No. 752
Memorandum by the Deputy Director for International Organization Affairs in the Office of United Nations Political and Security Affairs (Popper) to the Secretary of State1



  • Status Report on Banat Yakov

1. Status of Department Draft

On December 4 you approved a draft resolution on this problem, which USUN communicated to the British and French Delegations for their views (Tab A).2 The principle underlying this draft is that the Security Council should pronounce itself in support of the authority of General Bennike, without entering into the merits of the dispute, and should return the problem to him and to the parties for settlement. The British desired amendment of the paragraph calling upon the parties to comply with Bennike’s decisions (paragraph 6) so as to call upon Israel to continue the suspension of the work unless General Bennike authorized its resumption. We told Ambassador Lodge this concept could be added to the resolution but must not replace our paragraph 6. The French accepted our [Page 1456] draft with the provision that their paragraph calling for a Commission of water experts to assist Bennike should be added. This point has now been reduced to manageable proportions and incorporated in our draft.

2. Position of the Parties

Israel maintains that the Security Council should clearly indicate that it approves of the Banat Yakov project; that the Council should make clear to Bennike that he should reach agreement with Israel without the necessity of Syrian concurrence; and that the Council should indicate the type of agreement with regard to civilian rights into which Israel should enter with Bennike.

The Syrians propose that the Security Council recognize that the project constitutes a military advantage for Israel and could affect the normal civilian life of Arabs depending on the river. It therefore is inconsistent with the objectives of the armistice agreement and the Council should decide that projects of this kind cannot be carried out without prior consent of the other party, i.e., Syria.

3. Ambassador Lodge’s Redraft

On December 6 Ambassador Lodge sent you a redraft of the resolution (Tab B),3 the basic elements of which we found acceptable except for the following:

The Ambassador changed the preamble to state specifically that the Council considers that the general armistice agreement supersedes the truce. Our draft had used more general language which did not mention this point.
Paragraph 11 of Ambassador Lodge’s draft suggests that in reconciling the rights and interests of the parties Bennike must take into consideration the over-all development of the natural resources of the entire area.
Paragraph 12 of Lodge’s redraft states specifically that neither party has the right of veto in this process. Our draft did not contain this provision.

There are several other differences between Ambassador Lodge’s redraft and the Department resolution which do not cause us any difficulty.

4. The Issues Involved

Should the resolution specifically state that the armistice supersedes the truce? The basic question raised here is whether the element of “military advantage” constitutes valid ground for Bennike’s decision that the Israelis should stop work. The Israelis maintain that since the general armistice agreement supersedes the truce, General Bennike was acting without authority in deciding [Page 1457] that military advantage is a factor in the problem. Our position has consistently been that we must support Bennike’s authority, and he has held that military advantage is a factor in the situation. Ambassador Lodge now wants us in effect to go into the merits of the question and to have the Council imply that it is not a factor. This supports the Israeli thesis.
Should the Council require Bennike to take into consideration over-all development of the area? Our position has been that to do this would amount to asking Bennike to take into consideration over-all factors outside his present authority and thereby injecting him into future negotiations on the Johnston unified plan. Both Israel and the Arabs might suspect we would use the resolution to impose the plan on them. Both Johnston and our embassies oppose such a tactic. As we see it, the essential objective is to get Syria and Israel back into proper channels under the armistice agreement for settling their differences and to reaffirm Bennike’s existing authority in the demilitarized zone, without raising the question of the connection of this with the unified plan.
Should the Council specifically deny the alleged “veto right” of the parties? We have always held that there is no such right, but to say it specifically in a resolution would violently antagonize the Syrians. If fact, this point is already implicit in the resolution, since Bennike has the deciding voice, and this can be explained in our statement if necessary.

5. Ambassador Lodge’s Reaction

The foregoing views were communicated to Ambassador Lodge on December 8 (Tab C).4 Lodge’s rejoinder reached us today (Tab D).5 He is concerned that we should not appear to be less friendly to the Israelis than the previous administration, using the precedent of the Huleh case which was before the Council in 1951. This case differs in certain respects from the instant case. Ambassador Lodge is particularly concerned that we should stress the desirability of peaceful development of the entire area and should not allow the concept of military advantage to obstruct it. We feel that, as our work on the unified plan indicates, this administration is even more concerned with area development than the previous administration. This point can be made fully clear in our statement. We do not accept the analogy with the Huleh case which involved a conflict of interests entirely within the demilitarized zone and which was settled on a basis of compensation of interests adversely affected. [Page 1458] In the Huleh case the question of military advantage was considered a factor and was settled in favor of Israel.

Ambassador Lodge says he is discussing his views with the French and British.6

  1. Sent through the Executive Secretariat. A note by O’Connor on the source text indicates that the memorandum was seen by the Secretary on Dec. 10.
  2. The tabs herein mentioned do not accompany the source text. Tab A was presumably the draft resolution contained in telegram 261 to New York, Document 743.
  3. Presumably telegram 283 from New York, Document 749.
  4. Presumably telegram 281 to New York, Document 750.
  5. Presumably telegram 285 from New York, Document 751.
  6. A draft resolution was submitted jointly by France, the United Kingdom, and the United States to the Security Council at its 648th meeting on Dec. 16; for the text, not printed here, see U.N. doc. S/3151. As an alternative to this three-power joint draft resolution, Lebanon submitted a draft resolution at the 649th meeting on Dec. 17; for the text, see U.N. doc. S/3152.

    A second revision of the draft resolution submitted by France, the United Kingdom, and the United States (U.N. doc. S/3151/Rev.2) was voted on by the Security Council at its 656th meeting on Jan. 22, 1954; the text is printed as Document 770.