438. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, December 6, 1955, 4:45 p.m.1

PARTICIPANTS

  • The Secretary
  • Sir Roger Makins
  • Mr. Merchant
  • Mr. MacArthur

SUBJECT

  • Arab-Israeli Situation

During the course of a call on the Secretary by Sir Roger Makins about other matters, the Secretary mentioned that he had had an hour-and-a-half conversation with Israel Foreign Minister Sharett today.2

The Secretary said that the general tenor of Sharett’s remarks had not been good and that the latter had insisted that Israel could not give up any territory and could never enter into negotiations [Page 833]committed in advance to territorial concessions. The Secretary said he had commented to Sharett that it was not necessary to be committed in advance to territorial concessions and that what was important was the results achieved at the conclusion of negotiations.

Sharett had charged that the US and UK had changed their position as a result of the Egyptian arms deal, to which the Secretary had replied that there had been no change in our position over the last six months and that if he were put on the stand he could produce documents and charts, drawn up long before the Egyptian arms deal, indicating that our position then was the same as it is now. Based on this position, he had made his statement on August 26, 1955 on our policy with respect to the Arab-Israel settlement.

Returning to Sharett’s comments, the Secretary said Sharett had insisted throughout the conversation that Israel could not give up any of its economic assets and could most certainly not give up access to the Port of Eilat, to which the Secretary had replied that we were not asking Israel to give up its economic assets or access to Eilat, but that there would have to be territorial adjustments and that when the negotiations were over, Israel would probably possess less square miles than before. However, this would be compensated, because what Israel might lose in territory it would gain in real security if a settlement were reached.

Sir Roger asked how Sharett had reacted to this, and the Secretary replied that he had not reacted badly. However,Sharett had taken the position that the present moment was inopportune to enter into negotiations and that it would be better to wait two or three months to see how the Egyptians reacted to Eric Johnston’s proposals with respect to the Jordan Waters. The Secretary had replied by saying we could not afford to waste time. In the next two or three months the Egyptians will not have assimilated the arms which they are receiving, and if progress towards a settlement could be made, it might head off an arms race and possibly keep the Soviet arms deal to a one-shot operation. If, on the other hand, we simply waited, the situation could deteriorate further, and therefore we believed it was essential to try to make progress now and not to lose two vital months. The Secretary added that Sharett had indicated that when the time was ripe, Israel would be willing to negotiate either directly with the Arabs or through a mediator.Sharett had added, however, that Eden had disqualified himself as a mediator by reason of the recent position he had taken.

In conclusion, the Secretary said that while Sharett had said many uncompromising things, the Secretary felt that there might be some give in the Israeli position. Therefore, his over-all reaction to his talk with Sharett was not one of discouragement. He added that Sharett had given him an aide-mémoire which he had not had time [Page 834]to study.3 Also,Sharett had pressed him for a U.S. reply on the Israeli arms request, and it seemed probable that we would have to give this reply next week. Sir Roger asked whether he had understood the Secretary correctly to say that the reply would have to be given next week. The Secretary replied in the affirmative and said that actually the Department of Defense had staffed the Israeli arms request, and although he had not seen the Defense paper since he had asked that it not be sent him until after his talk today with Sharett, he understood that most of the arms requested were available and that price tags had been put on them. The Secretary indicated that the nature of our reply would have to be studied very carefully but that he felt it would probably have to be given next week. He added that Sharett had indicated he would be willing to remain on in the U.S. for a few extra days if this would enable him to receive the reply directly.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 684A.86/12–655. Secret. Drafted by MacArthur. The time is taken from Secretary Dulles’ Appointment Book. (Princeton University Library, Dulles Papers)
  2. See supra .
  3. Document 436.