380. Memorandum of Discussion at the 264th Meeting of the National Security Council, Washington, November 3, 19551

Present at the 264th Council meeting were the Vice President of the United States, presiding; the Acting Secretary of State; the Acting Secretary of Defense; and the Director, Office of Defense Mobilization. Also present were Mr. H. Chapman Rose for the Secretary of the Treasury; the Attorney General; the Director, Bureau of the Budget; the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission; Mr. Robert Matteson for the Special Assistant to the President on [Page 697] Disarmament; the Director, U.S. Information Agency; the Director, International Cooperation Administration; Assistant Secretary of State Holland (for Item 5); Mr. Harry H. Schwartz, Department of State; the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Acting Secretary of the Air Force (for Items 5 and 6); the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; General W. B. Palmer for the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, the Chief of Naval Operations, General Thomas D. White for the Chief of Staff U.S. Air Force, and Maj. Gen. Robert E. Hogaboom for the Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps (for Items 5 and 6); the Director of Central Intelligence; the Deputy Assistant to the President; Special Assistants to the President Anderson and Rockefeller; theWhite House Staff Secretary; the Executive Secretary,NSC; and the Deputy Executive Secretary,NSC.

There follows a summary of the discussion at the meeting and the main points taken.

1. Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security

[Here follows Allen W. Dulles’ assessment of the previous day’s vote of confidence in the French Chamber of Deputies.]

Mr.[Allen] Dulles stated that the Arab-Israeli situation had taken a serious turn for the worse during the night, though what had happened was not unexpected as a result of the reports from our Military Attaché pointing out the steady Israeli reenforcement of the El Auja demilitarized zone. According to the report received this morning, the Israelis had attacked the Egyptians in the El Auja area, and this attack had turned out to be the bloodiest encounter since 1949. 50 Egyptian soldiers had been killed.2

Mr.Dulles then pointed out the level of Arab and Israeli forces in the various areas surrounding Israel. He indicated that the Israelis were now estimated to have 86,000 men under arms. This could be increased very rapidly to 200,000.

Admiral Radford pointed out that a report from the Military Attaché in Tel Aviv received this morning clearly indicated that the Israelis were mobilizing.3

The Vice President inquired what excuses the Israelis had given for their attack on the Egyptians. Mr.Dulles replied that the Israelis [Page 698] had simply stated that the Egyptians had no business being in the El Auja zone, and were determined to drive them out. Both Mr.Dulles and Admiral Radford reminded the Council that neither the Israelis nor the Egyptians had any right to put forces in the demilitarized zone.

Mr.Dulles went on to point out that Israel was continuing to approach the various Western powers to procure armament or to induce them to put pressure on Egypt. The latest instance was a detailed list of arms which the Israelis desired to purchase in Italy. Tel Aviv has also made representations to the Czechs and Russians, as well as launching an international arms loan drive. Since they were likely to have considerable success in raising a loan to purchase armament, Mr.Dulles was inclined to question the efficacy of financial sanctions in deterring the Israelis from launching a preventive war against Egypt. In any case, he doubted whether this course of action, affirmed by the National Security Council last week, would immediately bring the Israelis to book.

Mr.Dulles concluded his comments on this subject by giving the over-all military strength figures for Israel and the Arab States. He pointed out that, quite apart from the matter of numbers, the Israelis enjoyed a very substantial advantage in terms of effectiveness, morale, and efficiency.

The Vice President inquired whether the Zionist leaders in the United States were in a position to exert any appreciable influence on the Israeli Government. Had we made any exploration of the possibility of inducing the Zionist leaders to exert such influence?

Mr.Dulles replied by stating his belief that Zionist leaders in the United States would encounter severe difficulty in asserting a moderating point of view. While such leaders might have considerable influence on Ambassador Eban and he in turn on the Israeli Government, Mr.Dulles was not at all sure that the Zionist leaders could be mobilized for this purpose. Many of them regard this as a life-and-death struggle for Israel.

Secretary Hoover supported Mr.Dulles’ doubts in this matter. He indicated that there was no unanimity of feeling among Zionist leaders in the United States. Some of them were greatly concerned about extremist action by the Israeli Government. Others took a very emotional view of the situation. It was hard to say whether these leaders could play a useful role in preventing hostilities.

[Here follows Dulles’ report to the effect that Chancellor Adenauer of West Germany was extremely ill and was not expected to recover.]

[Page 699]

The National Security Council:4

Noted and discussed an oral briefing by the Director of Central Intelligence on the subject, with particular reference to the implications of yesterday’s vote of confidence in the French Chamber of Deputies; and the Arab-Israeli situation.

[Here follows discussion of United States policy toward Formosa and the Government of the Republic of China and a consideration of United States policy toward Turkey.]

4. The Arab-Israeli Situation (NSC Actions Nos. 14605 and 14626)

Secretary Hoover said he wished to report that Secretary Dulles had now completed his conversations with Israeli Foreign Minister Sharett.7 Secretary Dulles had taken the line which he had discussed earlier in the National Security Council (NSC Action No. 1460–c, October 20, 1955).Sharett had appeared somewhat “crestfallen”.

The Vice President said that it was hard to understand why, after this conversation, the Israeli attack in the El Auja area should have occurred. Admiral Radford commented that if there was a general Israeli mobilization the United States was immediately confronted with a desperately serious situation. The Vice President asked Mr. Andersen to explain that in the course of Mr.Anderson’s visit with the President on Wednesday8 the latter had concurred in the recommendations of the National Security Council at its last meeting with respect to courses of action to forestall hostilities between Israel and the Arab States. The President had likewise approved of the statement which Secretary Dulles had made to Foreign Minister Sharett.

Secretary Hoover pointed out that the U.S. Delegation to the United Nations was now actively exploring the possibility of action by the UN Security Council to deter hostilities.

Admiral Radford warned the National Security Council that it might be faced at once with the necessity of executing the recently agreed courses of action if it turned out that the Israelis were actually carrying out a general mobilization.

[Page 700]

The National Security Council:9

Noted and discussed a report by the Acting Secretary of State on Secretary Dulles’ recent conversation with the Israeli Foreign Minister.

[Here follow discussion of the situation in Brazil following the national elections and a report on the status of national security programs as of June 30, 1955.]

S. Everett Gleason
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File,NSC Records. Top Secret.
  2. Israeli forces had attacked an Egyptian position at al-Sabha, near the border of the El Auja demilitarized area. The Israelis claimed they had killed 50 Egyptians and had taken 40 prisoners while suffering 4 killed and 19 wounded. (Telegram 451 from Tel Aviv, November 3; Department of State, Central Files, 674.84A/11–355)
  3. The Department of State received a report from the U.S. Military Attaché in Israel on November 2 that heavy military traffic was proceeding toward Negev, and that the Israelis were massing tanks and were establishing fuel and ammunition dumps. (Telegram MAI 849 from Tel Aviv;ibid., 674.84A/11–255)
  4. The following paragraph constitutes NSC Action No. 1465. (Record of Actions by the National Security Council at its 264th Meeting held on November 3, 1955, and approved by the President on November 18, 1955;ibid.,S/S-NSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95,NSC Records of Action)
  5. See footnote 16, Document 345.
  6. See footnote 12, Document 361.
  7. For summaries of Dulles’ conversations with Sharett on October 26 and October 31, see Documents 359 and 371.
  8. November 2.
  9. The following paragraph constitutes NSC Action No. 1468. (Record of Actions by the National Security Council at its 264th Meeting held on November 3, 1955, and approved by the President on November 18, 1955; Department of State,S/SNSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95,NSC Records of Action)