21. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, April 22, 1958, 11 a.m.1

SUBJECT

  • Situation in Jerusalem

PARTICIPANTS

  • Mr. Abba Eban, Ambassador of Israel
  • Mr. Ya’acov Herzog, Minister, Embassy of Israel
  • The Under Secretary
  • NEStuart W. Rockwell
  • NEDonald C. Bergus

Ambassador Eban called at 11:00 AM at his request. He stated he was glad to be in a position to discuss this question directly with the Under Secretary inasmuch as telephone conversations such as had taken place in the previous day and a half were never fully satisfactory. Mr. Eban said that the basis of the Israel position on the question of the parade was its conviction that the alleged tensions were artificial. The troops and the weapons would be completely unarmed. This did not represent a threat; it was in fact a large concentration of vulnerability. Mr. Eban handed the Under Secretary a copy of the attached note2 which he had submitted to the Secretary General of the United Nations on the previous day. He said that he was now in a position to add that not only the vehicles but also the soldiers in the parade would carry unarmed weapons. Also, United Nations observers would be stationed at important points in the area. Mr. Eban did not feel there could be any innocent apprehension on the other side. Israel had the impression from both the Subcommittee and the MAC meetings that there was no such apprehension. Mr. Eban hoped that no statements would be issued that implied that this situation be considered a threat to the peace. He then read a summary of a statement made on the previous day by the Chairman of the MAC (the text of this statement can be found in Jerusalem’s telegram 324 on April 23).3 Mr. Eban urged that the matter be left as it was. He had complete confidence that the matter would pass off without trouble. The spectators of the parade would not come within range of the armistice lines.

The Under Secretary said, for the sake of argument, let us assume that the Jordanians start something. The participants in the Israel parade would be unarmed. Certainly would not Israel be in a position somehow to respond to a Jordan initiative? Mr. Eban replied that he [Page 50]did not believe the Jordanians would start anything. Some Israelis felt that the tension was being increased by public discussion and worrying about it. The Under Secretary stated that on the basis of information we had, we had every right to be disturbed over the situation, particularly as so many American citizens planned to be in the Jerusalem area. The statement we had intended to put out was addressed to this specific problem and was very mild. Its implications had been highly exaggerated. In any event, we would not put out such a statement today.

The Under Secretary continued that Senator Javits had telephoned him on this matter the previous evening.4 This call had disturbed the Under Secretary since it implied that discussions taking place between our two governments were being broadcast outside official channels. Pressures were being brought to bear from outside. These were not welcome. He was disturbed that there should be outside discussion of matters such as these.

Mr. Eban stated that there had been two reports in the bulletin of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency attributed to Department of State sources to the effect that there was high level consultation in the Department going on about this parade. The JTA story which had appeared on the morning of April 23 came very close to intimating that the Department had a public statement of some sort in mind. Mr. Eban had been in New York in connection with arrangements for the celebration of Israel’s tenth anniversary in Philadelphia and Boston. These JTA stories had aroused interest among the people Mr. Eban was talking with. It was only in this context that Mr. Eban had had occasion to discuss this question with Senator Javits. The Under Secretary said he would like to see these JTA stories. Mr. Eban undertook to supply them to him. Mr. Eban said that a correspondent in New York of the Israel newspaper Ma’Ariv had apparently got wind of the story through United Nations sources. Mr. Eban said he had been able to persuade him not to send this story.

The Under Secretary said that as of now all we could hope was that April 24 would pass without incident. Mr. Eban said that Israel was taking all precautions. They would be discreet about the discussions which had taken place. The Israel tenth anniversary, however, was not an ordinary occasion. There was world interest in it.5

The Under Secretary wondered whether the exchange between Prime Minister Ben Gurion and the Secretary General would be [Page 51]published.6 Mr. Eban doubted that it would. It was agreed that the press would be told that Mr. Eban had come to inform the Under Secretary of the assurances which Israel had given to the United Nations.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 784.00/4–2358. Confidential. Drafted by Bergus on April 24 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. Not printed.
  3. Not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 684A.86/4–2358)
  4. No record of this telephone conversation has been found.
  5. On April 25, the Consulate in Jerusalem reported that the parade had been unimpressive except for 80 tanks and 36 guns, and that the crowds were well-behaved. (Telegram 329; Department of State, Central Files, 884A.424/4–2558)
  6. Copies of this correspondence were transmitted in telegrams 1195 and 1202 from USUN, April 22 and 23. (Ibid., 884A.424/4–2258 and 884A.424/4–2358)