Sunday, May 1, 2016

19 - Sharett Remarks, Knesset FADC, July 21, 1954

1. Anglo-Egyptian negotiations on the Suez evacuation
It is clear in view of all signs and of what we were plainly told that England is making a very serious attempt to end the Suez complication; at the same time it informed us that it is not sure whether it will succeed. First, there is a rebellion in Parliament, the results of which are not clear. Second, it takes into account a possibility of internal turbulence which could disrupt this attempt. Third, England doesn't know in advance how Nasser and the military junta will react.
The change which occurred in the British position regarding the negotiations is in some measure favorable to us. I wouldn't say that it happened in order to pacify or satisfy us; [yet] it could be the result of some influence [exerted] by us. Anyway, in effect it is favorable. The change is that instead of leaving much materiel in place and entering into difficult bargaining with Egypt regarding who will be master of this equipment and what would be done with it in time of crisis, and what is the definition of “time of crisis” – it was decided to remove it. As far as arms – everything; as far as supplies – almost all. They want to leave behind a bare minimum. What would be left behind would be their property; it would be closed off. Possibly there remain many details still to be negotiated.
Perhaps I should have said thus first: We, at a very early stage of these developments, appealed to England with a formal request that it should maintain contact with us and inform us throughout all phases of this negotiations: to recognize us as an interested party. I cannot say that we received a formal note in response, recognizing us as an interested party, but it informed us that it accepts this request and that it will keep us abreast from time to time of the process. Recently it informed us in utmost secrecy of what I have just said here. It would scandalous if, in spite of the trust I put in the members of this Committee, anything leaks out.
As far as we know, Egypt is prepared to agree that the Canal bases would be activated in any case it or any Arab country, or Turkey, is attacked. If this is true, then it means an agreement by Egypt to be involved in a war. This is why there is a fear of [Nasser’s] rebellious neutralism.
This has nothing to do with NATO. It is an agreement between England and Egypt. They would probably transfer their army mainly to Cyprus; some things to Jordan and understandably to Libya. They have informed us that they are aware of our situation. The Tripartite Declaration [of May 1950; WebDoc #1] would be renewed. They said they would not tolerate anti-Israeli aggression and would intervene against it.
In addition, they said that in their policy of selling arms they will act according to the Tripartite Declaration, i.e., that an equilibrium would be kept. But in their opinion one plane given us is equivalent to three given to the other side in view of our technical superiority.
In the preamble of the agreement they will include approval or a promise by Egypt to maintain free passage through the Canal. However, when we asked if this means that we would be able to sail oil tankers, their response was in fact negative.
As far as America is concerned, it is clear that if an Anglo-Egyptian agreement is signed, America will supply arms to Egypt. This was already decided during the Truman-Acheson period. I differentiate between granting and selling of arms. America is talking about granting; England – about selling. While England says it would see to an equilibrium, America declared it would grant arms to Egypt but not to us – the reasoning being that Egypt would from now on guard the Canal.
Clearly, the end result of all this is serious. This will bring Egypt nearer to the western powers, and undoubtedly would enhance Iraq's leaning on the West, and this would change the political balance of power to our detriment. Second, even if Egypt receives the British arms stored in the Canal [zone bases], the very fact of its domination over the Canal zone means an enormous strategic enhancement of Egypt's position, which may be directed against us.
What would Egypt's intention towards us be cannot be known. Saleh Salem, the Egyptian Minister of Guidance, declared in Beirut that after they arrive at an agreement with England , they would settle their account with us. Following this, [British Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Selwyn] Lloyd expressed in Parliament his deep regret over such a statement. Salem then said his words had been distorted in the press, but didn't say in what sense. There is also Nasser's declaration that they will deal with relations with Israel.
Clearly, as far as we are concerned, this is a very serious turn of events and we must seriously deliberate our policy. We shall certainly send a note to England regarding this matter. We shall appeal to America. We shall have to enlist public opinion, the press and the Congress. We should say: No arms to the Arab states as long as there is no peace. These are not arms for defending democracy. They have no interest in democracy. These arms would be directed against us. A second slogan: The Tripartite Declaration is meaningless. It doesn't bind them to anything concrete. It can be interpreted that in case of aggression against us they would appeal to the UN. It cannot be compared to granting us arms.
At the same time we must do everything possible to expand our arms purchasing. There are all kinds of ideas in this respect. I will not discuss this subject now. Let me just say that it is not unrelated to the German reparations, but here one must not utter one word, for the Germans promised the Arabs not to arm us.
The lines of communication between us and the Egyptians are there, but are dormant, because recent attempts to revive them failed. It seems they are under the impression that we are too threatening. We have activated these lines for a long time, first and foremost in order to find out if they were prepared to consider a face-to-face meeting, with no commitments. This result has not been attained.
As to passage through the Gulf of Aqaba, the present situation is that all ships sailing to Eilat and back are unhindered. What happens if a ship flying an Israeli flag sails there is not clear. We should make an attempt. If its passage is prevented, the question of our responding by force would arise, and this depends on various considerations. For instance, if we bomb an Egyptian position they may bomb Eilat or attack us. But so far this question has not arisen.
It should be clear that any attempt by us to act forcefully regarding passage to Eilat and in the Canal cannot but initiate a strong negative response in two ways: 1) From the [western] powers interested in agreement with Egypt, for they would claim we are spoiling everything; 2) If matters reach the Security Council, there would always arise the question of who started it, which party was the aggressor, and these two considerations are connected, because these powers decide matters there in many respects.
I would like to bring to your attention that in the Cabinet debate regarding the development budget, only two ministers demanded forcefully that the building of the port of Eilat should start immediately. The prime minister was one of them.

2. Johnston’s Water Plan
After Johnston’s visit to Cairo and his statement there with his Arab interlocutors, I sent him an oral message through his people who still stayed here and later met with him in Rome. I informed him that I thought he owed me an explanation regarding what happened in Cairo. Later, when he arrived in Washington, I wrote him a letter. Then he wrote me, stating that he had not clinched anything with the Arabs but, as before, he hoped that in time it would be possible to bring the sides into agreement. Later, in view of what was reported in the press, he stated he had not touched at all in Cairo upon the B’not Yaakov issue. Still, a second letter was sent to him, and I am expecting an answer.

3. Israel’s Relations with the IJMAC
Let me remind you that there was no decision taken to leave the IJMAC because of Jordan's refusal to discuss Article XII with us. This decision was taken after the Ma’ale Akrabim [outrage] and in view if the IJMAC Chairman’s behavior in this matter. This was an ad-hoc decision, not one forever and forever. When such a demonstrative step is taken, it is incumbent to weigh whether it is meant to be forever, or if it is taken in order create a certain impression but that clearly, later, a way back should be sought. In actual fact, the armistice regime continues. The situation along the borders continues. And we must learn from experience. For instance, yesterday an incident happened near Netiv Halamed Heh. The Jordanians claim our tractor crossed the border into their territory. They opened fire. They tabled a complaint and claimed they had to defend themselves. We did not complain and said a tractor was not a gun, because we could not table a complaint – if we don’t participate in the commission, we cannot complain. Now, what the outside world knows is that the Jordanians claimed that we violated the armistice agreement. Our press gave our version of the incident – but a complaint was not tabled. What does the outside world know? That we were the violator.
Thus an unbearable situation has been created. How can we return to the Commission? If we gain satisfaction by the removal of the IJMAC chairman [E. H.] Hutchison, we can go back and give the Commission another chance. [But] there is a limit to the efficacy of boycotting. Our return to the Commission must be carried out without us humiliating ourselves. If we do not return once Hutchison is removed, we will not get a better opportunity. It is the only opportunity. If we have not decided to get out of all the MACs, then there is no wisdom in boycotting the most important one.
Let me reiterate: I was aware right from the beginning that by us leaving the IJMAC we were not finishing it off. And if we are not destroying it, then, sooner or later, we shall have to go back to it when our demonstrative step is spent. The question is on what basis shall we return. Clearly, we can return on the basis of some step which satisfies our insulted honor. And this step is the replacement of the chairman. This is something elementary, everywhere. Hutchison’s mandate was not renewed, but he was able to save face by being told that he would go in November, and then he said he would not ask for a renewal. The campaign against Hutchison in the Israeli press was detrimental. I think it brought shame on the State of Israel and the Israeli press. I summoned the journalist of Yediot Ahronot whose report on Hutchison was headlined: “A son of a Bitch” and told him that, as one who was once a journalist, I am deeply furious at his wording. It is possible that without that [press campaign] Hutchison’s term would have been shortened.