163. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, March 5, 19561


  • U.S.–Israel Relations


  • U.S. Government
    • The Acting Secretary
    • G—Mr. Murphy
    • S—Mr. Russell
  • Israel Government
    • Ambassador Eban
    • Minister Shiloah

Ambassador Eban and Minister Shiloah called at the Acting Secretary’s request. The Acting Secretary said that he wished to express this Government’s deep regret at the loss of life of the three Israel patrolmen in the incident yesterday in the Sea of Galilee. He wished also to express this Government’s earnest hope that both sides would avoid any enlargement of the episode. In the past there has been a tendency, all too human, for one side or the other to strike back. Given the present tense situation, there would be a great danger that things would quickly get out of hand. The Acting [Page 301] Secretary said that his hope that the present episode could be isolated was all the stronger because of reports which we have received that Nasser may be willing to cooperate actively in promoting an agreement on the Jordan Valley Plan and on other issues. This is, therefore, an especially crucial time and the balance between peace and hostilities could be tipped very easily by the actions of either side. The Acting Secretary said that he had been pleased to note that both Israel and Syria were cooperating with General Burns and that we placed greatest importance on handling the matter in this way.

Ambassador Eban said that he would convey to his Government the [Acting] Secretary’s expression of regret at the loss of life of the three Israel patrolmen. He said that he was personally gravely disappointed at the continuation of Syrian policy of interference in Lake Tiberias. He said all of the waters of the Lake are in Israel territory and there should be no Syrian activity there at all. Both General Burns and the Security Council had taken the position that any shooting by the Syrians on the Lake is a violation of the armistice agreement. He said he hoped that this Government’s representation to Syria would show a differentiation between Syria’s and Israel’s position as Syria had engaged in the violation and had suffered no casualties. The Acting Secretary said that we did not want to take a position on the merits of the two sides in the present incident until after General Burns had completed his investigation and made a report. It is our desire to cooperate with him and back him up in every way. Ambassador Eban agreed that his request in this respect may have been premature but he believed General Burns’ findings would substantiate the Israel Government’s contention and hoped that at that time we would make clear to the Syrians our opposition to their activities.

Ambassador Eban said that he would like to mention two other matters. The dismissal of General Glubb by King Hussein had intensified Israel’s concerns. The Israel Government had had intelligence in January of conversations between Nasser and Hussein concerning plans for liquidating the British interests in Jordan. The Ambassador said that General Glubb was not an Israel “hero” as he had led Arab forces in the fighting in 1947 but since 1950 British officers have been a restraining influence in the Arab Legion so that the new situation, with power over the Arab Legion going to extremists, must be a matter of grave concern.

The second matter which the Ambassador said he wished to raise was the publicity in the press with respect to consultation between the U.S. and France concerning the French Government’s proposed sale of Mysteres to Israel. Ambassador Eban said he doubted the value of such publicity and referred especially to reports [Page 302] of statements by the Department’s Press Officer, Lincoln White. He said Israel had felt that the matter should be handled confidentially and the French had taken the position that the publicity made the matter of the sale more difficult. The Acting Secretary said that Mr. White had merely done his best to deal with a swarm of questions which had been fired at him by correspondents, all based on stories out of Paris. He said he could assure Ambassador Eban we had done everything possible to avoid publicity and that the fault lay elsewhere. With respect to our policy concerning the sale of the Mysteres, there had been no change since Ambassador Eban talked with Assistant Secretary Allen last week.2

  1. Source: Department of State, S/SNEA Files: Lot 61 D 417, Alpha Volume 16. Top Secret. Drafted on March 26 by Russell.
  2. See footnote 6, Document 147.