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

893. In pursuance Deptel 617,2 I delivered substance of Department’s 5943 re Bnat Yaacov to Foreign Minister last night in Tel Aviv underscoring need for continued restraint. He listened carefully to message and then made following comment:

In event Arabs consent for Israel diversion Jordan waters not forthcoming he asked what would be U.S. policy?
How long does US expect GOI to await Arabs consent?

I replied we doing everything possible to obtain Arabs acceptance JV and do so without delay.

He followed these two questions with statement “Israel is absolutely incapable of waiting indefinitely”. He said that time is crucial factor and he hoped that US understood that point. He wondered how long it would be before Arab consent would be obtained saying “US should make it clear to Syria that yes or no answer must be given … it is matter of couple of weeks”.4

He then went on to repeat much of his former argument with regard to this subject pointing up fact that it was impossible for GOI to lose another season … already too many seasons had been lost and if another one were lost then project would be at complete end. Arabs would oppose it forever and it could not be revived.

He then asked question “in absence of Syrian consent, what would be US attitude?”

[Page 317]

Referring to Department’s statement that resumption of project by Israel would be contrary to UNTSO Sharett disagreed categorically. He argued that General Bennike’s order to cease operations no longer valid; that order had never been confirmed by Security Council; that there was no Security Council resolution on “actual facts of work”, resolution being that note was taken of Israel’s consent to await urgent consideration of matter … that consideration completed within two months whereas Israel had delayed operations for almost three years. Sharett held that certainly such long period cannot be considered one of “urgent consideration”. (This is same line Sharett took with British Ambassador with whom I conferred before seeing Foreign Minister). I replied that our position differed and was as stated that purpose my visit was to again urge continuation that patience and restraint manifested and which gratifying.

He concluded conversation by saying “I desire to ask US Government specific question; ‘has US Government told Syria that in US view General Bennike’s order is still valid? If so, then Syria is shielded by that assurance. It would be definite inducement to Syria to never agree that Israel start work’”. Sharett thought that US should use its good offices to bring Syria to its senses and should use them with General Burns as well.

Comment: From firmness of Sharett’s reply on this and on other recent occasions; from Ben Gurion’s determined attitude; and from opinion of other GOI contacts, it appears clear that Israel’s present policy is determination to go ahead with project before work season is lost. It seems equally clear that GOI does not accept our thesis that resumption of work without consent of General Burns would be contrary to UNTSO and Security Council and regards US approach to Arabs as hopeless if US has assured Syria Bennike’s order is still valid and that matter rests in General Burns’ hands. (Deptel to Damascus 5755)

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 684A.85322/3–656. Secret. Received at 2:13 p.m., March 7. Repeated to Cairo, Amman, Damascus, Beirut, London, Paris, Ankara, Jerusalem, Baghdad, and Jidda.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 136.
  3. Printed as telegram 2000, Document 120.
  4. All ellipses are in the source text.
  5. Document 73.