; not printed. See memorandum of conversation, March 19, p. 604.
  3. Dated July 5, p. 748.
  4. Chancellor Adenauer’s statement was made in the Bundestag on September 27; see Verhandlungen des Deutschen Bundestages, Bonn, Session 165, p. 6697.
  5. Dated November 30, not printed (262.84A41/11–3051).
  6. The Department’s reply to the Israeli note of November 30 was contained in a note of January 24, 1952, which read in part as follows:

    “The United States Government has been and is of the opinion that a settlement of the Israel claim against Germany should be effected through direct negotiations between the Israel Government and the Government of the German Federal Republic. Thus it is gratified that the Israel Government requested and obtained parliamentary authorization to accept the German Federal Government’s offer to negotiate such a settlement. The United States Government will await with sympathetic interest the outcome of the negotiations.” (262.84A41/11–3051)