177. Diary Entry by the President1
The attached cable2 does not represent any fixed plan. It reflects nothing more than some “thinking aloud” by Secretary Dulles. Nevertheless—either through coincidence or because I may have talked about this matter with the Secretary in the past—it does indicate one line of action we might possibly pursue in the Mid East, if present policies fail (as they have so far) to bring some order into the chaos that is rapidly enveloping that region.
Of course, there can be no change in our basic position, which is that we must be friends with both contestants in that region in order that we can bring them closer together. To take sides could do nothing but to destroy our influence in leading toward a peaceful settlement of one of the most explosive situations in the world today.
I cannot help reminiscing just a bit. In 1946 or 1947, I was visited by a couple of young Israelites who were anxious to secure arms for Israel. (I was then Chief of Staff of the Army.) I tried to talk to these [Page 327] young men about the future in that region. The two of them belittled the Arabs in every way. They cited the ease with which the Turkish Empire was dismembered following World War I and in spite of a lot of talk about a Holy War the Arabs, due to their laziness, shiftlessness, lack of spirit and low morale, did nothing. They boastfully claimed that Israel needed nothing but a few defensive arms and they would take care of themselves forever and without help of any kind from the United States. I told them they were mistaken—that I had talked to many of the Arab leaders and I was certain they were stirring up a hornets’ nest and if they could solve the initial question peacefully and without doing unnecessary violence to the self-respect and interests of the Arabs, they would profit immeasurably in the long run.
I would like to see those young Israelites today. Their names have now slipped my mind, but they must be recorded in the records of appointments made for me while I was Chief of Staff. They were sent to me by one of the Congresswomen—I believe either Mrs. Rogers or, more likely, Mrs. Bolton.
In any event, we have reached the point where it looks as if Egypt, under Nasser, is going to make no move whatsoever to meet the Israelites in an effort to settle outstanding differences. Moreover, the Arabs, absorbing major consignments of arms from the Soviets, are daily growing more arrogant and disregarding the interests of Western Europe and of the United States in the Middle East region. It would begin to appear that our efforts should be directed toward separating the Saudi Arabians from the Egyptians and concentrating, for the moment at least, in making the former see that their best interests lie with us, not with the Egyptians and with the Russians. We would, of course, have to make simultaneously a treaty with the Israelites that would protect the territory (possibly this might be done through a statement, but I rather think a treaty would become necessary).
In fact, I know of no reason why we should not make such a treaty with Israel and make similar ones with the surrounding countries.
I am certain of one thing. If Egypt finds herself thus isolated from the rest of the Arab world, and with no ally in sight except Soviet Russia, she would very quickly get sick of that prospect and would join us in the search for a just and decent peace in that region.3
- Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries. Secret.↩
- Tedul 27 to Colombo, March 10, transmitted a message from Eisenhower to Dulles in response to Dulte 14, supra. The message reads in part: “I tend to believe that we should seriously consider getting Libya and Saudi Arabia firmly in our camp, and at the same time, perhaps, give Israel the necessary assurances. Thus, the possibility of trouble in that region might be greatly minimized, if not practically eliminated.” (Department of State, Central Files, 110.10–DU/3–1056)↩