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

576.Herzog told me this morning that Ben Gurion had adopted a consistent position with Cabinet that solution to Egyptian threat was along lines of Israel arms procurement rather than preventive [Page 822]action.Ben Gurion thought if enough arms could be obtained from West to offset “most” of Egypt’s Soviet arms,Nasser in time would realize futility devotion his resources to munitions instead of to economic development. When I asked Herzog whether Cabinet agreed with Ben Gurion’s position he replied: “I think so, but temper of people is such that if no arms are forthcoming things will be very serious indeed”.

In commenting to Herzog re foregoing, I stressed the following:

Whether Nasser in time loses interest in arms and arrives at “futility” conclusion depends in large part on Israel behavior pattern.
In my first few months in Israel relations with Egypt were relatively tranquil and USG through Russell (Embassy telegram 212 August 30, 19542) had stressed to Sharett need for gradual and careful work, leading towards peaceful settlement.
Instead Israel had taken two measures which worked in opposite direction. Firstly Bat Galim test case was entirely unnecessary. It would be three or four years before any economic need send Israel flagships through Suez. In interim concentration should have been through diplomatic channels on clearing up problem getting Middle East oil through Suez in foreign bottoms.
Secondly, Israel defense force in summer 1954 for no good purpose had activated sabotage group in Egypt. Their activities had been very amateurish; agents had been apprehended; and once members Muslim Brotherhood had been executed by RCC it was inevitable that some of Jews would meet same fate.
Hanging Jewish spies and Bat Galim case (coupled with IDF revenge complex) had so inflamed Israel public opinion that Gaza incident followed shortly. This in turn had concentrated concern Nasser and RCC on Israel threat and was largely, although not totally, responsible for Egyptian efforts obtain arms superiority.
It was ironical but of importance in determining future policy that IDF in efforts improve Israel’s security had stirred Egypt out of its military lethargy, thus creating additional insecurity for Israel.

Herzog’s reply to foregoing was that “some people in Government” also attached importance to factors I mentioned but they also interpreted Nasser’s recent behavior as being due to neutralism “found at Bandung” and his “dreams of empire”.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 684A.86/12–555. Top Secret; Alpha; Limit Distribution. Received at 5:25 a.m., December 6. Repeated to London and Cairo.
  2. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. IX, p. 1635.