9. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to the Department of State1

812. Re Deptel 675.2 I saw Ben Gurion at his Jerusalem office Monday afternoon and made points contained reference telegram. His [Page 13]response was largely repetition arguments advanced in reply our aide-mémoire last week (Embtel 786)3 but in addition, he made spirited defense of moral basis for Israel’s attack on Egyptian Army and emphatically reiterated determination to resist Nasser’s return Gaza or Straits of Tiran.

He said several times he could concede that UN’s condemnation of attack might be “formally or legalistically correct”, but “morally it was very wrong”. Addressing himself to quotation from Secretary’s speech (penultimate paragraph reference telegram), he said US role was especially wrong. “If your people had been in same position, your government would not have argued this way but would have acted”. He said he could understand hostile vote of representatives of colored nations who voted from racial solidarity or ignorance of situation, but he thought performance of politically mature nations in GA was morally defenseless. He then repeated that Israel’s circumstances of being target of Nasser’s huge military build up in Sinai and kinged [ringed?] by Syrians and Jordanians avowedly bent on Israel’s annihilation left him no choice but to act with advantage attack gave rather than wait and suffer destruction. UN would have been no more able to avert this murderous attack than 8 years ago at birth of state. He recognized US could apply sanctions (apparently implying Israel under sanctions now) saying “but that is matter for your judgment and whenever we believe we are right, as with our Sinai campaign, we are prepared to suffer for it and not submit to injustice”.

Re Egypt–Israel Armistice Agreements: Ben Gurion wondered about great concern now expressed for their perpetuation. “What is their sanctity when Nasser violated them every day from Gaza Strip”. As for invocation Article XII as suitable instrument for revision or modification, he recalled Israel’s experience with Jordan when GOI had requested such meeting to modify Israel–Jordan GAA and Secretary General himself had stalemated suggestion (cf. Page 73, UN Yearbook 1954). He said he could see no reason for re-establishment of GAA except to provide basis for Nasser’s return to Gaza. He repeated again that in GOI’s view, the Armistice Agreement could not be resuscitated. (He made no further reference to view state of belligerence did not exist even if GAA invalid.)

Re Gaza Strip: He could not permit Nasser’s return to Gaza because it would mean resumption Fedayeen activity. As to UNEF, he asked two questions: “How long would it remain in Gaza? How did it propose to prevent renewed Fedayeen activity?” UNEF could not, he felt, “effectively control the movement of Fedayeen from Gaza into Israel and our border settlers should be able to work in their fields without fear of attack. I pointed out while Gaza might not be Egyptian, [Page 14]neither was it Israeli. He agreed but said that UNEF was not solution. He hinted vaguely he would like to see Israel police control maintained over Gaza under UN supervision if presence of UN would be useful in satisfying world opinion that Arabs were not at mercy of or had to rely on good will of Israel. He did not develop this suggestion further, however.

Re Straits of Tiran: Ben Gurion said GOI had no interest in desert wastelands bordering lower end Gulf of Aqaba, and had no territorial ambitions anywhere in Sinai, but “we do have to have this waterway. Furthermore, we have it not as need but as right. We will not again submit to blockade. No more will we be subject to Nasser’s whims or charity. If he tries to re-establish blockade, then we shall have to start shooting.”

He repeated several times he thought that if only he could sit down with President or Secretary for half hour, he could convince them of moral justice of Israel’s actions. (He quickly made it clear, however, he had no intention visiting US.) He suggested he might write to them. I pointed out that not only had Embassy reported his position fully but his views must also have been fully conveyed by Meir and Eban in their contacts with Secretary, Department, and USUN. However, if he felt personal letter would help, he should feel free to write one.

Although some of his statements were strong, they were expressed dispassionately in unexcited tones.

Lawson
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 674.84A/1–857. Confidential. Repeated to Amman, Damascus, Jidda, USUN, London, Paris, and Jerusalem.
  2. Document 6.
  3. Document 3.