32. Telegram From the Mission at the United Nations to the Department of State1

Delga 571. For Secretary and Wilcox from Lodge. Re Gaza and Aqaba. Hammarskjold report re above subject and Israel aide-mémoire containing Israeli proposals being sent in subsequent telegrams. Report to be made public on Friday.2

Hammarskjold report emphasizes importance broader implementation of Armistice Agreement. It contains suggestions for stationing UNEF on both sides armistice line with UNEF assuming supervisory duties of TSO in all territories where TSO now functions under armistice agreement between Egypt and Israel. SYG expresses view may be desirable in due time to have legal status of Gulf of Aqaba definitely determined. He says that with broader implementation of Armistice Agreement, parties should be asked to give assurances that they will not assert any belligerent rights, including such rights in Gulf of Aqaba and Straits of Tiran. He envisages UNEF units will enter Sharm el Sheikh area upon withdrawal of Israeli forces. He excludes United Nations acceptance Israel control over Gaza area.

Israel aide-mémoire makes following main points:

UNEF forces along western coast of Gulf of Aqaba with function ensuring that freedom of navigation is maintained and that belligerent acts avoided in Gulf and Straits;
UNEF to stay in Gulf area until peace settlement achieved.
No Israeli military forces to remain in area of Gaza, and Israelis will supply administrative services and utilities, develop local administration and maintain law and order;
Since Israelis carry on necessary security and administrative functions, entry of UNEF into Gaza area is not envisaged under Israel plan.
Israel will make full contribution towards any United Nations plan for the permanent settlement of the refugees, including those in Gaza.

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I saw Hammarskjold and Bunche tonight at their request. Hammarskjöld said he had seen Pearson who had reacted favorably to his draft report. He had also just seen Fawzi who was critical of several of the formulations in the report but, in general, was not upset over it.

Hammarskjold said that he believes his report is not very far from the Secretary’s thinking, and that one of the firm elements in the entire picture is importance of implementing the Armistice Agreement.

Hammarskjold described the Israeli position as unfortunate and contrary to the United Nations. He said the Israelis were trying to annex Gaza. Hammarskjold said Israeli insistence that UNEF remain in Straits area until a peace settlement was achieved was impossible.

In his view, the Israeli position opposing UNEF in Gaza has put in serious question Israeli legal claims to the area. When the Israelis informed him that they are willing to make full contribution to any UN plan for permanent settlement refugees, including Gaza, Hammarskjold asked whether this would include repatriation. Eban’s response was “I do not wish to elaborate”. When Hammarskjold asked Eban why Israelis were against UNEF force in Gaza, Eban’s response was “that it is simply a matter of opinion”.

Hammarskjold believes that if pressure can be put on the Israelis to get out, it is possible to get agreement on many of the things which Israelis desire. Hammarskjold emphasized that Cairo cannot make concessions before Israelis have withdrawn because such concessions would appear as fruits of aggression. In this connection, he said that Fawzi did not criticize SYG’s report on the basis of substance but rather from the point of view of timing. Hammarskjold believes that the Egyptian position has been strengthened as a result of the adamant stand taken by the Israelis, and that the Israelis will lose both votes and friends in these circumstances.

Hammarskjold put particular emphasis on the fact that the suggestions contained in his report can be implemented if the Israelis complete their withdrawals from Sinai. Hammarskjold believes, and he reported Pearson has similar view, that there are a number of elements contained in the SYG’s report which can be put into a resolution which would constitute constructive step forward. Hammarskjold said that number of his suggestions would be acceptable to the Egyptians, if they were considered after the Israelis had withdrawn.

Hammarskjold’s impression was that the new Israeli policy was personal with Ben Gurion and was not agreed to by some of the Israeli officials here.

There is a possibility that it is a bluff—an extreme position from which they may be willing to retreat but there is no evidence to support such a belief.

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They are apparently counting on American support. They have deliberately adopted a take-it-or-leave-it policy and are prepared for the worst.

This policy makes inevitable a resolution in the General Assembly imposing economic sanctions and makes it impossible to get a two-thirds vote for authorization of the UN emergency force to do all the things the Israelis want to have done.

This is a very unfortunate turn of events on a par with the invasion of Sinai on October 29 of which it is a continuation. It is of course a flagrant violation of the resolution on withdrawal.

I recommend that a high-level effort be made in Washington to persuade the Israelis that they are going against their own best interests, and that in adopting this policy they have prevented the Secretary General from working out all the things which are in their best interests. If these fail, pressure should be exerted to bring about a change of an attitude which is dangerous to world peace, to the UN and to the US. If it was justifiable to apply pressure to get them to withdraw from Sinai, it is equally justifiable to do so now.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 674.84A/1–2357. Confidential; Niact. Received at 11:08 p.m.
  2. “Report of the Secretary-General in pursuance of General Assembly resolution 1123 (XI),” January 24; U.N. doc. A/3512; and “Note by the Secretary-General transmitting an aide-mémoire on the Israeli position on the Sharm el-Sheikh area and the Gaza strip,” January 24; U.N. doc. A/3511. Both are printed in Department of State Bulletin, February 18, 1957, pp. 273-280. The text of the Israeli aide-mémoire was transmitted to the Department of State in Delga 572 from USUN, January 23. (Department of State, Central Files, 674.84A/1–2357) The text of the Secretary-General’s report was transmitted to the Department in Delga 575 from USUN, January 24. (ibid., 674.84A/1–2457)