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167. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Location of Diplomatic Missions in Israel


  • Ambassador Avraham Harman of Israel
  • Mr. Mordechai Gazit, Minister, Embassy of Israel
  • Mr. Shaul Bar-Haim, Counselor, Embassy of Israel
  • NEA—Assistant Secretary Phillips Talbot
  • NEA—Deputy Assistant Secretary James P. Grant
  • NEA/NEWilliam L. Hamilton

Ambassador Harman devoted forty minutes of an hour’s conversation to this subject. He protested in very strong terms the Department’s practice of informing other governments that in accord with U.N. resolutions the international community refuses to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and that most governments, accordingly, have located their diplomatic missions in Tel Aviv. His remarks complemented objections voiced by Israel Foreign Minister Golda Meir when she summoned Ambassador Walworth Barbour January 12 (cf. Tel Aviv’s telegram No. 348)1 but differed somewhat in intensity and content. According to Harman, the status of Jerusalem is an issue on which the two [Page 415]governments had defined their differences many years ago and had tried to accommodate by an elasticity of approach which added up to a modus vivendi. His Government had been under the impression that both sides shared a desire not to “elevate” the problem to an issue. Because this effort has met with considerable success, he said, the Israel Government is distressed by United States initiative in volunteering its views to third governments, most recently in the case of Ethiopia. Does the United States assume, he asked, that it has a United Nations mandate to make the problem an issue of principle? (Note: Mrs. Meir told Ambassador Barbour she had been assured by then Acting Secretary Herter on March 9, 1959,2 that the United States would not take the initiative but explain the situation only if its advice were requested. Ambassador Harman treated the Herter-Meir conversation with much more caution, only hinting that his Government had been led to expect different practices from those pursued with the Ethiopians.)

Mr. Talbot replied that United States policy has not changed since 1952, when U.S. objections to Israel’s establishing its capital in Jerusalem had been expressed in an Aide-Mémoire.3 The juridical position and the United States interpretation of it remain unchanged. He admitted that U.N. resolutions, intended only to have a temporary effect pending more permanent settlements, have after the lapse of years produced difficulties and anomalies which would prevail indefinitely. It is difficult to believe, he said, that new governments would not be interested in determining why most diplomatic missions remain in Tel Aviv.

Ambassador Harman reiterated his question as to why the U.S. feels it has a mandate to keep people posted on this particular U.N. position, describing it as inconsistent with U.S. silence on other U.N. resolutions. He referred to a Washington Post report that Marshal Amer of Egypt had suggested that Dutch ships would be denied Suez Canal passage and asked why the United States had not pronounced its views on this statement.

Mr. Talbot replied that, press comments aside, the United States is just as precise with governments in defining positions on other United Nations resolutions. No government, he said, has any difficulty ascertaining U.S. views on any resolution, and this applies to those on freedom of transit.

Ambassador Harman said that the case of Ethiopia had some special characteristics. It had produced two deviations from what Israel had hoped was United States policy. In the first place, U.S. remarks had not [Page 416]been solicited and, in the second, U.S. remarks were not expressed as representing its own reasons for maintaining its Embassy in Tel Aviv but as advice to Ethiopia as to how it should decide.

Mr. Talbot said he could not agree there is any great difference between an expression of U.S. views unsolicited or volunteered. In conversations between officials, a U.S. viewpoint might be expressed in response to an inquiry volunteered for reasons of U.S. interest.

Ambassador Harman rejoined that there is a deep, substantive difference. When the United States volunteers a viewpoint, he said, no responsible government would conclude that it is less than serious, urgent, and important.

To this Mr. Talbot replied that the converse is also true.

Ambassador Harman introduced other subjects which were discussed for a quarter of an hour, but as he prepared to leave he said he wanted to return once more to the Jerusalem issue, saying he would appreciate assurances by Mr. Talbot that when it appeared other countries are considering where to locate their diplomatic missions in Israel, the United States will not volunteer its views, expressing them only if solicited.

Mr. Talbot gave him no encouragement. He said that the problem is a difficult and complex one, and because it has these characteristics he had studied the record of our policy to determine (a) whether our policy had changed since 1952, and (b) on what rationale, if any, would a change be warranted. On a basis of this investigation, he said, he found no evidence of a change or of reason to change. He expressed his general agreement with the position Ambassador Barbour had taken in his conversation with Mrs. Meir.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 601.0084/1–1862. Confidential. Drafted by Hamilton on January 22. The source text is labeled “Part I of IV.” Other portions of the conversation were recorded in separate memoranda of conversation not filed with the source text. A briefing memorandum prepared by Strong for Talbot is ibid., 601.0084A/1–1762.
  2. Reference is to telegram 438 from Tel Aviv, January 15. (Ibid., 611.84/1–1562)
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1958–1960, vol. XIII, pp. 151 152.
  4. Dated July 9, 1952; for text, see ibid., 1952–1954, vol. IX, Part 1, pp. 960 963, and Department of State Bulletin, August 4, 1952, p. 181.