9. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel1

465. Israel Ambassador called Dept his request Jan. 5.2 Stated IG and people had reached following conclusions:

1) There was no question of Israel initiating war in NE; 2) despite this, country must think in terms of national emergency and must plan for it in view of USSR and UK arms deliveries to Egypt. When Israelis projected growing arms imbalance it appeared almost inevitable that there would be an Arab attack on Israel early summer 1956 or shortly thereafter. Israel would be almost defenseless from air attack and would “lie at mercy Nasser’s statesmanship.” Israel thought only thing to remove shadow was attempt reduce disparity by obtaining limited quantities of good arms from US. This fact stood in absolute center Israel thinking.

Israel’s appeal for arms from US made on two bases: 1) friendship—Secretary’s statement to Sharett in Paris3 that US foreign [Page 14] policy predicated on continued existence Israel had been reassuring. Sale of US arms to Israel would be indication of US determination implement such policy. 2) US national interest in NE peace—Eban said that NE peace and US sale arms to Israel were “practically synonyms”. It might sound drastic, Eban continued, but conversely not selling arms to Israel and inviting NE war were the same. Allen interposed this was indeed drastic and implied GOI attitude which should not be pursued. Eban replied this was a judgment of consequences not of intention. Continuing disparity would mean growing Israel nervousness re survival and concomitantly increasing lack desire by Egypt make peace and increasing temptation solve Palestine problem by force.

Allen said there was something that could happen for Israel which would be much better than arms deliveries. That would be peace settlement with Arabs. Some American Zionists had said to Allen that USG trying keep Israel weak so as to soften her for settlement. Allen did not dispute their right hold such views. He could understand how it would come as shock to ordinary Israeli to realize Israel’s future as small nation in NE must depend on goodwill great powers and at whim great powers’ decisions. On other hand perhaps these were facts of life. Eban replied many small countries rely on friendship great powers but there was no contractual relationship between Israel and US. Even if Israel had treaty with US or “all great powers in world” necessary for Israel have sufficient military strength hold back Arab attack until help arrived from outside.

In conclusion Eban asked where Israel arms request “rested diplomatically”. Allen replied he would report conversation to Secretary but that situation was same now as expressed in Secretary’s letter to Sharett of Dec. 23.4 Eban inquired re other reasons mentioned in Secretary’s letter besides Syrian incident. Allen replied one of such reasons was matter of types and models Western arms in NE. US had been in consultation with other governments on this subject before Israel’s request; these consultations continued. Eban stated he would seek to reopen this matter with Secretary after conclusion SC action on Syrian incident.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 680.84A/1–655. Secret. Drafted by Bergus and approved by Allen, who signed for Dulles. Also sent to Cairo, London, and Paris. Repeated by pouch to Amman, Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, and Jidda.
  2. According to Bergus’ memorandum of January 5 of this conversation, telegram 465 constituted the record of this conversation. (Ibid., 784A.5–MSP/1–556)
  3. See Secto 38, vol. XIV, p. 657.
  4. See telegram 445, vol. XIV, p. 889.