416. Telegram From the Embassy in Egypt to the Department of State 1

976. In contrast past sessions in which Fawzi often vague and probing he discussed Alpha with Trevelyan and me last evening in forthright manner. He outlined his views without prompting and was obviously speaking with authority Nasser. In summary his position as follows:

Tactics. Egypt prepared to work towards settlement Arab-Israeli issues at earliest practical date.GOE welcomes good offices of U.S. and U.K. toward that end. Initial moves should be highly secret and through diplomatic channels but use of Trieste approach or even direct contact not ruled out in later stages. If matters could be moved to where Egypt believed there was “51 percent chance” of success, Egypt would at that time take lead with other Arab States even at risk severe opposition. Until this stage reached other Arab States should not be brought into picture. First step to guide further discussions should be for U.S. and U.K. attempt secure agreement of both sides on principles of approaches to major issues. On this basis Fawzi believed we should by now have Egypt’s views clearly enough in mind to approach Israel. This approach should not be on basis that Egypt had specifically agreed to certain things, but that in view of conversations here we felt that Egypt might be willing to consider settlement along lines certain principles.

Substance. Egypt’s position on “major issues” may be summarized as follows:

Jerusalem—Egypt will accept any solution that is acceptable to world community. If internationalization is so acceptable and practical this would be welcomed by Egypt. If this not possible and acceptance of split city and adequate system of protection of holy [Page 782] places along lines of Swedish resolution were acceptable to world community, then this too would be all right with Egypt. In other words Egypt willing approach discussions on Jerusalem with completely open mind.
Refugees—Egypt believes there should be repatriation to extent practicable although realizes this quite restricted. For remainder of refugees, resettlement and compensation only answer. Compensation to be based upon actual loss of physical property only. Egypt accepts fact that resources beyond those of Israel would be necessary and would not object to principle that others help Israel pay what is really her own debt to society.
Territorial—Egypt recognizes concessions from traditionally previously held positions must be made by both sides. Only principle that need be recognized as far as she concerned was that actual continuity of Arab sovereign territory should be reestablished. By this GOE did not mean a corridor. Size of territory to be transferred need not be defined at this stage during which only agreement upon principle should be sought. (There was considerable discussion regarding peacetime use of Eilath.Fawzi made clear if we pressed him on this point at this particular time his answer would be an emphatic “no”. However he saw no hope of forcing decision at this early date. We gained impression that ultimate concession may be possible on this point but in any case would not be obtained easily and certainly not early in talks.)
Blockade—provided other things could be worked out Egypt realized this would mean complete freedom of transit of Suez. It would also mean end of Arab blockade as far as third countries were concerned. Extent of Arab desire reestablish trade and other ties with Israel would be matter for their own sovereign determination and would not form part of any settlement agreements. In other words Government of Egypt realized that type of settlement she envisaged would end state of belligerency and legislative and legal positions based upon it.

Comment:Trevelyan and I believe this to be positive approach and we strongly recommend our governments now approach Israel upon basis outlined.Fawzi’s presentation is certainly more than we have obtained from Government of Egypt on serious basis heretofore and much more than could be envisaged as coming from any other Arab State.Fawzi did not once mention 1947 partition boundaries. His position, as reported many times before, seems fairly close to Alpha plan with exception of Negev, which he clearly envisages to be last great obstacle to settlement. He was careful last night avoid using term “whole of Negev” and we believe he feels that by starting with matter of principle, gap could be eventually narrowed between present positions on both sides to point where outside forces could perhaps obtain solution upon some middle ground that both sides might “reluctantly” accept.

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We were at roughly this stage before (although Fawzi now more definite and forthcoming and speaking with greater authority) when I urged approach to Israel in Embtel 461, September 14.2 Department’s cables however sought some further “concrete evidence” that Egypt desired settlement. I gather from discussions in Paris and Geneva that what was meant at minimum of this phrase was Egyptian willingness to appoint representative to join in settlement discussions either with Israelis or some third party at some specified place. Do hope (and Trevelyan concurs) that this position will not be maintained since it is clear that Government of Egypt will not agree to start out in this fashion. In addition obvious political difficulties, there are in fact many practical considerations including communications, selection of representatives et cetera that would cause them to refuse. Such a course could not be kept secret and neither Government of Egypt nor, we assume, ourselves would be willing to see matter become public or other Arab States informed until Government of Egypt can see some possibility of success. Furthermore Nasser obviously wishes to keep RCC out of matter as well until this stage reached.

Repeat British Ambassador and I strongly urge early approach to Israel as next step in discussions. We can continue exploring here as opportunities permit but this should not delay approach to Israel. After such approach we can more clearly work out subsequent tactics.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 684A.86/11–1755. Top Secret; Priority; Alpha. Received at 4:08 p.m. Repeated priority to London.
  2. Document 274.
  3. On November 19,Macmillan sent Dulles a message in which Macmillan recommended, on the basis of this dinner conversation with Fawzi, that American and British representatives “explore the ground with the Israelis. There are, of course, risks in going ahead without some firmer basis, but on the whole I think we should take the chance, as both our Ambassadors seem to advise. There doesn’t seem much hope of getting anything further from Nasser at this point.” According to a handwritten notation on the source text, the Secretary received Macmillan’s message on November 20 and indicated he did not believe that it required a reply. (Department of State,S/SNEA Files: Lot 61 D 417, Alpha Volume 15)