119. Telegram From the Embassy in the United Arab Republic to the Department of State1

8333. For Battle from Yost. Ref: State 205157.2

Agree that Arab unity is fragile affair and present display will not last indefinitely. However, there is agreement among those I have consulted that it has been extremely well orchestrated and has acquired sufficient momentum to carry it for some time, certainly several weeks.
While popular enthusiasm is helpful, and can be turned on and off with relative ease, it is not essential, at least in UAR, to maintaining firm military and political posture. This depends almost wholly on leaders and armed forces. There is little likelihood of “battle fatigue” among either of these in near future.
There is little question that passage of time without serious challenge to UAR or Arab positions would create more flexible situation and less heated atmosphere. However, continued public challenge to UAR position on Aqaba and reports of maritime powers preparing to break blockade by force constitute built-in issue on which to keep tempers at high pitch and maintain Arab unity at current or higher level.
I recognize problem Department faces in endeavoring to restrain Israelis from military action by assuring them of alternative means of breaking blockade. However, as long as prospect either of Israeli attack or Western use of force in straits seems imminent, Arab excitement and unity will probably mount rather than decline.
Crisis could probably be defused if way could be found to put Aqaba issue on ice for few weeks. However, this would presumably require either UAR temporarily permitting oil to pass or Israel temporarily acquiescing in oil being excluded. We doubt Nasser could tolerate former without unacceptable loss of face.
If crisis could be defused in this respect, we believe, barring accidents or provocations, modus vivendi governing other elements of [Page 218] problem, such as UN observers along UAR-Israeli frontier, could probably be worked out. Under these circumstance passions would cool off and traditional Arab diversity be likely to reassert itself.
This estimate is based on assumption, which I am inclined to believe is correct but cannot vouch for, that Nasser will be satisfied at this juncture with substantial restoration status quo ante 1956 and will not exploit or be swept along by present Arab euphoria to claim further gains at Israeli expense. Of course, longer crisis continues at current temperature greater is danger bids might be raised on both sides.
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL ARAB–ISR. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Repeated Priority to USUN. Received and passed to the White House at 11:58 a.m. A copy was sent to the President by Walt Rostow at 4:05 p.m. with a note describing it as “an evenhanded view” from Yost. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis, Vol. III)
  2. In telegram 205157 to Cairo, May 31, Battle responded to Yost’s views in Document 100. He stated that past experience had shown that “bursts of Arab determination and ‘unity’ were of relatively short duration,” and he asked, “Are we right in assuming that passage of time without direct Israel challenge to UAR or Arab positions would make more flexible situation in which to work?” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL ARAB–ISR)