1. Memorandum of a Conversation, New York, January 1, 19581


  • 1. Middle East
  • 2. Security Council Meeting re Israeli Tree Planting


  • UN—Mr. Dag Hammarskjold, Secretary-General
  • U.S.—The Secretary of State, Henry Cabot Lodge, James W. Barco

1. Middle East

At a lunch, to which the Secretary had invited Mr. Hammarskjold, the Secretary-General spoke of his recent trip to Gaza where he had visited the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) during the Christmas holiday. He had been greatly impressed with the manner in which UNEF had become established in Gaza. Indeed, he was surprised at the way in which it had become normal to consider UNEF an integral part of the life in the area. As an example of this, he cited the fact that a local court under the Egyptian administering authorities had recently found in favor of UNEF in a case involving Egyptian civilians. The area had also become Americanized without any American troops. For example, he was greeted by the children on the streets and roads with “Hi, Hammarskjold”. UNEF was everywhere in the area, and both the Egyptian and Israeli authorities found nothing to criticize. His own first step on arriving in Gaza had been to call on the Egyptian Governor and this had not even been mentioned in the Israel press. Eight months ago it would have been made a matter of great [Page 2] concern. The Secretary commented in this connection that it was interesting to him also that, after the battle he had had with the Israeli authorities last year to get their acceptance of the arrangements for UNEF in Gaza, the Israeli Ambassador in Washington in a recent conversation with him had expressed Israel’s satisfaction with UNEF and had gone so far as to say they had been wrong in their earlier attitude. Mr. Hammarskjold said that a similar statement had been made to him recently by General Dayan, who was a more difficult man than Eban.

[7½ lines of source text not declassified] In his [Hammarskjöld] own opinion, he was sure the Palestine question could not be dealt with directly. It was impossible now to deal with boundary questions, or with Jerusalem. There remained the refugee problem which, in his view, could in fact be dealt with but then only indirectly. This involved creating development projects to attract the refugees for resettlement, and the agreement of Israel to accept repatriation of the refugees in principle. On the latter point, he felt that the agreement of Israel to accept repatriation was something that should be held in reserve as a card to be played at an appropriate time after a program of economic development was further along.

The Secretary referred to the pending Israeli application for a loan and said he felt that if a loan were to be made to Israel, there was reason to feel it should be put to use to help deal with the repatriation of Arab refugees as well as for the Israeli plans to develop the Negev. It was questionable whether a loan should be devoted to increased immigration into Israel when the Arab refugee problem remained unsolved. The Secretary wondered what Mr. Hammarskjold’s views were in this regard.

The Secretary-General indicated that it would be desirable to point out to the Israelis that they could not count on aid for increased immigration as long as the refugee problem remained. He appeared to feel, however, that even in this case, an advance commitment on repatriation should not be broached in connection with the loan. (Note: The Secretary-General was not very clear on this point. He may well have wished to avoid a direct answer which could be interpreted as advising how the United States should treat Israel. JWB)

The important thing, in the Secretary-General’s opinion, was to develop a scheme for Arab participation in their own development program before bringing up the question of repatriation or any other controversial issue. It was along these lines that he had held conversations with Mr. John J. McCloy and Mr. Eugene Black,2 both of whom had expressed the view that an Arab development program along the [Page 3] lines of the Secretary-General’s thinking was the only course of action which seemed to hold promise for settling the Palestine issue and creating stability in the Middle East. The Secretary-General envisaged the creation of a development fund, the initial capital for which would be put up by Arab countries. He had in mind an initial sum something like twenty million dollars. The fund would be managed by an inter-governmental board on which the Finance Ministers of the participating countries would sit. Linked to this in a liaison capacity would be a body made up of officers of the International Bank and the United Nations Secretariat, to advise and assist in the operation of the fund and in the development of projects. As the projects got under way, the fund would have to obtain loans and these, the Secretary-General felt, could come mainly from the oil producing and oil transit countries and from the oil producing companies. The attitude of the American oil companies with whom he had talked was favorable to the idea of plowing back oil profits into the countries through loans to such a fund.

The Secretary raised the question of the attitude of the United Kingdom, recalling that since the oil profits going to the sheikdoms of the Persian Gulf were largely invested in London in consols, the British might not be enthusiastic about losing to a local fund this source of foreign exchange. The Secretary-General said he recognized it would be a problem to convince the British Government of the desirability of encouraging investment by the sheikdoms in the Arab countries themselves rather than in London. He felt, however, that the relatively modest scale of the development fund in the beginning at least, and the promise it held for stability in the area, might be such as to convince the British on broad political lines of the desirability of going along with the scheme. [4 lines of source text not declassified]

The Secretary asked Mr. Hammarskjold if he thought his economic approach would remove the Soviet threat to the Middle East. The Secretary-General said he [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] felt that the Moslem countries were not by nature favorable to communism and that what they needed was some form of unity which gave them internal strength without fostering a hegemony by any one of them. Economic unity would do this. In this connection he recounted that he had made the point to Prime Minister Ben Gurion that a strong Arab world should give Israel less to fear than a weak one. He said that Ben Gurion now accepted this, and he felt that this was an important change in the direction of Israeli thinking. Hammarskjold went on to say that Arab “competitivism” had been directed largely against Israel. One tried to outdo the other in being anti-Israeli. If Arab unity could be established on the economic side, he believed there was a good chance that this “competitivism” would disappear. In his opinion, while the Israeli problem was outwardly the most serious problem [Page 4] in the Arab world, it was not the basic problem. The basic problem, in his view, was the fact that the Arab States had until recently been first a part of the Ottoman Empire, and then under the domination of the British or French. Their independence had set them adrift and what had once been one country, more or less, had become several small, weak units. What strength they had came from a sense of pan-Arabism which had no constructive outlet. Fostering economic unity along Federal lines would create sufficient strength in the Arab world for the Arab countries to turn their attention away from Israel. He felt that most of them were fed up with the Israeli problem in any case.

The Secretary asked if the Secretary-General believed the Arabs were capable of administering the kind of scheme he was talking about. The Secretary-General said he felt they were capable of it [1 line of source text not declassified]. He also believed they would accept technical advice and professional assistance from United Nations personnel. The Secretary-General said that it was important to their success that economic development plans should have their origin in the United Nations, in particular in the Secretariat. His recent trip to the Middle East had shown him what a strong position the United Nations was in there. As a result of the Suez crisis, the Arabs were now—after years of suspicion—convinced that the United Nations was not against them. Everywhere he went on this trip he found this to be true.

Economic development plans should be brought forward as United Nations plans in such a way that no one Arab country could feel that, by accepting them, it was going to be denounced by another Arab country. The scheme should, in this respect, be treated like UNEF and should become a kind of fait accompli without the Arab States appearing to be responsible but, in fact, having their advance acceptance. As an example of the technique involved, the Secretary-General said that Foreign Minister Fawzi was enthusiastic about this approach, and had come back from Egypt to the latter part of the General Assembly Session ostensibly to be present for the Algerian debate, but actually only to talk about this scheme. However, when the Secretary-General went to Cairo on his recent trip, Fawzi asked Hammarskjold to present the basic ideas to Nasser. It was apparent that Fawzi had not attempted to sell the plan to Nasser beforehand; thus, it came from Hammarskjold and the United Nations, and Nasser expressed general agreement with its outline. Hammarskjold had pointed out that Arab acceptance of a plan of this kind would, to a large extent, have to be obtained by the Arabs themselves. To this the Egyptians had agreed, saying that they would undertake to get the acceptance of Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. They felt that Syria and Jordan should be left aside for the time being and that they would not have much influence in Iraq, although they agreed that Iraq would have to be brought in. Hammarskjold himself felt that the best approach [Page 5] to Iraq and the sheikdoms of the Persian Gulf was through the British, and he intended to communicate with Selwyn Lloyd about his ideas. He had already informed Pineau of his views when he stopped in Paris enroute back to New York, and had found Pineau entirely favorable. Pineau also intended to talk to Selwyn Lloyd. Hammarskjold’s hope was that January could be devoted to laying plans for the institutional arrangements and the broad outline of projects. Mr. McCloy would be available during January. He would be going to the Far East after January but had agreed to stop in the Middle East on his way back.

The Secretary referred to a recent conversation, he had had with Ambassador Engen of Norway3 about the possibilities of soundings among the Arab States on the Palestine problem. Hammarskjold said he did not believe that such soundings would be profitable at the present time. He felt that the economic approach would be more productive and he believed that Engen, who was his close friend and with whom he had discussed his views, was in agreement. He said that the attitude of the States involved was already fairly well known, and that the subjects of boundaries and Jerusalem were impossible to take up at the present time. The reaction of Israel to any suggestion for boundary adjustments would be explosive and would set off a counter explosion in the Arab States. On the other hand, Egypt was ready to go along with the economic approach, and he had discussed it with Ben Gurion, who acquiesced in it. He felt that Ben Gurion would not reveal what he knew about the plan. His experience was that Ben Gurion was very good at keeping secrets when he wanted to, and it was unlikely that he would even tell Foreign Minister Meir. Hammarskjold said that during his conversations in Jerusalem he had spent the first day and a half in talks with Ben Gurion alone, and had finally himself suggested to Ben Gurion that at the next meeting Mrs. Meir be brought in. He therefore had no worries about leaks from Jerusalem.

He concluded that, in preference to any other initiative, it would be desirable to follow up on his approach and see what could be done in the next two or three months. He recognized that it might not work out, but at the same time felt that no harm would be done in pursuing this line.

The Secretary said that there was no reason for the United States not to be sympathetic to such an approach, and that it should be explored. The Secretary-General said that this was exactly what he wanted to undertake—an “exploration” of the possibilities involved.4

[Page 6]

2. Security Council Meeting re Israeli Tree Planting.

The Secretary inquired about the possibility of a Security Council meeting on Israeli tree planting in Jerusalem. The Secretary-General said he believed it would be undesirable to have a Security Council meeting at the present time, when Ambassador Urrutia was working on the Mount Scopus problem, and hoped that it could be held off for a while longer. He felt that it was much more important to accomplish the demilitarization of the Mount Scopus area, and he hoped that the Jordanian Government could be persuaded to hold off on the tree planting case. He believed they could be persuaded that demilitarizing Mount Scopus was indeed more advantageous to them than having a Council meeting on the tree planting.

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199. Confidential. Drafted by Barco.
  2. Chairman of the Board of Chase Manhattan Bank and President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, respectively.
  3. For a memorandum of this conversation, November 25, 1957, see Foreign Relations, 1955–1957, vol. XVII, p. 821.
  4. On January 6, Hammarskjöld sent Dulles an aide-mémoire further outlining his preliminary thinking on the Middle East. (Department of State, Central Files, 684A.80/1–658)