Saturday, April 30, 2016

13 - Excerpts from the Cabinet Meeting of June 20, 1954

Defense Minister Lavon reported: “About three months earlier an appropriate request was made to the US Government to invite the CoS for a visit to instruction installments of the US Army. The State Department responded positively, but an official invitation did not arrive. Later, when the American General Trudeau arrived on a courtesy visit to the CoS, he was carrying an invitation, but instead of handing it over he said: ‘I hear that you are about to visit the USA, this is very good.’ We could not consider this as an appropriate invitation. It seems Trudeau passed through Istanbul when the American Ambassadors in the Middle East convened there, and probably they convinced him that officially inviting the Israeli CoS would be detrimental to American-Arab relations. After all this, our Washington Embassy inquired at the State Department about what had happened. They put the onus on the Pentagon. We again asked that Eban demand an official, respectable invitation. My opinion is that unless an official invitation is received we should give up the CoS's visit.”

Prime Minster Sharett: “When the issue of the visit arose, I found it had both positive and negative aspects. On the one hand, I thought a visit carried out not for a specific military purpose was unnecessary. On the other hand, I thought it was a good idea that, in view of circumstances at the time – this was close to the Qibya affair – the visit would carry some political importance since it would create the impression that there is some cooperation between the two armies. It would have also impressed the Arab states that something is brewing. Meanwhile, the Pentagon informed our military attaché in Washington [Chaim Herzog] that they were expecting the CoS. Apparently they want to meet with him and appraise his personality. Our Embassy people said it would be quite awkward if we insisted on an official invitation after the various announcements that the CoS is a welcomed guest.
“At this juncture I decided to push the matter further, since I consider the visit very desirable, and this morning, during Russell’s visit at my office for another purpose to which I will refer shortly, I told him our people were confused in view of the strange situation created around the visit, since the expected letter of invitation was not handed over. The Israeli CoS cannot beseech the Pentagon. If he is a welcome guest, then he should receive a written invitation. Russell said he would raise the matter with Washington.
“As to Russell’s visit, he came in order to inform me of a tripartite initiative regarding Jordan and Israel with a view to bettering the situation along the borders [the 11-point aide-memoire]. We know that these suggestions were worked out during consultations between the Americans and the British, but out of friendliness and courtesy they asked the French to join in. They decided to first table these suggestion before the Jordanians and explained this procedure by saying that we are people with a healthy, normal psychology while the Jordanians are a bit sick in this respect; if the suggestions were first put before the Israelis, then the Arabs would be sure that they had been concocted in Jerusalem. I did not read the aide-memoire given to me by Russell so that I would not have to respond to its content immediately.”
Defense Minister Lavon, who was asked to give his opinion of the aide-memoire, said it was a harmful document on several accounts. It changes the status of the UN from a mediator into a governing body, into a new High Commissioner [recalling British rule over Palestine during the Mandate period]. Second, it calls for territorial changes, including free passage between Gaza Strip and Jordan, to be executed without an agreement between the two parties concerned.
Next, Sharett reported on recent conversations with Johnston’s aides in view of today’s scheduled meeting with Johnston. It became clear that the Lebanese were adamant on not involving the Litani waters in any regional water plan, both at present and in future. On the other hand, under American pressure, the Arabs have ceased their opposition to the use of the Jordan waters outside the Jordan basin.
Lavon then reported about the Mevo Betar incident. Three members of the settlement were murdered. According to the footprints and blood stains it is clear that the incident took place inside Israeli territory. How and why the three got to the place of murder is now under investigation. Lavon also reported that a UN observer who came to Mevo Betar for the purpose of investigating the murders was attacked physically by one of the “understandably agitated” settlers, who was stopped by an IDF officer. “Our friend Hutchison,” Lavon noted, has “already made a fuss about it”.