218. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State1

156. I informed Prime Minister (Embtel 1452Deptel 1233) of Secretary’s statement. He received news with evidence some concern saying he was “deeply apprehensive” and repeating some of his previous attitudes (Embtel 1184). He seemed particularly concerned over public reaction to any presumption that settlement of Arab-Israel tensions would be dependent on concessions to be made by Israel. He said, if statement contains suggestion of concessions which Israel unable to offer, then purely negative results may be expected; it will cast a shadow over US–Israel relations and peace will be retarded. He said he appreciated this advance advice of statement but statement along lines he fears can only be inimical to US–Israel relations and to prospect of peace with Arabs.

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He returned to his previous argument that any concessions demanded would be made at expense of Israel which in wholly defensive position and making no demand of “concessions” from Arabs.

He remarked that now all of political parties and others (meaning those within his own party) who opposed his moderation policy and hopes for US security assurance would be saying, “We told you so”, and reaction of opponents to his policy might be expected to be immediate and strong.

It should be noted that his comments were predicated on assumption that statement would suggest concessions Israel unable to make.

He added that statement would not create a favorable public attitude toward the Johnston negotiations.

Urged that he not prejudge statement or effect; that although had not received text it might well be that his apprehensions were ill-founded and statement might accomplish just what Israel had always desired, that is, bringing together of two interested parties for discussion of outstanding problems, whereby benefiting them and entire area. He expressed appreciation my good will and optimism but felt that news I had brought left him in “a state of gloom.”

British Ambassador who saw him immediately after our conversation received almost exact reaction from Prime Minister and is so reporting to London.

I agreed to supply text of statement to Prime Minister morning August 27 and to have accurate full text in hands of press in time for first issue following Secretary’s speech. This will be morning August 28 as no newspapers Saturday, but radio will operate Saturday. We will report promptly press and radio reaction.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 684A.86/8–255. Top Secret; Priority; Alpha; Limit Distribution. Received at 9:06 a.m.
  2. Lawson informed the Department on August 23 in telegram 145 that he had an appointment to see Sharett at 4:30 p.m., August 24. (Ibid., 684A.86/8–2355)
  3. Document 206.
  4. On August 16,Lawson reported Sharett’s opinion “that the whole purpose of an approach to the settlement of the basic Israel-Arab problem would be defeated if an announced proposal by the US implied that a security guarantee for Israel was contingent upon the settlement of certain outstanding problems by means of concessions by Israel. This, he felt sure, would further solidify Arab determination not to settle those exact problems unless the concessions they demanded were forthcoming, thus prolonging the present unsettled security situation.” (Telegram 118 from Tel Aviv, August 16; Department of State, Central Files, 684A.86/8–1655)