Saturday, July 23, 2016

90 - Two Reports of Meetings between FM Sharett, US Emissary Robert Anderson, and others, January 1956

(A) Herzog's Report of Meeting of January 25, 1956

            The Emissary [Anderson]: I wanted to clarify one point, On the other side only possibilities were mentioned and not the will to carry them out. The problems I raised are new and that has to be clear here.
            Sharett: I believe they approached Arab notables in Israel to find out whether, in their opinion, our desire for peace is sincere. That happened in the last few days. They did not reveal to the people who were asked that something was under consideration.
            The Emissary: It seems to me, from our discussions, that you here are moving much faster and have more definite ideas about what can be achieved. I am going to Egypt now for only two or three days. If the question of the meeting is raised during my talk with Nasser, I should not like to find myself in a position in which I would have to tell him that he must give a reply within a day or two, otherwise it would be interpreted as a mark of ill will. I would rather he said to me, “I must think about it.” I don’t want to be in a position of pressure, so that when I come back here in three days you will think I have failed.
            Sharett: I understand your position, but on the other side they must know that the President of the United States and you believe that the situation is urgent and that you must know whether it is possible or not. The problem is not a new one for them. Nasser has undoubtedly thought a great deal about it. Since the new regime came to power he has made attempts to establish direct contact, not only between Ben-Gurion and Nagib or between Nasser and me. Letters have been exchanged through various channels. And in one case a reply was received.
            There was an exchange of letters in April 1953, before the fall of Nagib. The reply came from Nasser. It was not sent directly to us, but a certain official handed it to us. (Sharett read out the Israeli letter and Nasser’s reply.) In December 1954, a British Member of Parliament, a Jew, went to Nasser on behalf of the World Jewish Congress—an institution that defends Jewish rights all over the world; for example, they are active now in Morocco. He came to me before he went to Cairo. He visited Cairo on three occasions, and after seeing Nasser he was in contact with Ali Sabri.
            At the same time there was a second contact in Paris. Nasser sent one of his men to Paris, where we had some of our people, and there was an exchange of letters. A number of Egyptian Jews were arrested in Cairo and we worked to save them from the scaffold. We did not succeed: our operation in Gaza at the beginning of 1955 had no connection with the death penalties in Cairo; it was a reply to fedayeen operations from the Gaza Strip. I approached Nasser several times through an emissary to get these operations stopped—but I received no response. If Nasser thinks that the Gaza operation was meant to start a war, he is mistaken, and he does not adequately evaluate all the damage done by the fedayeen. He must understand that we cannot endure penetrations across the border to strike at our people. We knew that these operations were organized by the Egyptian army. He must understand that our operation was not meant to bring about war or to get him removed from his position.
            Since then there has been no more direct contact between us. A Quaker named Jackson came here in August or October, and he went to Egypt to bring about an exchange of prisoners. For a time it seemed that Nasser was interested in that.
            The best thing would be if it was possible to arrange a meeting in Cairo. That would give Nasser complete confidence that he would control the talks. Either he would participate in them himself, or his representative, who could be in constant contact with him. This might appear surprising—but in Cairo it would be possible to maintain complete secrecy. If they are held in some other place— in Geneva, for instance—Nasser’s presence would be known, and he would have to explain what he was doing there. On the other hand, in Cairo a meeting could be hermetically concealed. If they want a settlement, they must want a meeting, and the best place for a meeting of this kind is Cairo.
            The Emissary: As I pointed out in my first talk, it seems unlikely that a meeting can be arranged on the highest possible level. I do not even know if I can arrange a meeting on a lower level, but I will try. I am certain that Nasser is concerned with his political problems. There is a second point: several times during our talks you referred to Nasser’s control of the press and the radio. I admit I don’t know the entire situation, but he said several times that there are forces in the press and the radio that he does not control. That no doubt refers to the press and radio in other countries.
            Sharett: Yes, but in Egypt he is the undisputed ruler.
            The Emissary: Can I say in Egypt that you promise secrecy and that I have heard that there have been contacts which have been kept secret?
            Sharett: Yes, and one more remark about the things you said about an undertaking or letter to the President about the cease-fire. We do not demand that he should publicly proclaim a cease-fire, but, on the other hand, a letter to the President will be of no value unless a military order on the subject is issued. A Government is not obliged to publish military orders. We published them because the United Nations was involved. The main thing is that he should issue an order.
            The Emissary: I do not know what the form of orders in Egypt is. But what we want to avoid is a deterioration, and therefore since there have already been attempts at a cease-fire, what is required now is a more vigorous and stringent order that will keep the peace.

SOURCE: Ben-Gurion, My Talks with Arab Leaders, 293-95.  Cf. Anderson’s one-page note on the meeting in USNA NEA Lot File 59D582 Box34.

(B) Sharett's Summary Report to Eban, January 26, 1956

Last night the guest [Anderson] returned to Egypt; he spent three days and nights here. We had six long conversations, five at my home. [- - -] Ben [Kermit Roosevelt] and Yaacov [Herzog] wrote down most. The guest demonstrated frankness seriousness and much power of penetration, empathy to Israel as well.
Here are the main points:
          1) Guest summarized N[asser's] attitude as rigid re territory. Without contiguity [between Egypt and Jordan] under Arab sovereignty, N doesn't see chances for a settlement.
          2) His attitude was more flexible re refugees and his demand is that they be given freedom of choice; he doesn't mind if in practice they do not return, except for a few, as long as he would not be accused of giving up their right.
          3) It became clear that N. is prepared to consider the possibility of a meeting, however most certainly not a summit now and unclear whether now at a lower level.
          4) N. reiterated that his decisive consideration is to keep his supreme position within his [ruling] group, and the group's position in Egypt and in the surrounding world. He even mentioned the danger of his assassination.
          5) N. warned and repeated warning that conversations and their contents must be kept secret. He shared this only with Zakaria [Muhi al-Din].
          6) Guest stressed in his talk with N. importance of direct contact [with Israelis] but did not ask him point-blank if he is prepared to send a high-level representative for an immediate meeting since he was not sure whether we would be prepared to a meeting lower than summit. Now that we said yes, he would posit this question.
           7) The guest stated that he doesn't see himself as mediator who forwards proposals and opinions, and not as a judge appraising the two sides' positions, but as a helper who is only assisting in creating an atmosphere enabling a meeting and as one who clears up the measure of negotiability [orig. in English] of the problems and the possibility of bringing the ends closer to each other. It is clear to him that only responsible representatives of the sides can take positions and oblige their states.
           8) The guest presented the idea that the two sides would state to the [US] President in writing their being prepared to establish complete cease-fire and punish its violators, and their intention of advancing towards a settlement of the issues. We agreed with the proposal including concretely ceasing fire and we would adhere to it even if it is not publicized. The guest took it upon himself to propose the punishing of violators but we explained that statement was not enough unless a strict order is issued to [sic. for by?] N. He explained that his intention was to establish punishment by one party instead of retaliation by the other. We agreed with this too, with a reservation re possibility of an attack by the other side which would oblige an intensive operation by us immediately and on the very spot, as in the case of Mefalsim [August 1955]. 
        9) The guest lectured in detail about N.'s explanation of his position towards the West and of his [Czech arms] deal. N. claimed it was entirely on account of Baghdad Pact in complete accordance with my own lecture to Dulles and Macmillan in Paris [in October 1955]. The Pact, said N., was a new instrument for foreign domination, especially British, over the Middle East.
         10) It was clear that, apart from a settlement with Israel, the relationship between N. and the US was a major subject in the guest's conversations with N. The measure of Russian penetration and its results seem to have had an important impact.
          11) We stated and explained that not only were we interested in peace but that we believed it was possible in view of there not being any intrinsic conflicts between Israel and Egypt.
          12) We elaborated on the great possibilities of a close alliance and mutual help between us and Egypt and other neighbors especially for implementing the economic and social revolution of N.'s plan.
          13) We decidedly rejected [Nasser's claim to territorial] contiguity [with Jordan] on the grounds of our well-known reasoning.
          14) We rejected freedom of choice [by the refugees] and noted possibility of accepting "x" thousands within a larger framework of family reunification which could serve N. in justifying his position. We explained that Arabs who are already residing in Israel's would serve a basis for absorption, but no government would take upon itself economic and security-related responsibilities for direct absorption of new Arab families. The guest mentioned this possibility as beneficial in the last concluding conversation.
          15) We set down direct meeting as an ultimate condition for any move forward since only this step would demonstrate, first, a trustworthy and real will for settlement and second, a beginning of coming to terms and establishing mutual trust. Third, the possibility of uprooting false concepts and planting new ones by presenting a chance for peace and cooperation in a new light while finding horizons on the background of which the values of today's oppositional motives would be weakened. Fourth, a possibility for a fruitful effort on our part to understand the roots of the other side's position and to propose the satisfying of his wishes by other means.
          16) We stressed that a meeting should be held with no conditions and no fixing in advance any scope or agenda. Those who would meet would agree on an agenda and would be free to decide on subjects of an all-out and final settlement or a partial and initial settlement, or just a solution to one or two problems, or only preparing the ground for negotiations by ceasing hostile acts, avoidance of hostile propaganda etc. A possibility of a non-aggression agreement as an in-between stage was mentioned s well. I termed the aim of the meeting as "to explore possibilities of understanding" [orig. in English]
          17) Following the explanation given in para (7) the guest asked at a later stage whether we had any preliminary proposals which he could throw at N. on our behalf, or as arising from our position. We warned him and suggested that he explains that if we came to a meeting it stands to reason that we would posit all kinds of proposals.
          18) We said also that even if results would not be achieved [at first] we would not see the meeting as a failure but as a stage moving forward, for each of the parties would have learned something from the other and a personal contact would have been established.
          19) We gave our word that the matter would be kept top secret in the future even if we met and departed without agreement.
          20) We stressed the decisive importance of a summit meeting but noted among possibilities my meeting with a person of equal standing, not necessarily a colleague but somebody trusted by N. without diplomatic niceties, but warned against lowering the level to unauthorized officials. During his dinner with me the guest explained that, given the [Egyptians'] nervous fear re secrecy, he was assuming that either Zakaria only would remain party to the affair, or just one person more, so this ensures no excessive lowering. However Zakaria too is afraid of speaking out without N. ['s approval] and therefore there is fear that the representative would ask for confirmation for every word and things would drag on.
          21) Later on in the conversations we let loose our imagination and divulged our preference for the meeting taking place in their capital [i.e., Cairo] since this would ensure first a frequent and immediate contact with N., and second, top secrecy, for only there it could be completely guaranteed by the party most interested in it.
          22) We warned against delaying tactics even though we gave in to guest's plea to not demand a precise date within few days for a yes or no answer. We demanded submitting the matter as most urgent for the President since he had to know in what direction things were going and what policy he should pursue right now.
          23) In spite all our hopes and goodwill we pronounced our strong doubts re N.'s sincerity re any settlement and his interest in pursuing it in view of his far-reaching military strengthening as well as his success in financing it, and his outspoken wish of becoming the sole leader of the Arab and Islamic world and Africa which is leading him to extremes.
          24) We gave a penetrating analysis of the seriousness of the danger posed [to us by N.] and the clear and immediate obligation to supply us with arms as the only means against hostile attack. We were under the impression that the guest was aware of this necessity and would report this to the President. We have not made the provision of arms a condition for the carrying of the meeting [with Egyptian representatives] but defined it as an utmost precept and a burning matter by itself. In my face-to-face meeting [with Anderson] I summed up and said: Arms are essential and a meeting is most desirable. The PM's summing up was that if the US was unable to bring about about peace, it at least had an obligation to prevent war and this could only be by providing arms.
          25) The guest did not mention the [late February 1955] Gaza operation even in one word, perhaps taking care to avoid offending us. Still, in order to do away with N.'s repeated usual claim, I explained in detail the previous developments which had led to that operation and I requested that the guest make an effort to prove to N. that this was a reaction to murderous incursions and not a plot to provoke a war for the purpose of defeating and toppling him.
          26) I recounted the history of earlier contacts and personal correspondence [via Paris] in December 1954. I also divulged an effort made recently by N. to test through Arab sources in Israel our sincerity about wanting peace and said that this proved his serious attitude towards the guest's mission. I said this to the guest with the aim of encouraging him.
          27) During all major meetings the PM was the main speaker and was most active. Among other things the problem of maintaining security along the borders, in which the guest demonstrated special interest, was thoroughly explained.
          28) The guest promised to come back to us in few days. The days [with him] have passed under extreme tension as these most serious conversations, which have demanded unlimited time, were interwoven with the [UN] Secretary-General's visit, the conversation with Lawson, the final discussions about the MFA budget, and a multitude of foreign guests and other troubles, so this is the first [free] moment for [my] reporting.

SOURCE: Sharett to Eban, January 26, 1956, DFPI 11, doc.54. 

88 - Two Reports of Meeting between FM Sharett and US Ambassador Lawson, January 24, 1956

(A) Herzog's Reports of the Meeting
Jerusalem, January 24, 1956

Lawson was summoned tonight to Minister. Present were Hamilton, Herzog.
            The Minister opened by stating he had urgently summoned Ambassador to tell him a few things which he hopes would be transmitted to Secretary of State before his meeting with Eban [on January 25]. These are an addenda to what Eban would say.
After the Ambassador received from Minister a copy of his letter to Secretary of State [of January 16; see diary entry for that date], the Minister said the issue of arms has now reached a critical stage. It is now three months since he submitted our request [for arms] to the Secretary in Paris and Geneva. The answers he has received do not promise a chance of the United States or other Western powers providing Israel with the arms which would quantitatively balance the Czech deal, but we were told that if we handed over a modest list of defensive arms it would be received with sympathetic consideration. From the Secretary of State’s talk with journalists in Washington on October 18, 1955 it became clear that if it was found that [the Czech deal] seriously changed the balance, the United States together with other signatories would have to take steps to restore the balance. The statement by the President on October 18, 1955 – the very fact of its publication and its careful formulation – has also given the impression that there was no intention of refusing our request or to carry on endlessly delaying it. The Kinneret operation and the protracted considerations at the Security Council have delayed the answer. But neither the operation, nor the SC’s censure have changed the basic situation. For, meanwhile Soviet arms have been pouring into Egypt and the Egyptians are learning how to use them, in Egypt by Soviet and British instructors as well as in the Soviet bloc. These arms were purchased not without a purpose. We would fail by a terrible irresponsibility if we do not take into account what could Nasser do when he feels that he has reached a decisive superiority. We cannot rely on outside intervention on our behalf in case of a crisis since first there is no such obligation, and second even if there was one it could not prevent the havoc of our cities being bombed from the air before that obligation is carried out. Nasser is fully aware that we are not receiving any defensive arms which could by any means be compared to the destructive arms he is getting. We shall soon have to decide where we stand and what we are to do. The Minister was convinced that the United States was considering acting responsibly, but this obliged her to not delay its response.
If the United States is prepared to positively respond, but for various reasons is afraid of the publicity of the results of its policy, the Minister is prepared to promise that this response is kept strictly secret till the United States agrees with its publication. It is vital that the government [of Israel] or at least number of Ministers know that the provision of a certain quantity of arms is promised to us soon. Time is acting against us and soon there would be no possibility of our pilots training to catch up with [the level] of the Egyptians.
To Lawson's question whether it was the Minister intention that the proposed announcement [by the Secretary of State] should be transmitted by formal channels, or would he be satisfied with a personal transmission [to him], the Minister answered that he would accept the last alternative, i.e. that Lawson would transmit it personally, or the Secretary of State transmit it to Eban, and stressed that a promise in principle without fixing the time of its implementation was not enough. To Lawson's question whether it was the Minister’s intention that the response should relate to the list submitted by us, the Minister answered in the positive and commented that he could see an eventuality in which the US would say that we would receive a certain type [of weaponry] from France and that she would supply us with other types. There are here all kinds of possibilities.
At the end of the conversation the Minister repeated and stressed that the time for decision arrived [4 words in English]. We are entitled to know where we stand and what awaits us. The [Israel] government's situation would be highly serious if, God forbid, it would be possible to accuse it of being satisfied with a groundless illusion while at the same time losing precious time. More to come [see below]. 
Jerusalem, January 25, 1956
             During the conversation the Minister touched upon the following points:
            a) Byroade’s claim, according to US papers, that delivering arms to Israel would push Egypt even more into the Soviet bosom means that Israel should abandon itself since Nasser may ask for more MiGs in addition to the 200 provided him by the Czech deal. The world is not told that if Israel doesn't receive arms it would appeal to the Soviet Union. It is assumed that since everybody thinks that Israel would not approach the Soviet Union, its being responded to in the negative by the US is all right. This is an immoral and unfair attitude and it cannot impress Israel. We are still certain of the high responsibility the United States feels towards small countries which have tied their future to the west, and that it would assist them when their existence is threatened.
            As to Byroade's claim proper, it is difficult to see how Nasser would be able at the same time to continue playing with the Russians and still hope to receive American financial aid for the Aswan dam. And what's more, an increase of Soviet arms would mean additional mortgaging of Egyptian cotton for arms purchase. If Byroade's assumption is correct, then it is clear proof of Nasser's aim to annihilate Israel, for he is certainly aware that the arms we receive would be defensive only, and that even after we get them a big gap would still remain to his advantage. The Minister remarked that the US is delivering arms to different countries without fearing that these countries would intensify their relations with the Soviets.
            b) According to rumors, Eden will demand that the President make it a condition that providing arms to Israel would depend on Israel's readiness for large concessions to attaining a settlement. This means exploiting our serious security situation in order to shorten the road towards a settlement. The Minister would like to warn all those who are thinking or might be thinking likewise that Israel would make no concessions under pressure of a threat to its security. We will oppose this design with all our might. We are a stiff-necked people when our very existence and our age-old spiritual vision which sustain our survival are at stake. Illusions are still directing British policy. The Minister elaborated on the British failure over the Palestine issue in 1947/48 on account of their lack of appreciating our political and moral force and alluded to the British failure in Jordan in recent months [i.e., General Templer's mission to Jordan, December 1955] as a clear example of British incapacity for realistic estimation. The Foreign Office people claim to be unique experts on ME problems while ignoring the fact that their failures refute this pretension. The Minister appeals to the US to avoid the serious mistake of following British advice. This road would not lead Israel to making concessions but would push her into exasperation [2 words in English] and the US would thus become most heavily responsible by ignoring Israel's dire situation.
            c) Regarding the Ambassador's remark that public opinion in Israel seemed more relaxed recently, the Minister explained that the public was still looking forward to a positive US response, and is hoping that the worst will not happen [6 words in English]. The public has read in the press that the US response was delayed owing to the Kinneret operation [and the ensuing UN SC deliberations]. Once this affair is over, tension will mount and intensify.

SOURCE: DFPI 11, docs.45, 47.


(B) Lawson's Report of the Meeting

            Sharett called me to Jerusalem last night to inform me of Eban’s appointment with you and, as he put it, to use my “good offices” to send few personal words in addition to those you will hear from Eban this afternoon:
            He showed me copy his January 16 letter [see diary entry for this date], endorsed its contents, then spoke full hour on following lines:
            (1) He reviewed development Israel’s request to United States for arms and how [garble] which he had led himself to hope would be favorable “at least to modest extent” had been frustrated or delayed by Kinneret, leisurely Security Council deliberations, and seasonal holidays.
            (2) Meanwhile Egypt’s strength grew apace both in equipment and skill of its personnel in use of new weapons.
            (3) Time for decision had arrived for United States and Israel. To trust Nasser’s humanitarianism or statesmanship to refrain from attacking is to “tax quite unduly Israel’s capacity for wishful thinking”, to trust outside guarantees would be irresponsible. In first place there is none; if they existed they could not avail against swift blitz attack which could destroy Tel Aviv and Haifa in matter of hours. Therefore Israel must know where she is going. United States must decide in manner consistent with its traditional sense of fair play and its responsibilities to those nations, large and small, which have chosen to cast lot with west.
            (4) He then broached his main point. If it were present disposition of United States to decide to supply Israel with arms but if in existing circumstances we were inhibited from announcing it, he would personally guarantee complete secrecy of any such decision made known to GOI until it was mutually agreed to disclose it.
            Sooner or later, decision would have to be known; first, because such decisions eventually are known; and second for whatever deterrent effect it would have on aggressive intent of “other side”. Public knowledge can be indefinitely delayed but it is most important for government “or possibly only leading members of government to know”. I asked him what sort of communication he required. He replied that most informal word from me to him or from you to Eban to effect that decision in principle had been taken plus assurances of early discussion of types, quantities and deliveries would be eminently satisfactory.
            Discussion could be on basis of Israel list but there were many possibilities for flexible adjustment. US might choose to eliminate whole categories, reduce others. It might choose to encourage existing negotiations with France (presumably for Mystere IV’s).
            But Israel must have assurances as basis for formulation of policy. “It must know,” he repeated “where it is going.”
            (5) Sharett said they had one report British line of argument in Eisenhower-Eden talks [on January 30] would be that present critical circumstances Middle East require short-cut to peaceful settlement between Israel and Egypt, essential element of which would be “far-reaching concessions” by Israel. This thesis has it that Israel is so desperately pressed she can be persuaded to make such concessions if permitted to survive. Hence she must understand she can obtain no arms until she agrees.
            “Those who so believe are due for sharp disappointment. We will not make concessions which threaten our survival. We shall resist”.
            He developed extensively theme of British self-delusion as to their infallibility in Middle East despite record of failure after failure year after year. He cited Jordan where he said British had “position” which they had shaken to foundations by failure to foretell consequences of attempting to obtain Jordanian adherence to Baghdad Pact. “Now status quo ante is very best they can hope for”.
            (6) He challenged theory attributed by press to Byroade that “if United States gives or sells arms to Israel it will push Arabs, particularly Egypt, closer to Soviets and only result in Soviets supplying even greater quantities of arms to Arab States. We are told that Israel must jeopardize her own security to avoid Egyptian appeal to Soviets for couple score more MIGs to add to 200 she has already received or has been promised.
            If Egyptians demanded additional arms of Soviets as result of United States decision to supply arms to Israel, it would be clearly established that Nasser’s intent was annihilation of Israel. “He already has advantage that we cannot hope or do not want to overtake quantitatively. Why should he want to increase it if his intent is not offensive? We cannot entertain such counsel. Time is running against us. Other side has very considerable start but within limits we can still overtake them, not quantitatively, which we are not interested in, but qualitatively”.
            (7) I asked about public pressures, Sharett replying that opinion had not yet crystallized because public could still hope in absence of United States rejection. “If public ever despairs of favorable United States reply they will be in difficult mood.”
            Comment:  Sharett spoke with all exterior manifestations of his usual urbanity, but he was more serious than I have seen him in months. I believe he was speaking on line previously agreed by top leadership, including Ben Gurion. He is sincerely incredulous that we can entertain other than his evaluation of substance items 3, 5, and 6 above. He believes Israel has suffered consequences of its Kinneret action and having been censured for this transgression, chapter should be closed.
            Meanwhile, public is being conditioned to regard United States arms decision as key to their security. If disappointed, reaction will be unpredictable but I am confident it won’t be one of docile resignation to whatever fate holds.

SOURCE:  FRUS 1955-1957 XV, doc.37.

Friday, July 22, 2016

89 - Excerpts of Sharett’s Remarks, as Taken from R. Anderson’s Record of their Meeting, January 24, 1956

            1.  At Mr SHARETT’s suggestion we convened again at his home at 2030 hours. Mr SHARETT opened the conversation by stating that he and the Prime Minister had met with HAMMARSKJOLD and discussed a variety of problems, most of which concerned questions not directly related to my mission.
            2.  He could report that HAMMARSKJOLD had not obtained a cease-fire from NASR, SHARETT stated, but rather an explanation of why NASR could not issue one. He described NASR’s arguments as well known to the IG and regarded it ]sic[ as being without validity. Mr SHARETT stated that NASR had attributed certain border conflicts to the difference which existed in the employment ]sic. for deployment?[ of troops by the Israeli and Egyptian Armies. [- - -] Mr SHARETT stated that the Egyptian posts, which he described as “nervous and trigger-happy”, naturally began to fire whenever the Israeli patrols appeared unexpectedly. According to Mr SHARETT, NASR had informed HAMMARSKJOLD that he had once ordered a cease-fire which the peculiarity of Israeli defense tactics had rendered unworkable. NASR had therefore concluded that, given the existing situation, he could see no other course but to leave the border problems to General BURNS.
[- - -]
            7.  Mr BEN-GURION then proposed that I ask NASR to “make an experiment” by issuing a strict order for a cease-fire and by observing the results for one week. He argued that this would resolve the incidents there.
            8.  In view of HAMMARSKJOLD’s failure, Mr SHARETT stated, it would be most important if I could obtain a cease-fire from NASR. [- - -]
            15.  Referring again to my impending return to Cairo, I told Mr BEN-GURION that I believed it important for all of us to approach the problem by thinking of those things capable of execution and indicative of the climate we wish to create. Since their views of this basic problem would be helpful to me, I suggested that they might have proposals of a positive nature which I might adopt as my own. I reiterated that I fully realized the importance of time and that I also was aware that one does not desire to lay all the cards on the table at the time in achieving positions and making serious decisions. I requested BEN-GURION and SHARETT to give me constructive ideas which would advance the purpose of our meeting. I acknowledged that they might prefer that I keep certain recommendations in confidence, which I would do, but that I would prefer to be able to make use of them with NASR.
            16.  Mr SHARETT asked me to describe the nature of the contributions which the IG might make. I replied that thoughts as submitted on the “mobile troops”, suggestions for minimizing propaganda and enlarging the policy of readmitting Arabs to their families were all constructive and important in the progressive development of a favorable climate.
            17.  Mr SHARETT did not commit himself directly, saying instead that should the parties meet and “get down to brass tacks”, many suggestions would arise spontaneously in order to convince the other party. He took the occasion to observe that when I saw NASR I should not state “it is the IG’s desire” but “it is the IG’s firm belief” that a satisfactory and beneficial solution is possible.
[- - -]
            19.  Mr SHARETT proposed that I meet him for one-half hour the next day in order that he might explain the “past history” of Israel’s limited contacts with the Egyptians. [- - -]

SOURCE: Meeting with Israeli Officials: 24 January 1956 [Evening], USNA NEA Lot File 59D582 Box34.  Cf. Ben-Gurion, My Talks with Arab Leaders, 287-90 (incorrectly introduced as a “morning” meeting).

87 - Note of Meeting between Ben-Gurion, Sharett and UN SG Dag Hammarskjöld, January 24, 1956

            In the course of the conversation the PM asked the SG: ‘What was the major achievement which the UN could be credited for?’ I said: ‘Its very existence’. The SG enthusiastically supported this definition of mine and elaborated on it.
            The PM reported on his first meeting with Burns, in which he suggested that Burns would elicit a clear answer from Egypt whether it is prepared for a cease fire and implementation of all points of the Armistice Agreement. Burns came back empty handed, having not received any positive answer to these questions. The question is: does the United Nations agree to compromise with such a situation?
            The SG reported on his talks with Nasser and Fawzi in which he insisted on the full implementation of the Armistice Agreement. Nasser said that nobody was more interested than he was in the implementation of the agreement and of a cease-fire, however, the trouble was that Egypt and Israel were using different methods of defence. The Egyptian method was static defense while the Israeli method was a mobile one. When an Israeli patrol moved along the border and suddenly makes a 90-degree turn towards Egyptian positions, they become nervous and open fire. The SG replied to Nasser that this was not an answer; the question was: Is there is an order not to open fire? Nasser argued that there was only one solution, which was to create a situation whereby no side would see the other and then, naturally, there would be no cause for opening fire. He actually returned to his proposal of moving back the units of both sides to a distance of 500 meters from the line. The SG asked whether this was a proposal or just a model of a possible solution, and understood [from Nasser’s answer] that it was just a model and not a specific solution. He told Nasser that Burns had in fact accepted the principle of separation [of forces], but Burns was authorized to find out how this principle would be implemented at each part of the line. The SG had then asked Nasser about the raids [of armed infiltrators] which the principle of forces separation would not prevent. He said that the separation had to be accompanied by effective measures for prevention of raids and penetrations, for otherwise Israel could choose to retaliate. He stressed that the responsibility for a continuation of the present situation lay with Egypt.
            It was clear that this conversation between the SG and Nasser ended inconclusively. We stressed the fact that we were again confronted by Nasser’s clear refusal to issue an order for a cease fire. The SG extricated himself by remarking that this matter was in any case being dealt with by Burns; he did not see it as his task to resolve this problem during his present visit.
            On the other hand, he said that in his opinion, since proposals regarding Nitzana were being advanced in his name [see WebDoc #65], he should make an effort to put an end to this matter. He initially thought that this stumbling block should be taken off the road before he set out his journey, and therefore he had approached the US and Britain and asked them to influence Egypt in this direction. It turned out that Egypt preferred to give him a positive answer on this when he came to Cairo, and so it was.
            Regarding the border marking, the Egyptians position is in fact an acceptance of ours, but in a phrasing which gives them an honorable way out: The Egyptian Government agrees to the marking of the border of the demilitarized zone by UN observers “in every place where this marking is necessary.” It is obvious that Burns will decide where the marking is necessary and that he would mark only the international frontier. We asked whether this was clear to the Egyptians, and received a clear positive answer.
            Regarding the removal of Egyptian forces from the area beyond the DMZ, Fawzi claimed that they had already done that, but added that if it turns out that a force above that which is allowed still remained there, they would accept Burns’ decision unconditionally. As to the issue of Kibbutz Ketziot and that of the [Israeli] police force inside the DMZ, they [the Egyptians] did not see it as concerning them and had nothing to say.
            When the SG heard all this [the Egyptian position], he asked: Does this mean that you accept my proposals? Fawzi answered in the positive. The SG asked again: Can we announce that you have accepted my proposals? Again a positive answer. The SG then said that he preferred to have this black-on-white, and the wording of the announcement was written down on the spot with Fawzi’s approval. At this point the SG took a paper out of his pocket, put it on the table before us and asked if the wording was acceptable to us. The PM asked again if it was clear that the marking of the DMZ border meant in fact the marking of the international frontier only. The GS answered decisively that this was very certainly so, and added that Egypt’s agreement on this matter was given him in the presence of two witnesses. Then the PM pronounced his agreement. The SG said that now Burns would contact both sides for implementing the agreement.
            At this point the PM returned to the question of the cease-fire and asked how we were to understand Nasser’s position. Was a cease-fire order issued, and Nasser was only trying to justify its violation by pointing to our method of patrolling? Or was he claiming that as long as we maintained this method he would not issue this order? The SG’s answer was not clear. He maintained that Nasser seemed to be confronted by a difficulty to issue a cease-fire order and was trying to explain it away “by an emergency excuse.” [italicized words in English] The PM took the SG to the wall map, pointed to the various Israeli settlements [along the Gaza Strip] and explained the need for our method of patrolling.
            When we returned to the table, the PM asked how the SG would react if we proposed a meeting between us and the Egyptians in accordance with Article XII of the Armistice Agreement. The SG answered that he would have, of course, to accept it and convene a meeting, but it was doubtful whether any good would result. He had an idea -  one that occurred to him during this visit but has not yet ripened - to approach the four powers and ask them to bring pressure to bear on Cairo to improve the Armistice Agreement. He thought such a preliminary preparation should take place before a formal initiative is taken.
            The SG presented the statement he would like to issue upon completing his Middle East tour. The Egyptians approved the text and he now asked our approval. He assumed that other Arab governments would also approve it.
            The PM went over the text and said that, were he in the SG's place, he would not have signed it because it did not present the reality; however, he did not oppose its publication. I said that I had two questions regarding para.3, one regarding the past and the other regarding the future. The past concerns the Egyptians’ approval and the future - Jordan’s approval. Was it clear to the Egyptian leaders when they expressed their agreement with this para that it was binding them to stop opening fire, to put an end to the [economic] boycott that they are maintaining contrary to the UN Charter, as well as to the Armistice Agreement and the Security Council’s [1951] resolution [WebDoc #2] to stop interfering with Israeli shipping? And in the same vain, would it be clear to Jordan when it gives her approval of this para. that this binds her to activate Article VIII of the Armistice Agreement, i.e., to participate in the meetings of the Special Committee set up to settle our freedom access to the Mount of Olives, to Mount Scopus, to the holy places, to Latrun, etc.?
            I said that the matter of implementing Article XII could be raised in this context. On the basis of the SG’s statement we would be able to declare – without any hint of suspicion regarding the truthfulness of the Arab governments’ agreement to its contents – that we were very happy that they are willing to return to faithfully respecting the Armistice Agreements, and therefore we proposed to convene meetings in accordance with Article XII for the purpose of discussing the way of implementing the Agreement’s obligations which have not been executed to this day.
            That SG agreed that, if this was what we wanted, we would be able to rely on his declaration in the future as binding the Arab governments to a certain extent, but it would be better if we do not do this in the very near future lest the Arabs accuse him of having tricked them [orig. in English].
            At the end of this part of the meeting, I asked: Is my assumption that the three obligations included in para. 3 of the [SG’s] statement – to avoid aggressive actions, to respect the territorial integrity of the other side, and to settle any conflict by peaceful means – are to be implemented integrally? [(integral implementation) added in English] The SG answered that this was so.
            In parting, the SG again expressed his great satisfaction with his visit and his deep impression of what he saw in our country.
            The PM concluded the meeting by congratulating the SG as a member of the Swedish people, to whom we are deeply indebted for saving thousands of our brothers during the Holocaust in Europe.

            The meeting lasted about an hour and a half and was conducted in a fresh and tension-free atmosphere, as if the sky became purified after the storm which erupted between us last night.
            Next morning, when I accompanied the SG to Lod Airport, he took out the draft of his statement from his pocket and said that he was still thinking about the serious questions I had raised him regarding its para. 3, and concluded that it would be better to revise it. Instead of saying that all the parties involved have “reaffirmed their adherence to their obligations in accordance with the Charter and the Armistice Agreement, and stressed their determination to abstain from any aggressive action,” it would be said “reaffirmed their adherence in accordance with the Charter and the Armistice Agreement, and stressed their determination to abstain from any aggressive action, etc.”  I said that the meaning of the paragraph was thus diminished, for the confirming of the obligations demanded by the Charter and the Armistice Agreement was dropped out. On the other hand, I said, there was in the new draft a greater measure of honesty and harmony with reality. The SG agreed with this definition of mine and said he was very much impressed by the questions I had posed to him and, to be truthful, he had tried to draw the statement closer to reality. It was obvious that he was overcome by a fear lest he fail in attaining Jordan’s agreement to para.3 of his first draft, and therefore decided to make this easier for them. He certainly also wanted to avoid being accused of [issuing] a statement that tried to cover up the Arabs’ crimes by flowery language.
            At the time of writing this report I am unaware of the fate of the final text of the revised statement.


SOURCE: DFPI 11, doc.56.

86 - Robert Anderson Report of Lunch Meeting with FM Sharett, January 23, 1956

            1.  On Monday 23 January I lunched alone with Sharett. He made several inquiries concerning Nasser and Zacharia. He asked if they appeared to be frank. If I thought they were really concerned in a program of economic development for their country. If they used the language well. If they appeared to have an attitude of seriousness on the importance of our undertaking. I stated that both spoke good English. That occasionally there was some need for explaining particular words or phrases. That I had asked them to repeat their observations in case of doubt. That I believed they were seriously concerned with their economic and development program. He asked what this program included. I replied that it included projects of irrigation, community centers, schools, water surveys and similar efforts.
            2.  Sharett asked whether I had directly ascertained from Nasser if he would agree to representatives below the level of heads of state meeting secretly on neutral territory to discuss the issues. I replied that I had not put the question directly to Nasser, asking for a yes or no answer, but had asked him to explore the idea which he had agreed to do. I then stated that since Nasser had limited conversations on his side, the choice of such a representative might be difficult. Sharett agreed it would be much more difficult for Nasser than for Israel.
            3.  Sharett said he wanted to make two very pointed statements. He then stated that he thought I had correctly assessed the primary issue dividing the two countries as being one of territories and boundaries. He reminded me that the Prime Minister had stated that Israel could not consider any relinquishment of territory as a price for peace. He understood Nasser’s insistence on a territorial link between the Arab States but felt that this might be a cover for Nasser’s real intentions of cutting off the State of Israel from the Port of Elath [sic. for Eilat] and their access to the Red Sea. He felt that a “belt of territory” connecting the Arab States and separating Israel from the Red Sea would be untenable even though a corridor to Elath should be provided. He said that Elath represented to them a great national hope and was necessary to the fulfillment of their ambitions. He wanted me to understand the necessity of Israel maintaining her territory and her connection to the Red Sea through the Gulf of Aqaba under ail circumstances.
            4.  His second point related to refugees. He said in this area he saw a ray of hope. That it was unthinkable for Israel to be asked to provide settlement for “new Arab families”. That currently Israel had an Arab community of about 180,000. That recently they had authorized members of the family who had been separated from those now located in Israel to return to Israel. That this policy might be enlarged so as to include additional relatives and thereby allow Egypt to take the position that they had secured from Israel the repatriation of a percentage of the refugees. That this enlargement would be limited to increases in existing families but that once repatriated they would have freedom of action. Sharett said that historically the Arab States had not been connected and it might be to the Western advantage if the Arabs of Africa and Asia were not united. That the existence of Israel between them might be a blessing.
            5.  I replied saying that unquestionably the territorial problem was the greatest barrier to a settlement. That if both sides approached the problem with absolute inflexibility, discussions at any level would be of little profit. That I had insisted on Nasser maintaining position of flexibility and I hoped that Israel would maintain an attitude of flexibility despite any feelings which they might now have about the problem.
            6.  On the question of refugees, I stated that I too saw hope. That I did not believe Nasser was deeply concerned with the actual numbers repatriated but essentially with setting up device which would preserve principle of some freedom of choice between repatriation and compensation. Sharett said he appreciated this point of view but that acceptance of the “principle of the freedom of choice was a dangerous one”. He thought that there was room to explore various devices by which the refugee problem could be solved.
            7.  As I was preparing to leave, Sharett said he wanted to emphasize again that the most important problem at the moment was our decision concerning additional arms for Israel.

SOURCE: FRUS 1955-1957 XV, doc.31.

85 - Text of UN Security Council Resolution 111(1956), January 19, 1956

The Security Council,
            Recalling its resolutions 54 (1948) of 15 July 1948, 73 (1949) of 11 August 1949, 93 (1951) of 18 May 1951, 101 (1953) of 24 November 1953 and 106 (1955) of 29 March 1955,
            Taking into consideration the statements of the representatives of Syria and Israel and the reports of the Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization in Palestine on the Syrian complaint that an attack was committed by Israel regular army forces against Syrian regular army forces on Syrian territory on 11 December 1955,
            Noting that, according to the report of the Chief of Staff, this Israel action was a deliberate violation of the provisions of the General Armistice Agreement between Israel and Syria,2/ including those relating to the demilitarized zone, which was crossed by the Israel forces which entered Syria,
            Noting also, without prejudice to the ultimate rights, claims and positions of the parties, that according to the reports of the Chief of Staff there has been interference by the Syrian authorities with Israel activities on Lake Tiberias, in contravention of the terms of the General Armistice Agreement between Israel and Syria,
            1. Holds that this interference in no way justifies the Israel action;
            2. Reminds the Government of Israel that the Council has already condemned military action in breach of the General Armistice Agreements, whether or not undertaken by way of retaliation, and has called upon Israel to take effective measures to prevent such actions;
            3. Condemns the attack of 11 December 1955 as a flagrant violation of the cease-fire provisions of its resolution 54 (1948), of the terms of the General Armistice Agreement between Israel and Syria, and of Israel's obligations under the Charter of the United Nations;
            4. Expresses its grave concern at the failure of the Government of Israel to comply with its obligations;
            5. Calls upon the Government of Israel to do so in the future, in default of which the Council will have to consider what further measures under the Charter are required to maintain or restore the peace;
            6. Calls upon the parties to comply with their obligations under article V of the General Armistice Agreement to respect the armistice demarcation line and the demilitarized zone;
            7. Requests the Chief of Staff to pursue his suggestions for improving the situation in the area of Lake Tiberias without prejudice to the rights, claims and positions of the parties and to report to the Council as appropriate on the success of his efforts;
            8. Calls upon the parties to arrange with the Chief of Staff for an immediate exchange of all military prisoners;
            9. Calls upon both parties to co-operate with the Chief of Staff in this and all other respects, to carry out the provisions of the General Armistice Agreement in good faith, and in particular to make full use of the Mixed Armistice Commission's machinery in the interpretation and application of its provisions.

Adopted unanimously at its 715th meeting, January 19,1956.

SOURCE:   -  United Nations Resolutions I: 137-38.   Cf. UN Document S/3538.

84 - Excerpts of FM Sharett Closing Address to the Knesset, January 9, 1956

            I would like to say that MK Hazan’s words touched me deeply. I believe, as he does, that with all our readiness to repel any aggression [- - -] it is our duty to do everything we can to preserve peace. Naturally, this does not depend solely, or even primarily, upon us.
            I note with satisfaction my agreement with MK Hazan both as regards the content of the peace plan and the value of publicizing it now. [- - -] As regards returning the refugees, I must make it clear that we reject any return as a solution or contribution to a solution of the refugee problem. It is true that we discuss granting permits in special cases and family circumstances. That policy will continue and may even be expanded. [- - -] But there is all the difference in the world between permitting a refugee to return in order to be united with his family [- - -] and returning whole families so that the Government of Israel can accept responsibility for their settlement and economic integration [- - -] as well as for solving the security problem their presence must create. The Government of Israel does not take the responsibility for settling new Arab families in Israel.
            MK Hazan mentioned the Johnston Plan. [- - -] I would like to set his mind at rest and say that we have not made any commitment to the US government to accept any plan. [- - -] I was glad to hear that MK Hazan also accepts the plan for settling the international irrigation question in principle. [- - -] The situation is, however, that the entire plan hangs by a thread, and I am using this opportunity to inform the House that the Arabs are probably about to refuse to cooperate in this. [- - -] There have been lengthy negotiations, and there was even some progress [- - -] but after two years it transpired that the Arab countries concerned are not prepared to accept any kind of agreement [- - -] with Israel. [- - -] We have never prevented ourselves from implementing schemes which it is our right to implement [- - -] but we felt ourselves duty bound to try to solve the problem by agreement first.
            Whereas MK Hazan’s concept of peace [- - -] was clear, MK Begin’s concept of war was vague and indistinct. He demanded a path without proposing practical steps. [- - -] The debate is not about whether a war should be termed “initiated” or “preventive.” [- - -] There is, after all, a vast difference between our situation in 1947 and 1948 [- - -] and during the last seven years [- - -] just as there is between war and peace, and between peace and non-peace. The responsibility for moving from a situation of—albeit malignant—non-peace to that of war is very grave. [- - -]
            In his estimable maiden speech, MK Yigal Allon made several assumptions which seem to me to be absolutely correct [- - -] although I do not think that all his historical analyses of the past, and the conclusions he draws from them regarding the future, are correct. [- - -] It is, after all, very easy to be wise after the event. It is true, as he c1aims, that we won the war but lost the peace, i.e., the Armistice Agreements, but there were reasons why we made the decisions we did. [- - -] We had to evade the dangers that threatened us, [- - -] hold onto our gains, [- - -] avoid clashing with the UN. [- - -] and the whole world [- - -] and do all we could to enable the work of building the country and facilitating mass immigration to begin. [- - -]
            [- - -] The conclusions he drew regarding the future are also beyond my comprehension. [- - -] Must we declare that the Armistice Agreements are null and void [- - -]? If that was the intention, it should have been spelled out more clearly. [- - -] I believe that we should still adhere to the Armistice Agreements, both as a shield and as a weapon in our political campaign against war and for peace. [- - -]
            [- - -] I will not go into the question of a security guarantee or treaty, because that is not the subject on the agenda. [- - -] This does not mean that it is not being dealt with, but we have our priorities. When I was in America [- - -] I focused on our pressing need for arms, and if the defense treaty was mentioned, as it was [- - -] I made it clear that it could be no substitute for effective defense on our part. [- - -]
            [- - -] It would seem that in their policy considerations [- - -] the Powers take into account immediate factors such as [- - -] territory, population, armies, oil and strategic vantage points [- - -] rather than the ethical, qualitative and long-term benefits which Israel has to offer. [- - -] And when all is said and done, we are not the focal point of world attention. [- - -] We have not created the rift between the [Western and Communist] Powers [- - -] and it is not up to us to end it. [- - -]
            [- - -] We disagree with certain attitudes of the US and England, and certainly of the USSR. We repeat: we will not be carved up, [- - -] we will not let our state be exploded from within. We are ready for peace, if it is possible, if there is a genuine desire for it. But this must be peace with Israel as it is, not with a battered, broken and dismembered Israel.
            Members of the Knesset, let us not frighten ourselves. [- - -] First, we are not like other countries. [- - -] we will fight as few other countries have fought [- - -] because we will be fighting for an ancient heritage and a vision which will light our path until the end of days. Secondly, we have the Jewish diaspora [- - -] which will back us fiercely, capably and devotedly. Thirdly, the world has a special attitude to Israel, to the miracle of its establishment and to the vision to which it adheres.
            The doubts raised here are legitimate [- - -] but in a situation of this kind we must reach agreement on what has to be done today, tomorrow and the day after, at this stage, in the coming months. [- - -] I believe that there are three things we must do: we must work to increase our strength, and above all to obtain arms [- - -] and fortify ourselves from within; we must tighten our links with the diaspora; and we must maintain and cultivate the support and aid of the world.

SOURCE: Major Knesset Debates, 1948-1981, ed. Netanel Lorch (Lanham / New York / London: University Press of America / Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 1993), III: 905-07.