25. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Rountree) to the Secretary of State1


  • Israel Ambassador’s Call, Monday, June 30, 1958, 3:00 PM


Ambassador Eban is returning to Israel on or about July 8 for two months’ leave and consultation. As a follow-up to his general discussion of the Near East situation with you on May 262 he has submitted the attached memorandum,3 the contents of which he may wish to discuss further with you at your next meeting with him on June 30.

The memorandum is an ably written document aimed at demonstrating the feasibility and desirability of centering the spread of Nasser-Soviet influence throughout the Middle East and Africa. Its specific recommendations include:

The West should again make clear to Nasser and the Soviets its support for the integrity of Middle East states and its opposition to any claims of hegemony of leadership.
U.S. and Western commitments to Middle Eastern states should be broadened to include assistance in repelling aggression from any quarter.
Defense plans should be concerted with each of the free countries of the region.
Economic aid programs of broader scope should be undertaken among free Middle East states.
The U.S. should make explicit its opposition to Nasserism.
Anti-Nasser countries in the area should be encouraged to cooperate among themselves, according to particular circumstances.
There should be a further development of NATO interest in the area.
The United Nations should be pressed to give the fullest support to Lebanon, including a United Nations force, if required.

Mr. Eban does not feel that there should be an initiative looking toward settlement of the Palestine problem at this time. He does, however, think that the U.S. should make clear to the USSR and the Arab states its deep interest in Israel’s independence and integrity.

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Aside from the general discussion, Mr. Eban may mention certain matters pending between the two Governments including:

Yarmuk River Project: Israel wishes to be assured that its downstream interests in the Yarmuk and Jordan rivers will not be impaired by the East Ghor project presently being undertaken by the Kingdom of Jordan with U.S. assistance. The Israelis also seek assurance that the U.S. would be willing to assist in financing development by Israel of a part of the Jordan River system at a point other than Jisr Banat Ya’acoub in the demilitarized zone.
Arms Requests: The Israelis seek to purchase from us a number of items including 150 halftracks, 50 106mm recoilless rifles (they are aware that we have supplied these weapons to Jordan and Lebanon), and .50 caliber machine guns.
Arab Union Propaganda: Mr. Eban may request that we urge Iraq and Jordan to desist from anti-Israel propaganda and what the Israelis consider provocative acts by Jordan in the area of Mt. Scopus.


General: That you comment generally on Mr. Eban’s memorandum and the present situation in the Middle East. You might wish to make the following points:
We feel that both Nasser and the Soviets are aware of our deep interest in the independence of Middle East states. We have had occasion to call Nasser’s attention to this most forcefully in the context of recent developments.
The U.S. has made clear its opposition to aggression in the area. The question of broadening our formal commitments in this respect raises complex constitutional issues in this country.
While we frankly do not anticipate an improvement in our relations with Nasser, we have not yet reached the point where we believe Free World interests would be served by burning all of our bridges.
NATO interest in the Middle East is developing to an encouraging degree and has been fostered by the present Lebanese crisis. We hope that this trend will continue and intend to work along these lines. We do not believe that this is a matter which can be rushed, however, due to significant differences of view within NATO as to questions involving relations between individual NATO members and various Near East states, as well as over what role if any NATO should play in the Middle East.
We strongly support the maximum feasible United Nations role in the Lebanese situation as we believe that the only satisfactory solution to this crisis is one brought about by the Lebanese themselves, with United Nations assistance. The complexities of the Lebanese situation appear to have created a certain hesitancy on the part of the United Nations Secretary General and the observer mission.
Specific Mutters:
Yarmuk River Project: You understand that a reply to the Israel memorandum of April 2, 19584 is approaching the final stages of preparation.
Arms Requests: While we recognize Israel’s need to maintain its defense establishment at an appropriate level, we frankly would prefer to defer action on the Israel requests for military vehicles and shooting weapons for the present. Delivery by us of such items to Israel at this time might, we believe, be used as a means of undermining the positions of friendly Arab states. We would hope that Israel could again canvass the possibilities of acquiring this equipment from other sources. We understand that Israel is obtaining 100 halftracks in the United Kingdom.
Arab Union and Scopus Dispute: We have made clear to the states of the Arab Union our position on the Palestine dispute and our hope that every effort will be made to maintain the present relative tranquility. They evidently feel impelled to make use of the Palestine dispute in their propaganda in order to prove their Arabism. We doubt that they can be persuaded otherwise. With respect to Mt. Scopus and the present difficulties there, while we do not wish to assess the degree of blame on either party, it is our belief that Israel can not avoid a considerable measure of responsibility for the build-up of the current tension. We particularly urge the fullest cooperation by Israel with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization. (You might point out that you made a similar representation to Mr. Eban prior to his departure for Israel a year ago.)5 We would deplore the Scopus situation’s developing to a point where the U.S. Government was forced to take a public position on it in the Security Council or elsewhere.

Messrs Rockwell and Bergus of NE will accompany on this call.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 780.00/6–2858. Secret. Drafted by Bergus on June 27; cleared by Wilcox, EUR, and W/MSC; initialed by Rountree; and sent through S/S. A handwritten notation on the source text indicates that Dulles saw it.
  2. A memorandum of Dulles’ conversation with Eban, primarily concerning Lebanon, is ibid., Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199.
  3. Not attached. A copy of the 11-page memorandum is ibid., Central Files, 780.00/6–658.
  4. See footnote 3, Document 14.
  5. Not further identified.