202. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State 1

948. After departure British Foreign Secretary Lloyd on completing his hurried two-hour visit Israel, British Ambassador gave me following highlights Lloyd’s talk with Ben Gurion and Sharett in Ben Gurion’s office Jerusalem March 13.

The principal benefit to Israel from Lloyd’s visit was normal psychological [sic] and clarifying of general policies which would derive from an exchange of views with Foreign Minister of an important western power (British feel that GOI already decided play down visit as contributing little to better understanding).
Israel received little from Lloyd in the way of answer to question of re-assessment of the policy of west, and particularly of the UK, toward area. However, Lloyd did give Israelis broad hint [Page 375] that British may not now have complete confidence in Nasser’s intentions and that area policy re-appraisal in the future was always possible in light of new developments. (Apparently, Lloyd is somewhat disillusioned with Nasser following what he thought was a very satisfactory conversation with him in Cairo recently as Nasser’s promise to abandon anti-UK propaganda had not been honored and, in some respects, the propaganda had been stepped up. He was particularly concerned about Nasser’s attention to Libya as well as other African areas. This adds support to conviction Cairo’s Embtel 1805 to Department2 that Nasser prepared witness further deterioration relations with west stemming from west’s reaction to propaganda attacks and his Arab military alliance activities.) He was careful to give no concrete reply to Israeli’s exploration of possible immediate reassessment Middle East policy by the west, subject which is occupying GOI seriously and hopefully at this time.
Lloyd did not satisfy GOI’s hope that he might reveal some new Middle East policy line by US–UK following his talks with Secretary Dulles at Karachi. (This was to be the principal benefit that GOI expected receive from Lloyd’s visit, according to comment made to Embassy by Israel Foreign Office officer.)
The general tenor of the talks was satisfactory, being calm and unemotional, even with respect to Ben Gurion who was in complete command GOI and did most of talking for Israel. The “arms question” dominated talks and almost every subject was related thereto.
Lloyd thought that Ben Gurion introduced the discussion Israel’s position very shrewdly in that he approached the subject on the basis Israel’s value in this area to the west especially in view of present strong Soviet penetration efforts. In this regard Ben Gurion was vitriolically critical of the Soviets and left no doubt as to his anti-Communist feelings. (It was interesting to note that at no time during the conversation did he refer to possibility of Israel’s applying to Soviets for arms.) Ben Gurion followed the usual line of argument in support of receiving arms from the west, emphasizing Israel’s insecure position and Nasser’s inevitable decision to strike when ready. Following Ben Gurion’s expression of concern over Egyptian aggression, Lloyd asked when Nasser might be expected to strike. Ben Gurion replied, “in two, three or four months”. However, he underscored heavily the vital value of the policy maintaining Israel security to the west in its efforts to exclude the Soviets from the Middle East area. Ben Gurion opposed diametrically the west’s present thesis of “limited absorption of arms” and no arms for small country like Israel, on the grounds that Arabs were totally incapable [Page 376] of effectively absorbing more than a certain amount of arms regardless of total amount supplied them. Ben Gurion made a strong plea for arms from the west and its acceptance of Israel as a strong western oasis in the Arab world.
[sic] Subject creation of kilometer wide neutral border zone to reduce incidents was advanced by Lloyd but he got nowhere with Ben Gurion who presented usual arguments supplemented by contention that zone would have to be continuous and on all borders, thus relatively large area Israeli land would be involved. Nevertheless, it believed that subject still very much in Lloyd’s mind.
Subject Banat Yaacov not taken up in meeting but Lloyd believed to have presented UK line (Deptel 6173) to Sharett in short private talk at airport on departing. Therefore Sharett’s reply not known but presumed to be along lines given to me (Embtel 8934).
Possibilities for an overall Arab-Israel settlement, Lloyd asked Ben Gurion what contributions Israel was prepared to make towards such a settlement. The latter’s reply followed very closely the familiar pattern i.e., not one inch of territory to be given up, repatriation of only a small number of “split-family” refugees, compensation for Arab property in Israel, et cetera. With straight face Ben Gurion added that GOI could make the following “very substantial contributions”, use of Israel’s valuable experience and technical knowledge, acquired through its own immigration program since its inception, in the resettlement of Arab refugees in Arab countries; and the great stabilizing and progressive influence of the existence of such a hard-working, high-living-standard, western type civilization as Israel would offer the entire area.
Lloyd left Israel with the firm conviction that it is impossible at this time to move Ben Gurion and Israel further along the line of an Arab-Israel settlement. Lloyd is thinking seriously of approaching the USG with the proposal that the US–UK abandon the attempt to bring about a voluntary Arab-Israel settlement at this time and under the current unfavorable atmosphere and that this policy be so announced to the world. At the same time however, the west’s determination to maintain peace in the area by all possible means would be underscored.
Lloyd and his party obtained some tangible benefits from their direct contact with the major problems and with the GOI principals, Ben Gurion and Sharett, obtaining in considerable detail the GOI points of view also impressions of the relative seriousness with which these points of view were held. They seemed especially impressed with the difficulties which the western diplomatic missions [Page 377] in Israel must encounter in their dealings with an intransigent government.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 641.84A/3–1656. Secret. Received at 4:52 p.m. Repeated to London, Paris, and Cairo.
  2. Not printed. (Ibid., 684A.86/3–956)
  3. See footnote 3, Document 136.
  4. Document 170.