414. Message From Prime Minister Ben Gurion to President Eisenhower1

Dear Mr. President: I thank you for your two messages transmitted to me by Ambassador Lawson, the first last night and the second early this morning. I wish to assure you, Mr. President, that my government and I are deeply grateful for your unremitting efforts over years, and particularly during the current year, to achieve a lessening of tension in the area and a peaceful settlement between Israel and her Arab neighbours. Under ceaseless provocation, boycott and siege we have prayed and continue to pray that your vision of regional co-operation and peace shall be realised. This hope has guided and will continue to guide our policy and action.

On reviewing the Middle Eastern scene during these past twelve months, I feel that you will agree that the obstacle to the fulfilment of our common aim is the attitude and activities of the Prime Minister of Egypt. Col. Nasser’s expansionist policy has led to unprecedented tension in the area. The subversive operations of his political and military machine extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf, demolishing the foundations of security and good will. In order to further his aim of establishing Egyptian domination throughout the area he has during this period acquired vast quantities of arms from Soviet sources which together with lesser quantities from Western sources, have converted the Egyptian army into a force of great magnitude by Middle Eastern standards.

Together with the undermining of security in other Arab countries he has created a ring of steel around the borders of Israel. On the night after the elections in Jordan his Commander in Chief visited Amman to establish a unified command of the armies of Syria, Jordan and Egypt under Egyptian control, the declared objective of which is to destroy Israel. As soon as there occurred a slight lessening of tension in the Suez dispute, with the conclusion of the Security Council deliberations, Col. Nasser’s gangs renewed their incursions into Israel territory from Egypt and the Lebanon. Despite his formal acknowledgment of the Constantinople Convention on [Page 844] freedom of navigation for the ships of all nations through the Suez Canal—whose universality of application to include Israel was explicitly confirmed by the Security Council Resolution of 1 September 1951 and implicitly re-affirmed by the Security Council Resolution of 13 October 1956—spokesmen for the Government of Egypt have declared time and again that Israel shipping will not be permitted to pass through the Canal. This blockade is also extended to the Gulf of Akaba which is Israel’s outlet to Africa and the Far East. The Egyptian Government bases these actions on the state of war which she insists in maintaining against Israel. The growing danger to the stability of the area in general and of Israel in particular as a result of Col. Nasser’s manoeuvres has in the past few weeks been referred to by the heads of various western governments and is I believe widely recognised to-day by world opinion.

With Iraqi troops poised in great numbers on the Iraq-Jordan frontier, with the creation of the joint command of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, with the decisive increase of Egyptian influence in Jordan, and with the renewal of incursions into Israel territory by Egyptian gangs, my Government would be failing in its essential duty if it were not to take all necessary measures to ensure that the declared Arab aim of eliminating Israel by force should not come about. My Government has appealed to the people of Israel to combine alertness with calm. I feel confident that with your vast military experience you appreciate to the full the crucial danger in which we find ourselves.

Sincerely yours,

D. Ben-Gurion
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International File. The source text is a copy of the original letter signed by Ben Gurion which the Embassy in Tel Aviv sent in despatch 244, October 29. (Department of State, Central Files, 684A.86/10–2956) It was received in the Department of State on November 12 and forwarded to the White House on November 14.

    The text of the letter was also transmitted to the Department of State in telegram 439, October 30. (Ibid., 684A.86/10–3056) The copy in the Eisenhower Library was initialed by President Eisenhower. (Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International File)