30. Message to Washington1

No. 20
Following is text of proposed message from Nasr to President Eisenhower prepared … evening Jan 22. Nasr acknowledges that message represents his views and authorizes us to state to President. However he says he cannot even consider signing until satisfied that Israelis will sign a letter embodying substantially the same points, particularly with regard to territorial adjustments and refugees.

“My Dear President:

Knowing and sharing the world wide anxiety for the preservation of peace, I wish to address myself to you, whose many declarations on behalf of peace and justice are well known to my countrymen. The people of Egypt have no desire other than to grow in the peaceful fruition of our national inheritance. Having so recently acquired the pure—that is to say sovereign—possession of our lands, it could not now be our wish to desert their enjoyment for the purpose of military conquest or adventure. This means that Egypt harbors no hostile intentions toward any other state and will never be party to an aggressive war. More particularly, it means that Egypt will continue to make every reasonable effort to insure that [Page 57] hostile incidents along the armistice line between Egypt and Israel do not become the occasion of war, and I assure you that on Egypt’s part, every effort will be made to prevent the incidents themselves. Any person under Egyptian jurisdiction found responsible for improper conduct in this respect will, moreover, be suitably punished. The establishment of Israel in Palestine has been beyond a doubt the gravest imaginable challenge to the peaceful preoccupation of the Arab people. Notwithstanding the sense of injustice which will linger among generations of us, Egypt, however has indicated her acceptance of the U.N. resolutions concerning the disposition of Palestine and of the two million Arab refugees displaced by Israel. In doing so Egypt has recognized the ultimate desirability of any understanding between the Arab States and Israel which will bring a permanent peace to the area and which will respect the fundamental rights and aspirations of the Arab people.

It may now be time to clarify further the principles upon which, in my view, such a permanent peace might be achieved. The basic issue is that of territorial adjustment, and I am confident that justice demands that Israel concede such territory as she now occupies as will permit the Arabs of Asia and Africa to be joined together by a continuous and substantial land area under Arab sovereignty and peopled by Arabs. Other rectifications which may be desirable to convert the present demarkation lines into permanent borders can be made, I am sure, on a mutual basis.

Only [Once] a just and reasonable solution of the territorial problem has been reached, I am convinced that agreement on the resettlement or repatriation of the Arab refugees can follow readily. I regard it as essential, however, that the refugees be given their freedom to choose repatriation or compensation for the loss of their former homes and property in Palestine. It would seem to me to be wise to grant all refugees the opportunity of electing to receive compensation immediately if they so choose; but as for those electing repatriation, account must be taken of Israel’s absorptive capacity, and actual repatriation would have to be phased over an appropriate number of years. Meanwhile, suitable resettlement undertakings could be got underway.

With respect to the primary status of Jerusalem, it is my feeling that the Kingdom of Jordan should have the right of decision, and I would not object if the Kingdom of Jordan elected to retain the present division of Jerusalem. It goes without saying that the exercise of belligerent rights, such as blockade and secondary boycott, would cease upon the effective date of any settlement envisioned above; and in the event that suitable guarantees of a forthcoming settlement were presented, it would appear quite possible that the exercise of these rights could be terminated in advance of an actual announcement of the settlement. As for the matter of future trade relations between the Arab States and Israel I regard this as within the competence of each of the sovereign Arab States to decide in accordance with its own desires and interests. I do not profess to know whether Israel could ever come to a recognition of the propriety of the above suggestions nor indeed at this moment do I have a conviction that Israel desires to seek peaceful solutions. In writing to you Mr. President I have wished to inform you of the possibilities for peaceful settlement which I and my government can [Page 58] foresee and which we would earnestly entertain and support with regard to the other Arab States.”

Comment and fuller report of conversation will follow.2
  1. Source: Department of State, NEA Files: Lot 59 D 518, Alpha—Anderson Talks w/BG & Nasser. Incoming Telegrams—Jan.–March 1956. Part I. Secret. Also sent to Anderson in Jerusalem. According to the Government of Egypt, the message transmitted in Message 20 was never issued by Nasser.
  2. Document 32.