79. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, February 11, 19571


  • Mr. Abba Eban, Ambassador of Israel
  • Mr. Reuven Shiloah, Minister, Embassy of Israel
  • Mr. Robert Murphy, Deputy Under Secretary of State

After approval by the Secretary, I agreed to meet at their request with Ambassador Eban and Minister Shiloah after their today’s meeting with the Secretary. Ambassador Eban said that they wished to go over the ground a little more after this morning’s meeting with the Secretary.

First of all, Ambassador Eban repeated that they welcomed the Secretary’s exposition of the American view in which they seemed to find considerable comfort. They appreciate, he said, this indication of the importance and urgency which the United States Government attaches to the question. They feel that if they accomplish nothing more, they have focused American thinking on the Gulf of Aqaba problem which for them is, he said, of major importance. He said that the Secretary’s memorandum is under urgent consideration and that a copy has been provided to Golda Meier. There is a time factor involved and they hope, he said, that because the matter is of such vital importance they have a reasonable time to consider it. He stated the opinion that conceivably General Assembly consideration of the problem [Page 135] could be postponed perhaps until the end of this week or the beginning of next week, having in mind that the debate on the Algerian question would take time. He also expressed the thought that if word got around regarding the American position, a good deal of the momentum in favor of sanctions would evaporate. He suggested that Mike Pearson has been extremely interested and could be helpful. I told him that we would be in touch with the Canadians.

Gaza. Eban and Shiloah suggested that we might wish to set up a “working group” to consider what might be developed as a plan for the administration of Gaza after the evacuation of the Israelis. I told him we would consider this suggestion and that the Secretary was giving active consideration to this problem. I also said that I had been of the opinion resulting from a previous conversation that Gaza was distinctly a matter of secondary importance as compared with Aqaba. Eban said this is true but that Gaza nevertheless represents for them a matter of importance about which a plan should be developed. He said there is no question that Israeli forces will withdraw. Egypt does not really want the area. A reversion to the status quo [ante] would be contrary to both Egyptian and Israeli interests. The United Nations must provide some form of administration with which Israel is eager to cooperate. Mrs. Golda Meir had very strong views on this subject.

Eban again raised the question of a form of declaration of nonbelligerency and we reviewed that point along the lines of this morning’s conversation.

Eban asked several questions regarding American shipping in Aqaba and whether the United States would support the right of other nations to enjoy the use of the waterway. I said that we could not assume the responsibility for other nations. He wondered whether this would be followed by a subsequent statement defining our attitude in greater detail. I said I thought the statement spoke for itself and covered the matter adequately as it relates to American shipping.

Eban also inquired whether it was contemplated that eventually the Secretary would publish the statement. I said I thought the Secretary had made it clear that this might be done later and that we believed it would of course be necessary that the position be known publicly at the proper time.

Eban also made the suggestion that a settlement of the Suez Canal issue would be facilitated if Hammarskjold could be persuaded to defer the physical clearance of the Canal until some semblance of political settlement could be achieved. He urged that we take the initiative in this respect saying that once traffic has been resumed, and to all appearances it will be resumed in a few days, it will then be virtually impossible to exact any political consideration from the Egyptians.

[Page 136]

Both Eban and Shiloah were profuse in their expressions of appreciation of the Secretary’s active interest in the matter.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.84A/2–1157. Secret. Drafted by Murphy. In his memoirs, Eban recalls that following the meeting with Dulles on February 11, he and Shiloah had lunch with Murphy. (Abba Eban: An Autobiography, p. 240)