215. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel 1

868. Following message based on memo of conversation uncleared by Acting Secretary:

On urgent instructions from GOI Shiloah called on Acting Secretary 12th to express concern over Gaza Strip developments.2 He cited Nasser appointment of Military Governor and recurrence of fedayeen activity from Strip as indicative Egyptian mood and considered alleged tacit UN approval to permit return of Military Governor with civilian staff of 25 as most ominous and indication Egypt intends reoccupy Strip. All this boded no good for security Israel and area. He expressed opinion Nasser and Soviet sponsors did not desire peace in area and Nasser was using return to Gaza as diversion in order open Canal in advance of agreement on regime of Canal. He asked US use influence both with SYG and Egypt to prevent another crisis.

Acting Secretary referred to conversation on 9th with Shiloah and said we anxious no inflammatory action on part of either Egypt or Israel; that we were taking steps to utilize our influence to try prevent any inflammatory action by Egypt and expressed concern saying we doing what we could avoid any move which might aggravate situation.

Shiloah stated he had informed Rountree GOI not planning precipitate test case in Tiran Straits but these overt actions by GOE much more inflammatory than suspected Israeli action.

Shiloah then raised question possibility Danish merchant ship transiting Tiran, saying he hoped USG would find it appropriate raise question with Danish Government as GOI thought US Aide-Mémoire indicated we would give encouragement and join with others to secure recognition Straits as free waterway. Rountree replied both USG and Danes made their positions clear in UNGA. Specific cases would be handled as normal commercial matters. It was not proper for USG take initiative in this matter. If consulted by Danes would say if asked by US ship owners, we would state no objection to US ship transiting Straits and that US ship would be entitled to our protection.

[Page 403]

Shiloah said FonMin Meir described Israel internal situation as “very, very grave and becoming graver from hour to hour.” He emphasized necessity stabilizing situation and preventing surprises by Nasser.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 674.84A/3–1357. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by Roberts and approved by Rountree who initialed for Herter. Repeated to Cairo and USUN.
  2. A memorandum of the conversation among Shiloah, Herter, and others, by Roberts, is ibid., 674.84A/3–1257.
  3. Also on March 12 in Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Meir summoned Ambassador Lawson to make what she termed a “twelfth hour appeal” for U.S. intervention to avoid the “calamity” of Israel sending its forces back to Gaza. Meir urged that the United States weigh in heavily with Hammarskjöld (whom she claimed was biased against Israel) to prevent the Egyptian return to Gaza. She reminded Lawson that U.S. officials, including Dulles, had approved every part of her March 1 speech to the General Assembly and that Israel had reason to believe that Dulles meant it when he had permitted Israel to assume that there would be a UNEF administration of Gaza for the indefinite future. Lawson forwarded a summary of this conversation to the Department of State in telegram 1076, March 12, with the comment: “I cannot evaluate Meir’s remarks in definite terms of probable Cabinet decisions but I am convinced that if decision were hers to make, it would be reoccupation of Gaza if Governor General in fact does show himself there.” (Ibid.)