Thursday, July 14, 2016

54 – PM Sharett to US Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, May 4, 1955

            Dear Mr. Secretary,
            Your prompt and friendly reply to my message was deeply appreciated. The terms of your letter and of your oral explanations to Ambassador Eban have received our most careful consideration.
            My Government was profoundly impressed by your statement to Mr. Eban that you accept the principle of a security treaty with Israel and that the crux of your program is to create conditions to make that possible. To Israel with its grave security problem this comes as a most constructive and encouraging departure.
            The difficulties indicated by you as lying in the way of such an association between the United States of America and Israel are well understood by us. Yet on closer examination not only do they not appear insuperable but of themselves would seem to constitute a reason for hastening its achievement.
            Israel is already faced with a series of developments within the region which have seriously upset the balance to her detriment. I allude, first, to the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, which has resulted in a major access of military and geo-political strength to Egypt whilst denying to Israel the benefit of its protection; secondly, to the Military Aid Agreement between the United States of America and Iraq, a country avowedly and violently hostile to Israel occupying a pivotal position in the anti-Israel Arab front; and finally to their Iraqi-Turkish pact sponsored by the United States of America now impressively strengthened by Britain’s adherence, which again singles out Israel for exclusion and which otherwise carries within it definite anti-Israel implications. For all these far-reaching departures, adversely and cumulatively affecting Israel’s security, no compensatory measure of assistance to Israel has been offered. Israel was the first state in the Middle East to seek American military aid. Its application, dated February 1952, has remained unanswered.
            Thus our discussion proceeds against the background of a security situation thrown markedly out of balance against Israel and aggravating the state of siege to which she is anyhow subjected by her neighbours. This disequilibrium, which may be only the beginning of a process, seems to us a compelling argument for an immediate measure of redress in Israel’s favour.
            The obstacles you envisage to the conclusion of a security treaty with Israel are twofold:
(a) The deviation it implies from the USA line of not involving itself in intra-regional conflicts and concentrating solely on anti-Communist defense;
(b) The probable reluctance of the USA Senate to sanction a security commitment so long as the present unsettled situation within the Middle East continues. Your conclusion is that substantial progress must be achieved towards the settlement of major issues outstanding between us and the Arab States before such a security treaty can be submitted for the Senate’s approval.
            On the first count it seems to me that the handicaps today in the effective organization of the Middle East for anti-Soviet defense are on the one hand the inhibitions which prevent certain Arab States from adopting a pro-western orientation; and on the other the ever smouldering Arab-Israel conflict threatening to erupt into conflagration if the Arab States should come to regard Israel as hopelessly isolated and forsaken, while Israel for her part were forced into a mood of desperation.
            A security treaty with Israel would go a long way towards meeting these issues. By proving conclusively that the US is determined not to leave Israel in the lurch, but on the contrary, to make the most of Israel’s association, the treaty would give Israel a sense of poise and stability. It would at the same time promote a more realistic spirit within the Arab States and bring them nearer to peace. It would also make the reluctant. Arab States eager to secure for themselves the advantage accruing from an association with the US which would have come within the grasp of Israel. It would thus be a skillful throw, killing two, or even three birds with one stone. Moreover, for us in Israel, and we think for many people outside, it is hardly conceivable that the region can be effectively mobilized for resistance to a possible Soviet aggression or subversive penetration without the participation of the one state within it to whom democracy and spiritual liberty are the very breath of existence and whose military and industrial potential is patent.
            The second consideration, with all its cogency, is liable to produce deadlock. The root of the trouble is not the insolubility of the problems at issue between us and the Arab States, but the deliberate refusal of their leaders to tackle them. That refusal is only likely to harden still further once they realize that by proposing any compromise they can prevent Israel from getting a security treaty with the USA. This result will be bad enough, but if the USA goes further and proceeds to indicate the specific lines along which a settlement is to be sought, a worse complication is bound to arise.
            You said to Ambassador Eban on the 13 April that when the USA Government comes out with its proposals for a settlement, Israel will probably not like some of them and the Arabs will not like some others. I must admit that this prediction has filled our hearts with an anxiety not less serious than the one you are so earnestly endeavoring to allay. We are prepared to accept the status quo whereas the Arabs are out to change it to our undoing. We do not claim their territory. They claim ours. We do not ask that Jewish refugees from Arab lands be repatriated. They insist on the return to Israel of Arabs who fled. In these circumstances, what they will not like is their failure to get what they do not possess, whereas what we shall not like is to give up what is ours.
            Should proposals of this nature be presented, the following results will ensue. Israel will have no alternative but to reject them. The Arab States will regard them as a premium upon their intransigence in which they will persist hoping to extract larger concessions.
            To sum up this part of my argument, if the treaty is made contingent upon a prior settlement, there will be no treaty; and if the settlement is predicated upon one-sided concessions, there will be no settlement. A double vicious circle may well be .created. I am certain that our desire is to avoid such a political impasse and it is to the same end that my present observations are directed
            In all earnestness I would appeal to you to give further urgent thought to the crucial question of whether the conclusion of a defense treaty should be deferred till after tangible progress towards a settlement has been achieved or whether it should not rather be proceeded with at once and itself pave the way for such progress. I am encouraged to press this view in the light of your own statement to Ambassador Eban that you envisage a program leading to the conclusion of a treaty within the current year and that you do not intend to make it dependent on unattainable conditions.
            In this context I would be failing in my duty of candour towards you if I did not make it clear beyond any possibility of misunderstanding that there can be no question for us of cession of territory or the return of Arab refugees. The United Nations compromise of 1947 was annulled by Arab aggression which deserves no reward. Any reversion in that direction is now political and physical impossibility. This does not of course exclude the technical demarcation of the frontiers at a peace settlement which may entail minor and mutual adjustments nor the continued application for the benefit of Arab refugees of the reunion of families scheme.
            All this does not mean either that we envisage a rigid continuation of the present deadlock till suddenly peace comes about at the waving of a magic wand, or that we are prepared to contemplate with equanimity a further deterioration of border security regardless of its ultimate consequences.
            Nothing is farther from our thoughts and on the contrary, we do believe that gradual progress towards a settlement such as would result in some interim modus vivendi, is indeed possible. On the question of the Jordan waters I can only reiterate the hope that an agreed solution may well be within our reach and as regards border security, given a firm resolve on the Arab side to check disorders, a great deal can be done to prevent armed attacks and incursions and reduce the incidence of marauding to a tolerable minimum. For our part, and without committing ourselves in advance to the endorsement of every and any proposal, we shall be only too eager to collaborate with the UN and the Arab States concerned in the implementation of this program. Furthermore, we would be ready to proceed to the payment of compensation for refugee lands—necessitating possibly a special loan to us, repayable over a period of years—provided Egypt lifted the Suez Canal blockade and the Arab States discontinued their threats and reprisals against foreign firms, aviation companies, etc., operating in Israel. Finally, we offer cooperation with the Arab Governments in the mutual checking of hostile propaganda and in the adoption of other concerted measures aiming at the reduction of tension.
            For the attainment of these objectives we should welcome the assistance of the USA, just as we have welcomed Ambassador Johnston’s mission. Such assistance, to be successful, need not be accompanied by the formulation of definite proposals for a peace settlement, either complete or partial. Indeed, for reasons explained, the prior enunciation by the USA or by any other third power, of specific terms is liable to wreck the chances of a settlement. We feel convinced, for instance, that the attempt to prejudge the outcome of the water negotiations by the prior formulation of the main report added needlessly to Ambassador Johnston’s difficulties which he subsequently managed partly to overcome only by dint of high skill and unlimited patience. In the case of such decisive problems as territory and population, the setting forth by a third party of concrete terms in advance may lead to fatal results and should at all costs be avoided.
            If the approach here outlined commends itself to your judgment, I would suggest that discussions be initiated without delay concerning the exact scope and terms of a Security Treaty. At the same time soundings might be undertaken with regard to the possible discontinuance of Arab economic warfare against Israel’s readiness to take in hand the payment of compensation in respect of Arab lands abandoned.
            I should be grateful for an early intimation of your reaction to the views expressed in this letter.
            I assume that these lines will reach you on the eve of your departure for Europe and I take this opportunity of again wishing you the fullest measure of success in your efforts for the sake of peace and freedom.
                                                                                    With best wishes
                                                                                    cordially yours
                                                                                    Moshe Sharett

                                                                                    Minister for Foreign Affairs
SOURCE: FRUS 1955-1957, XIV, doc.87.