Conference files, lot 59 D 95, CF 156

No. 9
Memorandum of Conversation, Prepared in the Embassy in Israel1

ST D-2


  • Israel


  • United States
    • Mr. John Foster Dulles
    • Mr. Harold E. Stassen
    • Mr. Francis H. Russell
  • Israel
    • H. E. Moshe Sharett, Foreign Minister

At meeting May 13, between Secretary Dulles, Mr. Stassen and Foreign Minister Sharett, latter reviewed Israel attitude toward peace with Arabs. Stressed Israel interest in peace, criticized Arab fear of Israel aggression and outlined Israel position regarding territorial adjustments, Arab refugees, compensation, Jerusalem, border incidents, economic boycott and area defense.

After introductory remarks describing peace with the Arab states as cardinal aim Israel foreign policy and characterizing problem as primarily as psychological one of accustoming Arabs to fact of Israel’s existence, made following points:

Arab Fear of Israel Aggression:

Sharett claimed Israel fear of eventual convergence Arab states on Israel in attempt destroy her more justified than “Arab pretense of mortal fear of inherently aggressive nature of Zionist enterprise”. Argued that Arab position “illogical” in maintaining on one hand Israel must expand because it is too small to contain its population and on other that it must give up territory as condition of peace; that such Arab fears neglect “delicacy international position Israel” which because of lines with world Jewry and economic needs is necessarily more sensitive to international public opinion than Arab world; and that country’s “moderate, stable, democratic government” not likely in face world opinion engage “in military [Page 30] adventure with numerically superior foe that is gaining in military strength.” Suggested that if Arab fears genuine, should seek protection of peace treaty which though not complete guarantee creates international obligations difficult to violate.


Criticized as unreal recent “loose talk” regarding territorial changes to Israel’s detriment. Particularly critical Arab efforts resurrect 1947 partition resolution “after refusing accept it and attempting subvert it through war.” States Israel prepared make peace only on basis existing territory (accepting armistice lines as permanent boundaries) with possible minor adjustments to straighten frontiers.


Described repatriation Arab refugees as “suicidal”. Arguing there was no modern example of mass population dislocation resulting from “war of aggression” followed by return to status quo ante, and citing mass influx Jewish refugees, Sharett claimed repatriation Arab refugees “would present complex economic problem” and from security point of view “would explode Israel from within.” Urged economic resettlement in Arab countries as in long run interest both Arab refugees and countries concerned.


Stated Israel accepts liability for compensation but added in apparent reference Israel war damage claims, that he meant compensation “fair to both sides, bearing in mind that Israel came into possession Arab lands as result war”. Would prefer lump sum payment into international fund to be used in connection overall plan for refugee settlement “rather than frittered away piecemeal”.


Denied Arab states had legitimate interest in problem. Saw it as question between Israel and Jordan and Israel and United Nations (latter representing spiritual interests world community). Claimed those interests now served by free access to holy place hold on new cities, but if international community “still uneasy” and desires internationalize holy places Israel would cooperate. In this connection argued transfer Foreign Ministry to Jerusalem has no bearing on problem holy places, and if anything would help protect interests world community by bringing agency of government most sensitive to international feeling into more effective contact with rest of Israeli Government. Stated that while he understood inhibitions foreign missions with regard moving to Jerusalem, Foreign Ministry separated from rest of government as suffering from “pernicious anemia” and if confronted by choice between being separated [Page 31] from diplomatic missions or from government “would inevitably choose former”.

Border incidents and economic boycott:

Stating that if peace not possible essential that Arabs discontinue “acts if hostility”, Sharett reviewed Israel position on what he called “rising curve frontier incidents degenerating into guerilla warfare”, particularly on Jordan border and “intensification economic warfare” particularly Suez boycott. Regarding former, contrasted Lebanese and Syrian enforcement of curbs against infiltration with Jordan laxity and stated “if latter not brought under control, no telling how it will degenerate”. Regarding economic boycott cited reported Lebanese warning to KLM to discontinue service to Israel as “violation of obligations under United Nations Charter”, and danger to world community’s interest in Suez of precedent permitting Egyptians regard Security Council resolution against Suez boycott, particularly if Egypt’s position in Canal Zone to be strengthened. Indicated that unless there was early British-Egyptian settlement of canal problem which included elimination of blockade, Israel would again have to raise question in Security Council.


Admitted concern with security against Arab attack in absence Arab-Israel peace, but expressed concern regarding Soviet threat to Israel, reaffirmed readiness play full part in area defense, and urged strengthening Israel’s defense capacity, regardless reluctance Arab states to commit selves to defend area.

Secretary expressed appreciation Sharett’s presentation, remarking that as judge might not agree with all his arguments but as lawyer admired presentation of case. At dinner same evening, in response to query from Sharett regarding areas of disagreement, Secretary replied that there appeared no basic difference in objectives, that United States and Israel seemed envisage same kind of peace, but might be differences in tactics and details, in question like refugees, in matters of timing, in question of responsibilities of various parties, et cetera.

Replying to question from Secretary regarding meaning Soviet peace offensive, Sharett expressed opinion it was tactical maneuvre, that policy began maturing in ruling clique prior Stalin’s death, that it is not only designed relax external pressure on internal problems but is attempt encourage widening rifts in democratic camp. Secretary outlined United States policy explaining that curtailment military expenditure did not mean United States thought peril less but was attempt to build for long haul on realistic basis [Page 32] that would enable United States sustain military strength without threat of economic exhaustion.

  1. This conversation took place in the office of the Foreign Minister, in Tel Aviv.