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

675. General Burns called on me yesterday afternoon at his request following luncheon given by Canadian Ambassador2 which we both attended. Burns said he desired to bring me up to date regarding his appraisal of recent developments in area.

Relative to Nitzana situation he felt a stalemate had been reached with neither party willing give unconditional agreement to three point program. He intended therefore to recommend to UN Secretary General this approach be abandoned and efforts be redirected at obtaining compliance by both parties with provisions of armistice agreement.

[Page 8]

Regarding Gaza situation he intended renew his efforts obtain cooperation of Israel Government in keeping their patrols 500 meters behind armistice line and expressed opinion if he could accomplish this the Egyptians would agree to eliminate any military positions which they had within similar distance from line.

General Burns said he had concluded things were moving toward general hostilities between Israel and Egypt. He believed Nasser was too smart to launch war against Israel until he was prepared which Burns thought would take two or three years but did not appear as certain the officers under Nasser would exercise same restraint. He referred to common belief GOI estimates June as point when Egypt will be prepared to utilize new arms. He thought there was good chance the Israelis would precipitate matters in coming months. In view of foregoing Burns was interested in ascertaining what consideration had been given by UK and US to employment of sanctions against Israel and whether any measures were contemplated to warn Israel of measures tripartite powers would adopt in case of hostilities… .

General Burns also made reference to Banat Yaacov question, saying, “I am not so sure I share General Bennike’s3 view the question of military advantage was involved in this issue”.

In the course of this conversation we made the following comments to General Burns:

Believed Israelis at the moment were principally preoccupied with Egypt’s impending preponderance air power and effect it would have on Israel’s defensibility. Did not believe any decision for preventive action had been taken but it was probable if air problem not solved in near future pressures in Israel would reach point where government would find it necessary consider possibility preventive action. In any event there were several issues between Egypt and Israel with explosive possibilities which could easily develop into large scale hostilities without premeditation. Embassy agreed Banat Yaacov was one of these issues. Israelis believed they had done their full part along peaceful lines in this regard; that issue was unresolved because of political factors and GOI was publicly committed to recommence work this spring. In view public temper it was unlikely GOI could avoid discharging its obligation. Furthermore Mapam Party which within Cabinet was moderate force on most Arab issues was strongly in favor of Banat Yaacov project.
Embassy had no information regarding contemplated sanctions but pointed out likelihood in event hostilities developed it [Page 9] would be under circumstances making it very difficult to place responsibility.

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  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 674.84A/1–456. Confidential. Received at 10:43 p.m., January 7. Repeated to Jerusalem, Cairo, London, and Damascus.
  2. T.W.L. MacDermot.
  3. Major General Vagn Bennike, Burns’ predecessor as Chief of Staff, U.N. Truce Supervision Organization.