19. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, April 21, 1958, 5:35 p.m.1

SUBJECT

  • Situation in Jerusalem

PARTICIPANTS

  • Mr. Yohanan Meroz, Counselor, Embassy of Israel
  • Mr. Shimshon Arad, First Secretary, Embassy of Israel
  • The Acting Secretary
  • NEDonald C. Bergus

(Mr. Meroz called on the Acting Secretary at the latter’s request. Neither the Israel Ambassador nor the Minister were available as they were out of Washington. The Acting Secretary received the Israel representatives at about 5:35 PM.)

The Acting Secretary stated that we had been disturbed for some time at certain aspects of the ceremonies to be held in connection with the Israel tenth anniversary celebrations, particularly with regard to the military parade scheduled to be held in Jerusalem on April 24, 1958. We had sometime ago communicated these concerns to the Government of Israel and indicated that in view of them the U.S. representative would not attend the parade. Since that time, we had heard from the United Nations and other sources that the parade would include heavy weapons.2 The Jordan authorities were vigorously protesting to the United Nations and we could not rule out the [Page 45]possibility that the matter would be taken to the Security Council. The Jordanians had also stated an intention to move more troops and heavy weapons into the Jerusalem area.3 They had also indicated that if an effort were made to floodlight the buildings on Mount Scopus, Jordan forces would take measures to extinguish those floodlights. The Jordanians were asserting that they had the right to take this action because Israel was in violation of the armistice agreement. General Von Horn, Chief of Staff of the UNTSO, did, in fact, believe that a violation of the General Armistice Agreement was involved. The tension was mounting in the area of Jerusalem to a dangerous degree.

As this parade was about to take place, we felt that we had no choice save to issue a statement calling attention to this situation to American citizens who planned to travel to Jerusalem. The Acting Secretary then read the attached statement. The Acting Secretary felt that our responsibility to our citizens required us to alert them. The statement would probably be issued in the morning of April 22. It would be noted that in it we did not go into the issues behind the tension. The United Nations Secretary General was also very disturbed about this situation.

Mr. Meroz stated he would pass this information on urgently to his Government. He stated that it had long been known that Israel planned to hold a parade and that Israel had informed the Jordan authorities of this through the UNTSO machinery. A similar parade had been held a few weeks ago in the Jordan sector of Jerusalem. He could assure the Acting Secretary that the Israel weapons would not be armed. He hoped the Jordan Government would take a realistic view of what was at most a technical violation of the armistice agreement. The Acting Secretary concluded by stating that as the tension was building up we felt that in justice to the American citizens involved we must issue our proposed statement.

Arrangements were made for the Israel Ambassador to get in touch with the Acting Secretary later.

Attachment

PROPOSED PRESS ANNOUNCEMENT

The Department of State feels that it should call the following to the attention of any American citizens who have planned to be in the Jerusalem area within the next few days.

[Page 46]

There are reports of tension in the area arising from plans of Israel authorities to hold a large-scale military parade in the City of Jerusalem on April 24. These reports indicate an increase in the amount of military equipment located on both sides of the armistice demarcation line. Until this tension subsides, the Department does not recommend travel to the area of Jerusalem if it can be avoided.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 884.424/4–2158. Confidential. Drafted by Bergus on April 22 and initialed by Herter. A summary of this conversation was transmitted to Tel Aviv in telegram 747, April 23. (Ibid., 884A.424/4–2358)
  2. On April 20, Lodge reported that Hammarskjöld had received a complaint from Jordan about tanks in Jerusalem and that General Von Horn was seriously concerned about military units scheduled to participate in the 10th anniversary parade in Jerusalem. (Telegram 1181 from USUN; ibid., 884.424/4–2058)
  3. On April 20, the Embassy in Amman reported that King Hussein and Foreign Minister Rifai at a private meeting that morning had told U.S. and British representatives that Jordan would not stand by in the face of Israeli troop movements into Jerusalem and other events associated with the 10th anniversary. (Telegram 1809 from Amman; ibid.)