Thursday, July 14, 2016

53 - Oral Message from British Foreign Secretary, Harold Macmillan, to PM Sharett, conveyed April 22, 1955

 “When I saw the Prime Minister yesterday, I told him that Mr. Macmillan had read Mr. Sharett’s letter to me of April 6 and wished me to make the following comments upon it:

  1. Mr. Macmillan was sorry that the Israeli Government should feel such concern over our adherence to the Turco-Iraqi Pact and over our agreement with Iraq. Mr. Macmillan did not feel that these fears were justified.

   He thought it was important to recognise, as Sir Anthony Eden had said in the House of Commons, that these arrangements direct Iraq’s attention away from Israel for the first time. Moreover, the defence of the Middle East area is as much in Israel’s interest as our own and Mr. Macmillan regarded the process of drawing the Arab States into our general defence arrangements as an essential step towards inducing in them sufficient confidence both in themselves and in the West to enable them to contemplate putting their relations with Israel on a better footing;

   2. So far as the treaty with Iraq is concerned, Mr. Macmillan thought that Mr. Sharett had overlooked the fact that it replaced the 1930 treaty, under which we were already obliged to come to the aid of Iraq “in the capacity of an ally” and to grant military facilities which were certainly not less far reaching than those in the new treaty – including the instruction of Iraq’s armed forces and the provision of arms, equipment, etc. of the latest available pattern. In Mr. Macmillan’s view the chief difference between the new pact and the old is that under the new one Iraq’s strategic planning, training and equipment will be closely bound up with the general defence plans of the northern tier of countries, including ourselves; and this should make it more difficult rather than less for Iraq’s armed forces to be used against Israel.

  Mr. Macmillan wished me to observe in this connection that Mr. Sharett had made no mention in his letter of our recent reaffirmation of the Tripartite Declaration which, in Sir Anthony Eden’s words, gave Israel a powerful shield whose importance should not be underestimated.

   3. Mr. Macmillan had noted Mr. Sharett’s references to the possibility of our entering into a corresponding and compensatory relationship with Israel. As Mr. Sharett knew, we had already said that if a settlement could be arranged between Israel and the Arab States, we should be ready to consider entering into further engagements to back up such an arrangement. The search for such a settlement is indeed our major preoccupation. Her Majesty's Government cannot contemplate entering into a new security treaty to guarantee a situation which is by its nature unstable, which is not accepted by all the countries principally concerned, and which is unfortunately liable to produce serious incidents of the kind such as have recently occurred. However, as Mr. Dulles has recently said, the settlement of major issues should not be unattainable and if the border situation does not further deteriorate Her Majesty's Government. Hope to be able to approach Colonel Nasser on his return from Bandung and to find out whether he would be willing to work towards such a settlement.

  Finally, Mr. Macmillan wished me to say that he had no settled views at this stage of the sort of basis on which progress might be possible but he wished to emphasise that if in the meantime some agreement could be reached over the Jordan waters, it would in his view immensely facilitate a sensible approach to the problem by all concerned."

SOURCE: Written text or "oral message" as submitted on April 23 by Nicholls to Sharett, who transmitted it in a cable to Ambassador Elath on April 24, 1955.  DFPI 10, doc.187.