Thursday, July 14, 2016

80 - Ambassador Lawson Report of Meeting with FM Sharett, December 30, 1955

Lawson's report, sent January 2, 1956, includes the following remarks:

[- - -] the Foreign Minister [- - -] dwelt at length and with some emphasis on the serious position in which Israel finds itself with regard to its inability to in any way meet the strong air superiority of Egypt. It seemed obvious to me that not only Sharett but the GOI [Government of Israel] are finding this insoluble problem a highly disturbing factor in the determination of Israel’s foreign policy. From other sources we have heard that this problem has created an attitude approaching panic in some quarters and that Ben Gurion is getting extremely nervous and upset over it. Although Sharett led up to the subject casually it undoubtedly was the principal theme of his discussion with me. [- - -] [H]e introduced the subject of the twelve Mystere IV planes on order with the French and delivery of which had been temporarily delayed. He spent considerable time emphasizing the importance of receiving even this small number of planes [- - -]. Sharett explained to me that Israel could not hope to match Egypt quantitatively in planes [- - -]. But, Israel must have units of the same quality, making up for quantitative disparity to some extent by greater courage and technical ability of the Israeli pilots. Sharett was very hopeful something might be done to expedite delivery of these planes, and he made ]the[ point ]that[ Israel had never used planes of any kind in any act of retaliation. [- - -] I believe that Sharett appreciates that no positive action of this kind can be taken until after the Security Council resolution on the Kinneret raid of December 11 has been debated. And he knows that the related subject of US policy with regard to Israel’s arms request must also be considered. However, I feel that he believes that the GOI has made a sober reappraisal of the Kinneret action, that it is unlikely similar action will be taken under similar conditions in the future, and in the future broader political sources will be consulted as well as the usual military sources. Although Sharett did not condemn his government for the Kinneret action it seemed obvious to me that he regarded it as a severe blunder and one which has brought about among Israeli leaders some serious second thoughts which should be effective in producing a much more cautious policy.

SOURCE: FRUS 1955-1957, XV, doc.2.