My reply to your personal messages which I very deeply appreciated has been delayed in view of your absences from Washington and the succession of events within the region which called for a reappraisal of the situation on our part.
It was gratifying and highly important for us to learn from you direct that you were fully alive to Israel’s anxieties and personally concerned to find ways and means of allaying them.
We are vitally interested to see the defences of democracy strengthened everywhere and our own region safeguarded against the dangers threatening it. Yet we cannot but be acutely mindful of the perils with which certain defence alliances are fraught for our own security.
The Middle East is beginning be a network of pacts from which Israel is excluded not only as a participant but even as a candidate for participation. In the case of the Suez Zone agreement she is singled out for not being even a beneficiary. All the Arab States concerned are active enemies of Israel. They profess a fierce desire see Israel obliterated. Their ‘peace terms’ spell Israel’s doom. Their association in a western defence system without a prior change in their attitude inevitably hardens their intransigence. Their arming is a direct threat to Israel’s survival.
The Turco-Iraqi pact is a notable case in point. Far from abating her hostility to Israel, Iraq has managed through the pact to wring from Turkey a commitment to support the anti-Israel case. This can hardly advance the cause of peace in the Middle East.
We fully agree that the region’s defences against the possibility of outside aggression must be buttressed but we cannot contemplate with equanimity this being attempted at the expense of our security and international position within the region. That the regional balance of strength should not be upset to our detriment is to us of paramount importance. We were therefore happy to learn that some form of security commitment to Israel was under your active consideration. What we would welcome is the conclusion of a defense treaty between United States and ourselves, such as would guarantee the territorial integrity of Israel and assure us an arms supply corresponding to that offered to the Arab States.
As things stand, the sense of isolation prevalent amongst our people is deepening. It is partly against that background that the Gaza incident—in itself a reaction to extreme provocation and the result of the breakdown of patience long maintained—should of viewed. This isolated and exceptional occurrence must be considered as an act of self-defense of a beleaguered nation surrounded Israel enemies and increasingly encircled by the growth of military all alliances either ignoring her existence or actively directed against her.
What you said about the Gaza incident in your second and message has received our deepest attention. The Government of Israel is as ever resolved to do its utmost to reduce existing tension. It cannot naturally divest itself of responsibility for the defence of its territory and population. As I write, the loss of life amongst our troops and settlers as a result of Egyptian offensive action is a weekly occurrence and the restraint of our people is again severely tried. Egypt must be prevailed upon to put an end to murderous aggression. For our part, it is our determined policy faithfully to observe the armistice agreement in the expectation that the other side will be induced to act likewise. You will appreciate that a continued and systematic one-sided violation of the armistice agreement is liable reduce it to naught.
The situation is complex. It would be of great help if you could possibly take me into your confidence as to the action the United States intends taking in the near future for the Middle East and in particular as to the exact steps contemplated regarding Israel. Advance knowledge might be helpful in achieving a common policy or would at any rate eliminate unnecessary misunderstanding. Your intermittent discussions with our Ambassador, as you indicate, have been in progress since last August, and I hope I will not be pressing you unduly by saying that an early clarification of the position and prospects would be extremely valuable.
As for Ambassador Johnston’s mission, you are doubtless aware that he has succeeded, by dint of skillful and painstaking negotiation, in narrowing considerably the gap between conflicting claim and clearing up some of the points at issue between him and ourselves. I am now soberly hopeful of an early solution which would satisfy Israel’s minimum water requirements without interfering with her sovereignty or imperilling her territorial integrity. Coupled with a fair share of the waters these are the prerequisites any agreement to which we should be a party.
I must apologize for the length of this message, in the composition of which I was encouraged by the sympathetic understanding which you have always brought to bear upon the examination our problems both before and since you took office.
With greetings and best wishes for your health and strength and for the success of the great work in which you are engaged on behalf of the entire free world.
SOURCE: Forwarded by Lawson to the USSD on April 12, 1955. “The Prime Minister said that the following document would be formally presented by Ambassador Eban tomorrow [April 13] but that he thought in the meantime the Secretary would like to have the opportunity to study its contents.” FRUS 1955-1957, XIV, doc.73.