[Responding to questions and criticisms of Sir Hugh Dalton (Labor) and others]
SIR ANTHONY EDEN, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Warwick and Leamington, C.) said that he could assure the House there was no question of these anxious difficulties [expressed by Israel] being anywhere near the bottom of the list in the Government’s preoccupations. Now that for the moment they had a breathing space in the European difficulties this particular matter, especially the Arab-Israel dispute, was near the top of the list.
The three-Power declaration of 1950 [WebDoc #1] went far beyond our commitment in SEATO; for instance, we should go to the aid of Israel, and it was also binding on the United States and France, if she were attacked by the Arab States, and vice versa. But there was no such obligation under the agreement just made with Egypt in respect of a conflict with Israel. We were pledged to go to the aid of Egypt only if she were invaded by a Power from outside the Middle East.
He did not want to give the House a detailed list of the Government’s ideas about redeployment of our forces. [- - -]
The Government would make arms deliveries only on the basis of the 1950 declaration – they would continue to keep a balance between Israel and the Arab States. (Cheers.) The last thing he wanted was an arms race in that part of the world. It would be disastrous in the present inflamed atmosphere. (Cheers.)
He had taken more personal trouble over the unhappy story of the refugees in the Middle East than over anything else he had done, and he had been singularly unsuccessful. He was beginning to doubt whether there could be much headway unless there could be general political discussions. [- - -] The Government would continue to do everything they could to try to find a solution [to the refugee problem].
PROMISE OF COOPERATION
There was more cooperation between the Egyptian authorities and ourselves. [- - -] He hoped the House would give the [Anglo-Egyptian] agreement a chance to work out. He did not believe the Government could bring assistance to anybody in the Middle East unless they could make some kind of success of the agreement.
The House ought not to under-estimate Israel’s real military strength, which was certainly at least greater than that of any single Arab State, and that was a very low estimate. (Laughter.) While the Government gave due weight to the anxieties expressed over Israel, they should not be exaggerated too much.
REDUCING TENSION – FRESH EFFORTS BEGUN
There was for Israel a heavy economic strain in keeping their military effort going, which was another reason why Britain must seek to reduce that tension, so that Israel equally with the Arab States could devote more of her resources to improving the economic wealth of the Middle East. The Government would neglect no chance of negotiation. They had already established certain contacts, but he could not yet say whether they would lead to anything. They would do everything in their power to reduce the differences, but there could be no quick results. In this case it was like a Trieste problem; one had to go underground a little in trying to get an agreement.
In the Government’s view, Egypt was acting unlawfully in stopping strategic cargoes bound for Israel going through the Suez Canal, and they did not accept the Egyptian argument based on the claim to be exercising a belligerent right, which they derived from Article 10 of the 1888 convention.
There was no evidence of the persecution of the Jews of Egypt. [- - -]
The Times (London), Wednesday, November 3, 1954, p.7.