211. Message to Washington1

No. 130
In general analysis and review of Anderson mission … , Ali Sabri has made points also made by Nasr to Ambassador Byroade (see Message No. 1282) and by Colonel Zackaria Moheiddim … (see Message No. 1293), namely Egypt:
Stands by early conception of Anderson mission,
Is willing to take steps in conjunction with Israel to ease border tension and produce a situation favorable to a settlement,
Is willing to work out an agreement for a settlement on the terms outlined by Nasr (see Message No. 744), and
Will use its influence to gain acceptance by the other Arab States.
Ali Sabri emphasized, however, Egyptian discouragement with Anderson mission. He said that Nasr had gotten the feeling that he was being led into trap by U.S. Government efforts to get him to make commitments and take positive steps not reciprocated by the Israelis.
Ali Sabri said Egyptians had made greatest possible efforts to produce the positive, constructive steps that Anderson asked for. The two most important of these were:
Definition of terms of Settlement (see Message No. 74), and
Acceptance of the UN SecGen’s proposals for the easing of border tensions.5 Ali Sabri pointed out that Anderson had never reported that the Israelis had presented their terms for settlement. He also strongly emphasized the fact that when the Egyptians accepted the UN SecGen’s proposals, the Israelis withdrew acceptance they had previously given. (This withdrawal of Israeli acceptance reported to the Egyptians by General Burns on 8–9 March).6 Egyptians conclude that Israelis have not tried use Anderson mission to arrive at a settlement and that they therefore must have planned to use it to expose Nasr and damage Arab unity.
In discussing the form of possible negotiations between Egypt and Israel, Ali Sabri re-emphasized the political dangers of direct negotiations now. He says no one Arab leader can afford to expose himself to the political dangers involved in initiating unilateral negotiations and the Arab States as a group can probably never get together to initiate direct negotiations. Therefore he believes that the only means of arriving at a settlement would be through a process involving secret preliminary agreement between Israel and one Arab State on general principles and a second stage in which the Arab States as a group, having been persuaded to accept the general principles, would carry out the final negotiations. This conception, he said, guided Nasr’s discussions with Anderson and represents Nasr’s final position. He repeated the proposition that public announcement of an agreement in principle had better be made by U.S. Government or the UN rather than Egypt although Nasr would do his best to gain Arab support if he accepted such an agreement.
Ali Sabri took the position that Anderson mission to date had confirmed the Egyptians’ suspicions that Israelis were not ready to work toward a settlement in good faith at this time. He said: Egypt can afford to wait. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain from the passage of time at this stage. We and our fellow Arab States need and desire a settlement but we do not have to have it. The Israelis on the other hand must have a settlement if they are to have the recognition normally accorded sovereign states and if they are to have security and economic opportunities. Eventually they will have to come to us. Eventually they must make the choice between their present precarious existence on the one hand and the acceptance of their responsibilities as a state among other states in this area on the other.
Ali Sabri refused allow his analysis of the general situation to be affected by risk of an Israel preventive war. He said he did not believe Israel would launch a war now, that Israel talk of preventive war was simply a means of putting pressure on U.S. Government to [Page 394] supply arms to Israel. Ali Sabri took a great deal of time to make a case to the effect that Egypt would not initiate aggressive war now or in the future. His principal argument was that, despite the fact that the Egyptian leadership made up of military men, aggressive war was incompatible with the principles of the Egyptian Revolution and that Nasr was firmly convinced that war would be disadvantageous to him and his country.
… Ali Sabri’s remarks on Anderson mission and on the question of a settlement with Israel has been thought out with greatest care and have been discussed in detail with Nasr. Ali Sabri listened attentively and respectively to … counter arguments and explanation. Of U.S. Government position (e.g. explaining nature of U.S. Government pressure on Israel, Israel’s reasons for feeling direct negotiations essential, and importance of continuing efforts work out program for easing border tensions) but showed more than usual determination stand by his prepared positions. Ali Sabri expressed willingness discuss any aspect of general problem any time with … but was pessimistic about possibility any progress now on U.S. program to ease border tensions. He pointed out repeatedly that Egypt had accepted the U.N. Sec Gen’s proposals only to have Israel rescind its former acceptance.
… [Believe] following are principal points which emerge from talks with Egyptians since Anderson visit:
Egyptians adamant on question of direct negotiation.
Egyptians will cooperate with intermediary to work out preliminary steps to agreement on general principles but will insist Israelis match their actions.
Egyptians will continue to insist on preliminary phase of preparation situation favorable to a settlement.
Egyptians probably willing cooperate improvement border situation along lines U.N. Sec Gen’s proposals, but will not accept direct negotiations above MAC level.
Egyptians willing accept risk of war rather than push toward settlement more rapidly than they believe politically feasible or advantageous.
Egyptians believe Israelis unlikely attack for two reasons: (1) Egypt’s increasing military, particularly air, power, and (2) U.S. Government will restrain Israelis because war would damage U.S. Government position in area.
Egyptians appear believe chances good U.S. Government will not arm Israel because of resulting damage to U.S. Government area position.
Egyptians probably hopeful of settlement in year or two by means and along lines discussed with Anderson, providing no U.S. Government arms to Israel.
  1. Source: Department of State, NEA Files: Lot 59 D 518, Alpha—Anderson Talks w/BG & Nasser. Incoming Telegrams—Jan.–March 1956. Part II. Secret.
  2. Document 191.
  3. Not printed. (Department of State, NEA Files: Lot 59 D 518, Alpha—Anderson Talks w/BG & Nasser. Incoming Telegrams—Jan.–March 1956. Part II)
  4. Document 75.
  5. See telegrams 395 and 398, vol. XIV, pp. 690 and 702
  6. See Document 188.