359. Telegram From the Delegation at the Foreign Ministers Meetings to the Department of State1

Secto 38. At meeting with Secretary in Paris this afternoon2 Israel Prime Minister Sharett said he believed both Soviet Union and Egypt should, as result of arms deal, be confronted by Western powers with necessity of making sharp choice. Soviet Union should not be permitted to have détente in one part of world while using it to create dangers in another.Sharett said Egypt similarly should be required to reject arms deal or forego any form of Western help or association. He said prior to deal Egypt had marked superiority over Israel in all heavy weapons in air, sea, and land; e.g. 160 tanks to 104; 83 jet planes to 28; 10 bombers to 2; 3 destroyers to 0.Sharett asserted present talk of preventive war came not from Israel but from world opinion. He said however he dreaded day when it may be a necessary resort for Israel safety. What is required to make preventive war unnecessary and prospect of Egyptian attempt annihilate Israel unthinkable? It may be I.G. cannot fully redress an arms imbalance resulting from arms deal but certain things absolutely necessary: jet planes comparable to Migs, tanks and naval aircraft.Sharett not asking for blanket commitment but for assurance that if I.G. submits list it will be considered sympathetically and on most favorable possible basis as to prices and credit terms. Secondly, he asked that U.S. give Israel security treaty without conditions mentioned by Secretary in August 26 statement as it impossible to conceive of time when such a treaty so critically necessary as now. Both arms and treaty would serve as powerful deterrent to Nasser. If these not quickly forthcoming there would be disillusionment in Israel and sentiment for preventive action.Sharett said he had just seen Macmillan who was vague and negative in his response.

Secretary replied that U.S. shares Sharett’s view of gravity of recent developments in area. They constitute threat to Israel and broader threat to West Europe and all free world. Our information indicates Soviet arms going not only to Egypt but to . . . Syria. . . . Oil from Arab world virtually indispensable to economic life of [Page 658] Europe and Britain’s economy especially would be threatened by loss of oil revenues. Moreover Egypt is gateway to Africa. This is most serious situation to arise since World War II, more far-reaching in consequence than Korea. We intend to deal with it as such.

With respect Sharett suggestion of confronting Soviet Union with sharp choice, Secretary said we recognize that world relaxation must be one and indivisible. Soviet Union cannot have good fellowship in one area while creating new front of attack in another. Secretary said he could assure Sharett our relations with Soviet Union will take that into account but timing and method of raising it must be carefully considered and he doubted wisdom of giving full publicity to it now. Concerning Egypt, Secretary doubted if complete withdrawal of West would help. If confronted with demand to make choice,Nasser would probably have no alternative but to go on with arms deal. Weter [Western?] economic aid not so important to Egypt as to overbalance in Nasser’s mind sentiment in RCC which would result in his overthrow if arms deal now cancelled. We have considered both approaches carefully. We may as time goes on be forced to revise our position but our present thinking is that to confront Nasser with the requirement of choice between giving up arms deal and continuing association with West would not produce result we both want.

With respect comparative military equipment of Israel and Egypt, our intelligence figures indicate Israel has superiority in most categories. Perhaps we and I.G. should attempt to reconcile this conflict in our information. In any event we are not convinced that the arms deal will in itself produce decisive imbalance. Do not yet know condition of equipment or Egyptian ability to use it. We should not minimize effect of deal on Egyptian strength but neither should we exaggerate it.

With respect Sharett request concerning furnishing of arms to Israel, we do not believe it would be profitable to anyone to promote arms race in area. It is not possible for Israel, in view of wide disparity in populations, to have military superiority or even equality with Arab strength given willingness of Soviet Union to provide large scale arms. Even if Israel had 100 per cent of its arms absorptive capacity it could not in such a case maintain balance and it would be unwise to embark on that task. This does not mean that we rule out arms for Israel on a modest and normal basis. We will sympathetically consider any list that Israel submits but not on basis of embarking in race with Soviet Union to push arms into the area.

With respect security treaty, we have made clear by 1950 declaration we would seek to prevent active aggression by either side, that for us Israel is a permanent fact, and there cannot be action against Israel without strong reaction from U.S. Secretary said [Page 659] he is doubtful about wisdom of trying to convert statements of present policy into a treaty. It would need a two-thirds vote of Senate. Senate not now in session and could not act to deal with present situation. Had lunch with Senator George before coming here3 and he was extremely doubtful whether Senate would ratify such treaty if presented by administration. Moreover, not at all certain President would feel like recommending treaty in absence of settlement.

Secretary said Sharett should not draw conclusion however that only way out of present problem is preventive war. If there were preventive war by Israel we would, however embarrassed by the necessity, feel impelled to act under 1950 declaration. This not a threat or warning but merely a reminder that declaration works both ways. Israel could not except to have advantage of declaration without being itself denied right of aggression. Secretary said he could not see any salvation for Israel in preventive action. Suppose it won some battles. Area would be left with greater unsettlement than before and with Arabs more hostile than ever. In such case Israel would in the long run be submerged by attrition if not by war. Secretary said only way to deal with situation is for Israel to work out a settlement with the Arabs. Israel could probably have reached a better settlement last year than this and can make a better settlement this year than it probably can next. Israel ought seriously consider the extent of sacrifice it willing to make to obtain settlement.

Secretary concluded by saying Israel has tremendous asset in good will of all American people. What a people will do in assisting another country depends more on such things than on treaties. For this reason Secretary has negotiated security treaties on year to year basis. It is a matter of the greatest importance from the standpoint of Israel that it keep the good will of the American people and their support of our present policies that will afford protection to Israel. Israel can be sure we are continuing to work on policies promoting Israel security.

Secretary and Sharett agreed to discuss matter further in Geneva after Sharett talks with Molotov.4


  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 396.1–GE/10–2655. Secret; Priority; Limited Distribution. Received at 10:30 p.m. Repeated to London, Tel Aviv, Cairo, Damascus, Amman, Baghdad, Beirut, Jidda, Paris, and Moscow.

    According to Secretary Dulles’ Appointment Book, he departed Paris on October 26 at 4:50 p.m. and arrived at Geneva at 6:20 p.m. (Princeton University Library, Dulles Papers) The Geneva Meeting of Foreign Ministers convened the following day and continued in session until November 16.

  2. The memorandum of this conversation is not printed. (Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 60 D 627,CF 566)
  3. See footnote 4, supra.
  4. The Secretary and Sharett met again in Geneva at 5 p.m., October 30. For Dulles’ summary of this conversation, see Document 371.