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

894. In accordance with Deptel 6242 I sought immediately and obtained appointment with Sharett in Tel Aviv late afternoon Monday, March 5. Prior to making strong representation along lines of Deptel, I expressed my deep regret and profound sympathy for families of police killed in deplorable incident. Sharett was obviously pleased and expressed sincere thanks. He then went on to explain that shock of mortality among police officers was greater than it would have been among soldiers who by very nature their profession engage in greater risks.

Following my representation he said that incident was regarded by Israel as “extreme provocation”. He said Department’s statement would be taken into account and he gave impression that Department’s counsel designed to avoid action which would heighten tension and lead to hostilities was generally good move. Apparently referring to US representations made to Damascus for that purpose, he said Israel did not share Department’s optimism. Sharett said on other hand, by selling arms to Israel the US would greatly enhance chances of peace and urged arms for Israel without delay saying “arms and time are of the essence”. He remarked he knew Secretary held different view about arms and he regretted such was the case but his (Sharett’s) views were as stated.

In discussing arms question he said he felt that such essentially defensive arms as unarmed reconnaissance planes, anti-tank guns, radar equipment, anti-aircraft guns and similar equipment could have been released to Israel without any reasonable challenge. While there were important needs for tanks and other ground weapons, he said, the great need was for jets. He referred to the tremendous advantage in the air held by Egypt and said “we are not asking for 200 jets to meet the 200 MIGs Egypt is receiving—we are asking for 24 F 86’s from the US. We are going to ask France for another 12 Mysteres, thus giving us total of 48 jets of approximate character of MIGs”.

At this point I inquired as to possibility of Israel receiving some Meteors from the British. He waved question aside pointing out that they did not meet present requirements of Israel. He then mentioned [Page 319] the British Gnat and described it as light weight jet, faster than MIGs but deficient in other respects such as its very limited airflight time. He said he was not sure whether the IDF had approached the British for some of these planes.

Comment: Throughout the conversation it seemed apparent to me that Sharett’s emotions had not as yet been greatly aroused by the Tiberias police boat incident. It also seemed evident that he had not been in such close touch with this development as might have been the case had he not been on his present short vacation which I interrupted. I do not believe he has experienced the full pressures he otherwise might have received from the IDF, members of his own party and other political elements which have been urging the government to take strong line. He did confirm that the GOI had informed UNTSO prior to the departure of the second police boat in support of the grounded boat, but it seemed quite clear to me that he expected no fundamental change in the Syrian-Israel situation to develop from United Nations action in this instance. But there was no emotional outburst or usual excited reference to “Israel’s impossible position” or the highly agitated public sentiment factor.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 674.84A/3–656. Confidential; Priority. Received at 5:30 p.m. Repeated to Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, London, Jerusalem, Beirut, Jidda, and Amman.
  2. Printed as telegram 674, Document 158.