76. Memorandum of a Conversation Between Secretary of State Dulles and Secretary-General Hammarskjöld, New York, August 10, 1956, 1 p.m.1

Present also were Ambassadors Lodge and Wadsworth Mr. Hammarskjold spoke about his impressions of the Arab-Israeli problem. He spoke particularly of his talks with Prime Minister Ben-Gurion2 and of his sense that Ben-Gurion was very much isolated. Despite the framework of democratic processes, Ben-Gurion was almost a solitary dictator. This has some advantages, but also some risks. Mr. H thought that Israel would probably play a quiet role in the situation now created by the Suez crisis, and would probably not attempt to take overt action.

Mr H. felt that on the concrete issues which he had discussed Israel was almost totally in the wrong. He spoke of his (H’s) efforts to get Ben-Gurion to give up the principle of “retaliation” as both immoral and inexpedient. He also spoke of five concrete issues, e.g., militarizing the demilitarized areas, facilities to the UN Truce Supervision Organization, physical delimitation of frontiers, etc., where nothing had been done to carry out what H. thought were the agreements he had arrived at on his first mission. H. showed us a draft of a letter which he was writing to Ben-Gurion3 in this respect and also a copy of a letter to the Head of the Israeli Mission in New York4 with respect to one aspect of the matter. He said he felt he would have to bring this matter to the attention of the Security Council unless there was some positive action by Israel, although of course the timing of that would have to be carefully chosen.

I referred to our “Stockpile” Operation and said that we were holding up any announcement. I said that since the issues out there had become triangular rather than bilateral, it was harder to find ways to exert deterrent pressure.

Mr. H. then turned to the Suez matter. He expressed regret that so far the UN had been ignored. He felt that there were dangers that the handling of the matter would develop a Europe v. Asia complexion, although he was sure there were many Asians who at heart did not approve of Nasser’s conduct.

I explained the problem we had confronted in getting any conference at all and the principles which had underlain the selection [Page 183] of invitees. I pointed out that at least eight non-Western Asiatics were invited and that it was not going to be a “rubber stamp” conference. I said that some discussion had been given to the matter of identifying a future Canal authority with the UN, but time had not permitted of agreeing on that formulation, but that I did not anticipate serious difficulty in bringing that about if the principle of an authority were accepted.

H. said he could not see how the British and French could possibly justify the use of force. This would strain Article 51 beyond all recognition. He thought possibly force might have been understood as an immediate “hot blood” reaction, but that after delay and deliberation it could never be invoked.

I said that I certainly thought the more delay there was the less likelihood there was it would be invoked. That was one reason why I advocated the conference. I spoke of the “prestige” issues involved, affecting the British throughout the Middle East and the French throughout North Africa, and on the other side Nasser throughout the Arab and Moslem world. This, I felt, created a real difficulty.

I went on to explain the big issue was one of extreme nationalism v. interdependence. I referred to the present dependence of Western Europe upon the oil and the means of transportation through the Middle East. I also spoke of the dependence of the Arab world upon the revenues from the oil and its transportation. I said that while the Arabian countries could seriously embarrass the West, the result of attempting to do so would be to develop alternatives to Middle East Oil for Western Europe. There were other oil supplies that could be developed, new means of transportation could be created such as big tankers, and atomic energy might in time supplant oil as oil has largely supplanted coal. Whenever a person, believing he had a monopoly, tried to use that monopoly oppressively, he found that new alternatives sprang into being. Thus, the long-range result of Nasser’s action unless it was corrected by agreement—or by force, which I would deplore—might be the ruination of the Arab world.

Mr. H. said he agreed with this analysis.

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, General Memoranda of Conversation. Secret; Personal and Private. Drafted by Dulles.
  2. Hammarskjöld visited Egypt, Israel, and Jordan July 19–22. See vol. XV, pp. 882 ff.
  3. A copy of an unsigned draft letter to Ben Gurion, dated August 10, is in Department of State, NEA Files: Lot 58 D 722, UN in the Arab-Israel Dispute.
  4. Not found in Department of State files.