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

501. Eytan, Director General Foreign Ministry, yesterday evening gave Embassy his account of conversation Friday with British Ambassador here re Eden’s Mansion House speech. According to Eytan UK version presentation of British Ambassador’s appeared to follow that set forth in London’s 19502 to Department except for two variations: 1. He quoted Nicholls as saying that Macmillan had shown Dulles copy of Eden’s address and latter had said he was in complete agreement with it and 2. British Ambassador made no reference to Secretary’s conversation with Sharett in Geneva.

Eytan said that two principal Israeli objections to Eden’s address were (1) that unlike Dulles August 26 statement which had placed refugee resettlement, compensation, and territorial problem in balance,Eden’s statement focused entirely on territorial question and gave scant attention to other aspects settlement problem. Secondly Eden had greatly complicated matters by his emphasis on UN resolution of 19473 when in fact armistice lines had to be starting point because those were ones in existence today. Eytan added he had told British Ambassador that, while it was tactically impossible for Israel to take initiative in making suggestions re territorial question,GOI was quite prepared to discuss it.

Eytan said Cabinet yesterday had decided Eden’s address should be answered by Ben Gurion in Knesset statement but that date had not been determined because Ben Gurion is ill at Sde Boker. He said Foreign Ministry had received radio inquiry from Ben Gurion inquiring whether Washington agreed with Eden’s statement. In view this and anticipation of other inquiries, would appreciate guidance from Department as to line I should take in discussions this matter. In [Page 745]interim Embassy limiting its comments to those set forth Department Circular 318.4

British Ambassador called on me this morning to comment on his presentation. He said he had informed Eytan that Eden’s speech had been shown to Secretary Dulles who made a few suggestions and agreed with it; that British were in agreement with Dulles August 26 speech and US agreed with Eden’s speech; that Eden was suggesting starting point for discussion of settlement without commitment on either side and therefore strong rejection of necessity of concessions by either side was not helpful; that mention was made of refugee problem and territorial problem was not over-emphasized although it is most difficult one.

He said Eytan inquired whether recent speech proposed UK as mediator or merely designed to point up problems. He replied by referring to UK and US willingness to aid in every possible way, even on confidential mediator basis.

In summing up, Nicholls said he thought Eytan’s reaction less explosive than might have been expected and Eytan not in real argumentative mood. Nicholls will inform me of any conversation he holds with acting Foreign Minister Golda Myerson if and when she calls him in.

Comment: It is my belief that real line of GOI will be revealed in coming Ben Gurion speech to Knesset.5

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  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 684A.86/11–1455. Confidential. Received at 4:04 p.m. Repeated to Amman, Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, Jidda, and Tripoli.
  2. Dated November 10, it reported that British representatives in Arab countries and Israel had been instructed to approach those governments concerning Eden’s speech. The Ambassador in Tel Aviv was to say that Eden’s reference to U.N. resolutions did not mean any change in British policy but that the resolutions were the Arab starting point and that Israel must realize any settlement would require concessions. (Ibid., 684A.86/11–1055)
  3. General Assembly Resolution 181 (II), adopted on November 29, 1947. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1948, vol. V, pp. 17091730.
  4. Circular telegram 318, November 10, instructed addressee embassies to emphasize, when appropriate, that the President’s statement “means just what it says and has no veiled significance.” (Department of State, Central Files, 611.80/11–1055)
  5. Ben Gurion presented Israel’s official response to Eden’s speech in an address before the Knesset on November 15.Ben Gurion in part charged that Eden’s proposals would “truncate Israel for benefit of neighbors . . . instead of bringing peace nearer”; that Eden had failed to place primary responsibility for the Soviet-Egyptian arms deal upon Egypt; and that the United Kingdom was in no position to urge a return to the U.N. General Assembly partition resolution of November 29, 1947, in light of the United Kingdom’s behavior in the wake of the resolution’s adoption. (Telegram 508 from Tel Aviv, November 16;ibid., 684A.86/11–1655)