23. Telegram From the Mission at the United Nations to the Department of State1
Delga 502. Re: Palestine: Israeli Withdrawal. Eban (Israel) called at his request, prior to seeing SYG this afternoon, to report on status of withdrawals from Sinai. Eban said by 22nd Jan Israeli forces will be entirely out of Sinai, and “UNEF will be up to Egyptian-Israeli frontier”, except for Sharm el Sheikh. With regard to it and Gaza, Israel is prepared discuss with SYG a settlement establishing international interests those two areas.
Of these two remaining problems, Israel wished defer question Gaza for time being since it too intricate matter, involving population of 300,000 whereas Sharm el Sheikh had no people and involved only juridical problems.
Regarding Sharm el Sheikh, Eban said many delegations had expressed interest and concern for problems involved there particularly “shivering Europeans” whose “only jugular vein” lies in hands Nasser. Now “second lung” is becoming reality, in that eight inch pipeline will be open from Aqaba to Beersheba in matter of days, and through to Mediterranean at Ascalon in matter of weeks; sixteen inch line now being discussed and 32-inch one is ultimate “vision”, which would carry 20 million tons oil annually. This development will be psychological and political relief to Europeans, according to Eban, since it gives alternative to Suez, no one state thereafter having monopoly, and principal source tension between Arabs and West thereby removed. Israel, he said, is determined not repeat mistake of 1954, and will not withdraw until there are adequate assurances which protect genuine international interests.
Eban said presence of UNEF will enable Israeli withdrawal without resumption of Arab blockade which latter Radio Cairo already threatening today in its broadcasts.
As for way in which solve Aqaba problem, Eban noted Secretary had agreed as to international character of Gulf of Aqaba, and also agreed ways and means should be sought to try to assure this. He plans give short written statement to SYG this afternoon indicating further intentions on withdrawal and stating willingness discuss arrangements for withdrawal from remaining areas. Statement would not put conditions but outline problems in connection with remaining areas.[Page 36]
In response Eban’s question as to what might be done, I told him it would be hard get two-thirds vote unless it was for a report by SYG, which might provide way out for them. Eban agreed but said Hammarskjold leery of taking stand on “controversial issue”. Eban would point out to SYG there are precedents in this very matter for SYG’s doing so, and there is plenty of authority within jurisprudence already existing.
Eban then gave me draft (contained Delga 503)2 as basis for report which they hope SYG might issue for GA approval and which would bring about solution they seek. Gist would be that UNEF has, as part of its authority, to prevent resumption hostilities and further belligerent acts. It should therefore be stationed in Sharm el Sheikh “until another effective means is agreed upon between the parties concerned for ensuring permanent freedom of navigation and the absence of belligerent acts in the Straits of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba. Such effective means may be deemed to have been found when a peace settlement is achieved; or when secure freedom of navigation is guaranteed by international agreements.” (e.g., he said, between interested maritime powers, by users of Gulf, by littoral powers, or even by US guarantee alone. There would even be possibility of agreement to demilitarize Sinai.)
Eban is not giving paper to SYG. He expressed hope US would suggest SYG adopt paper as his own and seek convince him of merits this solution. Rafael doubted Israel would accept any less specific language. Subsequent discussion revealed Israel hopes offer further plan on Gaza, but only later. They feel if GA will adopt this extension of UNEF’s functions, including duration, it will be easier get GA approval for something similar involving UNEF in Gaza. We pointed out that if SYG included above suggested paragraphs in his report, this together with no action on Gaza, could well produce sufficient objections in debate to prevent anything being accomplished. Rafael argued strongly for line that it would be easier tackle Gaza later, but Eban saw some merit in our argument that in context imminent GA debate on withdrawal, they might get further if they also had something to offer on Gaza. He implied they would have something later on this week, and hoped in any event debate in GA could be held off as long as possible. I said we would study his ideas carefully.
It is clear that Israelis know they will not be able convince Hammarskjold to add this language to his report and that they hope US would put forward and convince him. This was confirmed by subsequent conversations with Kidron who said that what Hammarskjold now needs is formula or form of words. Kidron said he felt SYG was [Page 37] shying off from accepting responsibility of proposing means for resolving these issues. Kidron pointed to urgency our presenting SYG with form of words since he plans issue report on Wednesday.