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

730. Pass OSD, Army, Navy, and Air. Joint Embassy, Army and Air Attaché message. Reference Embassy telegram 729.2 In long discussion evening February 1 Foreign Minister made following points about southern demilitarized zone (DMZ) situation:

Decision to “clean up military base” old Tawafiq taken by Cabinet afternoon January 31.
In reply my query whether Israeli action not contrary to paragraph 5(B) Article V armistice agreement, she did not disagree but said it was necessary prevent further loss of life and in “interests self-defense within our border.” She also mentioned Article 51 UN Charter.
Israeli Army not going attack and will take no action except in self-defense. I inquired whether Israel as UN member would act in conformity Articles I and II UN Charter, to which she responded, “of course.” I then asked whether reported northward movement troops and equipment might not be misinterpreted. She stated she had not asked Prime Minister particulars these movements but she believed he would do what was necessary, and further that it was better to be alive and misinterpreted than be dead and eulogized.
On DMZ history Mrs. Meir said Israel had made over 700 complaints to UN and MAC. “UN more to blame than Syrians” and should have made an attempt to get Syrians to stop work. Last Saturday she had sent personal word to Von Horn and to Cordier through Tekoah urging return to “status quo” and Israel’s complete willingness discuss matter. GOI considered DMZ as much of Israel as Tel Aviv and would not discuss with Syrians anything pertaining to DMZ. Israel would discuss with Syrians questions border tranquility and would discuss with chairman of MAC or Von Horn Arab cultivation and grazing rights in DMZ if Arabs had previously cultivated land. Mrs. Meir added one thing certain these Syrians “not farmers” and action “pure and simple attempt to get foothold in Israel territory called DMZ.”

Comment: At end of meeting I again urged on Mrs. Meir the need for fullest cooperation with UN, the danger of misinterpretation by other countries over reported substantial troop movements even if [Page 263]defensive in character, and the need to find a constructive peaceful solution to present situation. She said Israel “day or night would be prepared for discussion,” but that the “UN should tell the Syrians to stop this.” She was willing to see Von Horn “any time.” Mrs. Meir concluded, we are concerned with “self-defense of our people; not looking for a war.”

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 684A.86B/2–260. Secret; Niact. Also sent priority to USUN. Repeated to Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Amman, Beirut, London, and Haifa.
  2. Telegram 729, February 2, reported various troop and equipment movements in Israel. (Ibid., 684A.86B/2–160)