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

50. Re Deptels 372 and 42.3 Although a religious fast day I saw Myerson yesterday and in accordance with instructions presented orally and firmly to her our views in substantially following language:

The Department is concerned over possibility Israel might retaliate following incidents on Jordan border. I have been instructed to make US position clear and reiterate views expressed in SC and United States Government that incidents should not be construed as justifying resort to retaliation; to recall to you that US Government has discussed border situation with Jordanian Government and we believe latter is making strong and apparently sincere efforts to curb infiltration. That any reprisals by GOI especially at this juncture would be especially unfortunate not only for reasons stated but in view imminent arrival of Hammarskjold; that she be made aware of prejudicial effect resort to reprisals might have on sympathetic consideration by US and other friendly countries to Israel’s desire to acquire arms for defense.

Her reply had two principal elements:

Reaffirmation of right of retaliation as made necessary by Israel’s defense requirements.
Rejection of our suggestion that HKJ is making strong and sincere effort curb infiltration.

She made no commitment on restraint but pointed out Hammarskjold’s visit less than two days away.

Her reaction one of real surprise and obvious dejection and at first seemed undecided as to her line of comment. She seemed especially upset over suggestion that Israeli reprisals would prejudice US consideration of Israel’s arms request saying “this is a shock” and “implausible” in view of US negative attitude on Israeli arms requests to date.

“I am glad what you tell me does not have to go to newspapers and that it will not be necessary to tell our public. After killings we have had and injuries our people have suffered since Hammarskjold left I would hate to have to tell them US contribution to their problem is demand they behave. It is really most discouraging thing [Page 857] I have heard in long time. If we do strike back at these murderers it is just another reason you will argue, for not giving us arms which we were not getting anyway”.

She remarked that US position explicable to her only as reflection of US conclusion that Israel, like US if [it] were in similar straits, must be at limits of its patience with Jordanian transgressions and might be expected to react violently if not urged to hold itself in check. “That would be US reaction if it were in same circumstances. Your people assumed we must be in same mood”. If situation were reversed, she said, “I can just imagine Mister Dulles telling Congress that US had neighbor sending infiltrators to kill, plunder, and burn, but never mind, Israel wants US to sit tight.” She reviewed Israel’s efforts to obtain arms from Canadians and French expressing some appreciation of US efforts there, but remarking that favorable answers everywhere in west depended on US. She pointed out Canadian Prime Minister’s recent statement to Parliament that despite their own inclination to be helpful Canada did not want to move without some US participation; and reiterated that French continued to say they could do no more in absence of US contributions.

In rejecting my statement we had discussed border situation with Jordan and believed it making strong and apparently sincere efforts to curb infiltration she cited fact Jordanian public and military had been greatly excited by their leader’s inflammatory remarks and more important Jordan actively recruiting and training Fedayeen. Result had been many border incidents despite cease-fire agreement.

I referred to assurances we have received from Jordan and to provisions made by Jordan to set up and control border strip which plan had been publicized in Israel. In view of these manifestations of Jordan’s good intentions and concern did she not believe Jordan not making an all out effort? She said “I do not. I will believe their good intentions when I see them translated into acts. They not training Fedayeen for any purpose but to commit murder and sabotage in Israel. Look what happened last Friday night.4 An organized gang of 4 passed within 50 yards of an Arab Legion border post in Jordan to enter Israel …5 not to murder one man only as they did, but perhaps to blow up something at Lydda airport or elsewhere (Embtel 416). We do not know, but to me, this does not reflect genuine effort by Jordan to control situation.”

At end of conversation I summarized my understanding of her comments to mean Israel believed she had right to retaliate as defensive action under certain conditions and does not consider it [Page 858] violation of GAA; and she did not believe Jordan making an all-out effort to control border situation. She said this was clear and correct description of her position.

Comment: I felt Myerson’s strong assertion of Israel’s right to defend herself, serious responsibilities of government to people in this respect, determination of people to “fight to bitter end if attacked and die honorably if necessary”, reflected GOI policy to “dig in” for defense of their security whenever threatened. Despite Myerson’s rather bitter reaction I felt it was far less vigorous than Ben Gurion’s would have been or even Sharett’s. Although immediate reaction to effect of reprisal on US “sympathetic consideration” arms problem was one of incredulous surprise and bitterness, it may have some temporary deterrent effect, when coupled with imminence Hammarskjold’s visit and desire Israelis avoid sacrifice of what they believe is their superior moral position created by virtue of their record of compliance with cease-fire.

In view of fact that Israelis will study carefully question whether my use of terminology implies real US intent to act affirmatively on arms aid or will prove as disappointing to them as similar statement in past, analysis of longer-term effect my démarche will have to be deferred.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 684A.85/7–1856. Secret; Priority. Received at 11:45 a.m. Repeated to Amman and London.
  2. Document 461.
  3. See footnote 7, Document 464.
  4. July 13.
  5. Ellipsis in the source text.
  6. Not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 684A.85/7—1556)