420. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, November 20, 1955, 6 p.m.1

SUBJECT

  • Israel-Arab Dispute

PARTICIPANTS

  • Department
    • The Secretary
    • The Under Secretary
    • Mr. Russell
  • United Kingdom
    • Ambassador Makins
    • Mr. Morris

The Secretary referred to Ambassador Byroade’s report of the meeting on November 16 with the Egyptian Foreign Minister Fawzi at Ambassador Trevelyan’s residence2 and said we had asked Byroade to give us any information which he might develop as to whether Fawzi had been speaking with the authorization of Nasir. Ambassador Makins said that Trevelyan had reported his belief that Fawzi had reflected Nasir’s views. He said that he would give the Department any further information they received on it.

The Secretary said that he would be seeing Israel Prime Minister Sharett the following morning (November 21).3 He said that Sharett was in this country for two or three weeks and was obviously doing more than merely selling bonds. He was attempting to go over the head of the U.S. Government in an effort to build up pressure here for Israel’s demands for arms and a security guarantee. The Secretary said that the Israel Embassy had suggested to the Department somewhat belatedly that Mr.Sharett would like to make a courtesy call on the Secretary Monday4 morning. The Secretary said that he intended to make the meeting somewhat more than that. He intended to say to Mr.Sharett: (1) that the Israel Government must accept the proposals of the Secretary’s August 26th speech more unequivocally than it has; (2) with respect to territory, it must do more than make a few minor mutual adjustments, it must relinquish a section of the Negev to the Arabs to make possible a land connection between Egypt and the rest of the Arab world; and, (3) the Israel Government must undertake to keep the situation in the area calm. It must not take advantage of little incidents to launch reprisal riots.[Page 791]It must not attempt at this time to force the Gulf of Aqaba.5 The Secretary said that he would tell Sharett that under those conditions the U.S. would do all that it could to persuade the Arab states to reach a settlement. Ambassador Makins observed that that would be entirely in harmony with the joint US–UK policy. The Secretary said that the Israel Government is obviously trying to drive a wedge between the U.S. and the U.K., especially following Prime Minister Eden’s Mansion House speech. The Secretary said that he would have liked it a little better if he had had a chance to see the speech somewhat more in advance of its delivery. The Secretary said that he feels that the reference to the 1947 resolution was unfortunate. It is not, in fact, the basis of the present Arab position. No one really thinks that the Galilee can be taken from Israel and the Negev, which the Arabs do want, is given to Israel under the 1947 resolution. However, the Secretary said, practically speaking, the US–UK policies are in line and his remarks to Sharett would show that there is no material difference in the position of the two countries. Ambassador Makins said that there had been some anxiety on the part of the Egyptians about a possible difference between the U.S. and U.K. positions. The Secretary said that Sharett must understand that the present Near East situation imperils us as well as Israel and Israel “must put something more in the pot” to make a settlement possible.

The Secretary said that we have received quite a substantial request for arms from the Israel Government.6 Most of the items are essentially defensive in nature but many of them could be turned to offensive purposes. A plan for coordinating Western arms deliveries to the Middle East was worked out in Geneva, which the Secretary feels is very important.7 The French hold some reservations so that we are not yet in a position to go ahead with it but we should get it underway as soon as possible so that what one of our countries does is not nullified by what the others do.

The Secretary said that he felt that it was important for the Italians to be included in the arrangements.8 Ambassador Makins inquired as to whether the Italians would be brought in on much the same basis as the Canadians and the Belgians for instance. The Secretary said that he believed it was desirable to bring in the Italians as one of a four power undertaking and it was his impression [Page 792]that Mr.Macmillan had agreed to that. The Secretary said that he thought it would be helpful to the political situation in Italy in addition to making possible a more effective control of arms shipment. For these reasons he thought that the relationship on the part of the Italians should be one of equality with the other three powers. The U.K., U.S. and the French might meet in the first instance and draw up the general plan of operation but the Italians should be brought in as regular attendants at meetings after that. Ambassador Makins inquired whether the Italians should be a member of NEACC. The Secretary replied that he thought it would not be necessary for them to be a part of NEACC, although he had not made up his mind.

Ambassador Makins referred to an instruction that he had received from the Foreign Office to consult with the Department about action which might be taken in the event of necessity under the Tripartite Declaration. The Secretary said that he thought that was a constructive suggestion and that we should begin consultation now. The Pentagon is not keen on the U.S. becoming militarily involved in the area. However, we have the means of exercising effective restraint on Israel by economic and financial measures and Great Britain could bring pressure to bear on Egypt through Egypt’s blocked sterling. Mr.Hoover said that the Arabs have recently been shifting their balances around, notably into Switzerland in order to remove them from British control.

  1. Source: Department of State,S/SNEA Files: Lot 61 D 417, Alpha Volume 15. Top Secret; Alpha. Drafted by Russell on November 21.
  2. See Document 416.
  3. Seeinfra.
  4. November 21.
  5. On September 10, 1955, Egypt announced new regulations for shipping in the Gulf of Aqaba requiring all ships intending to sail through the Gulf to obtain Egypt’s permission at least 72 hours in advance. Egypt refused to grant the right of passage to Israel’s ships.
  6. See Documents 413.
  7. See Document 409.
  8. See footnote 3, Document 409.