223. Message From President Eisenhower to Prime Minister Mollet 1
Dear Mr. President: I fully share concern expressed in your letter, which I received through your Ambassador late March 13, regarding situation between Israel and Egypt.
I can assure you I am making great efforts to end that objectives which we seek of peace and tranquility in area will be achieved. We are in constant touch with both parties to dispute, with Secretary General, and with other friendly governments. Our purpose has been to avoid precipitate action by Egypt or by Israel which might result in deterioration leading to renewal of hostilities, thus undoing all that has been accomplished, with consequences of most grave character.
We must realize, of course, that current difficulty stems from problems of long standing which require greatest patience and perseverance in their solution. I am sure you will agree that Governments of both Israel and Egypt should be urged to exercise utmost restraint.
United States, along with other powers, stated in United Nations its attitude regarding international character of Straits of Tiran, and expressed its view that United Nations forces should be deployed at Sharm el-Sheikh following Israeli withdrawal. It endorsed Secretary General’s statement of February 28 regarding notice to United Nations before Emergency Force would be withdrawn from that area. Further, United States set forth its views concerning United Nations functions in Gaza Strip following Israeli withdrawal. I assume that statement of our respective positions regarding these matters made in UN Assembly is what you mean by our “accord commun”. We continue to stand by these positions, although it is of course obvious that these matters are not for United States alone to decide.
As you know, it is our belief that arrangements for administration of Gaza Strip can only be within legal framework brought about by Armistice Agreement. While that Agreement gives Egypt certain rights with respect to Gaza, it is our expressed hope that Egypt will not exercise those rights but will permit United Nations, pending some [Page 419] suitable agreement or settlement, continue responsibilities Gaza along lines of Secretary General’s report February 22. If, notwithstanding our efforts achieve this in its entirety, Egypt should exercise its legal rights and insist upon return to Gaza of some Egyptian personnel, we would not feel that would create situation in which Israel would be justified taking military action. We made our attitude on latter point clear to Israeli officials prior Israeli decision withdraw behind Armistice lines. It is our position, however, that if there should be any recurrence of hostilities or violation by either party of its international obligations, including those of Armistice Agreement, situation would be created for United Nations consideration. United States would consult with other members of United Nations to consider appropriate action which they or the United Nations might take.
In view of the seriousness of this matter our two Governments should, of course, continue close consultation as the situation develops.2
Source: Department of State, Central Files, 974.7301/3–1457. Secret. Transmitted to Paris in Priority telegram 3629, March 14, 6:57 p.m., which is the source text. Telegram 3629 was drafted by Rountree, cleared by Elbrick and Tyler, and approved by Howe. A copy of the suggested message was transmitted to the White House on March 14 under cover of a note from Howe to Goodpaster; it bears Eisenhower’s signature and a handwritten notation by Goodpaster: “14 Mar 57 State notified OK to dispatch”. (Eisenhower library, Whitman File, International File)
Also on March 14, Dulles was informed by cable: “Separately we are repeating message to President from Mollet and President’s reply. I can only add that President as you can imagine did not enjoy Mollet’s letter.” (Tedul 22 to CINCPAC; Department of State, Central Files, 674.84A/3–1457) Mollet’s letter is printed as Document 221.↩
- Telegram 4744 from Paris, March 15, reported that Mollet appreciated Eisenhower’s message and said he would counsel restraint and prudence to the Israelis. Mollet also, however, said he was disturbed and shocked by the latest developments in the Middle East, and accused Nasser of acting in flagrant contradiction to the Franco-American understanding reached in Washington. According to Mollet, Nasser would continue to maintain his hold over the Arab world until he was successfully restrained. (Ibid., 974.7301/3–1557) A copy of telegram 4744 in the Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, International File bears Eisenhower’s initials.↩
- Telegram 3629 bears this typed signature.↩