Friday, July 22, 2016

87 - Note of Meeting between Ben-Gurion, Sharett and UN SG Dag Hammarskjöld, January 24, 1956

            In the course of the conversation the PM asked the SG: ‘What was the major achievement which the UN could be credited for?’ I said: ‘Its very existence’. The SG enthusiastically supported this definition of mine and elaborated on it.
            The PM reported on his first meeting with Burns, in which he suggested that Burns would elicit a clear answer from Egypt whether it is prepared for a cease fire and implementation of all points of the Armistice Agreement. Burns came back empty handed, having not received any positive answer to these questions. The question is: does the United Nations agree to compromise with such a situation?
            The SG reported on his talks with Nasser and Fawzi in which he insisted on the full implementation of the Armistice Agreement. Nasser said that nobody was more interested than he was in the implementation of the agreement and of a cease-fire, however, the trouble was that Egypt and Israel were using different methods of defence. The Egyptian method was static defense while the Israeli method was a mobile one. When an Israeli patrol moved along the border and suddenly makes a 90-degree turn towards Egyptian positions, they become nervous and open fire. The SG replied to Nasser that this was not an answer; the question was: Is there is an order not to open fire? Nasser argued that there was only one solution, which was to create a situation whereby no side would see the other and then, naturally, there would be no cause for opening fire. He actually returned to his proposal of moving back the units of both sides to a distance of 500 meters from the line. The SG asked whether this was a proposal or just a model of a possible solution, and understood [from Nasser’s answer] that it was just a model and not a specific solution. He told Nasser that Burns had in fact accepted the principle of separation [of forces], but Burns was authorized to find out how this principle would be implemented at each part of the line. The SG had then asked Nasser about the raids [of armed infiltrators] which the principle of forces separation would not prevent. He said that the separation had to be accompanied by effective measures for prevention of raids and penetrations, for otherwise Israel could choose to retaliate. He stressed that the responsibility for a continuation of the present situation lay with Egypt.
            It was clear that this conversation between the SG and Nasser ended inconclusively. We stressed the fact that we were again confronted by Nasser’s clear refusal to issue an order for a cease fire. The SG extricated himself by remarking that this matter was in any case being dealt with by Burns; he did not see it as his task to resolve this problem during his present visit.
            On the other hand, he said that in his opinion, since proposals regarding Nitzana were being advanced in his name [see WebDoc #65], he should make an effort to put an end to this matter. He initially thought that this stumbling block should be taken off the road before he set out his journey, and therefore he had approached the US and Britain and asked them to influence Egypt in this direction. It turned out that Egypt preferred to give him a positive answer on this when he came to Cairo, and so it was.
            Regarding the border marking, the Egyptians position is in fact an acceptance of ours, but in a phrasing which gives them an honorable way out: The Egyptian Government agrees to the marking of the border of the demilitarized zone by UN observers “in every place where this marking is necessary.” It is obvious that Burns will decide where the marking is necessary and that he would mark only the international frontier. We asked whether this was clear to the Egyptians, and received a clear positive answer.
            Regarding the removal of Egyptian forces from the area beyond the DMZ, Fawzi claimed that they had already done that, but added that if it turns out that a force above that which is allowed still remained there, they would accept Burns’ decision unconditionally. As to the issue of Kibbutz Ketziot and that of the [Israeli] police force inside the DMZ, they [the Egyptians] did not see it as concerning them and had nothing to say.
            When the SG heard all this [the Egyptian position], he asked: Does this mean that you accept my proposals? Fawzi answered in the positive. The SG asked again: Can we announce that you have accepted my proposals? Again a positive answer. The SG then said that he preferred to have this black-on-white, and the wording of the announcement was written down on the spot with Fawzi’s approval. At this point the SG took a paper out of his pocket, put it on the table before us and asked if the wording was acceptable to us. The PM asked again if it was clear that the marking of the DMZ border meant in fact the marking of the international frontier only. The GS answered decisively that this was very certainly so, and added that Egypt’s agreement on this matter was given him in the presence of two witnesses. Then the PM pronounced his agreement. The SG said that now Burns would contact both sides for implementing the agreement.
            At this point the PM returned to the question of the cease-fire and asked how we were to understand Nasser’s position. Was a cease-fire order issued, and Nasser was only trying to justify its violation by pointing to our method of patrolling? Or was he claiming that as long as we maintained this method he would not issue this order? The SG’s answer was not clear. He maintained that Nasser seemed to be confronted by a difficulty to issue a cease-fire order and was trying to explain it away “by an emergency excuse.” [italicized words in English] The PM took the SG to the wall map, pointed to the various Israeli settlements [along the Gaza Strip] and explained the need for our method of patrolling.
            When we returned to the table, the PM asked how the SG would react if we proposed a meeting between us and the Egyptians in accordance with Article XII of the Armistice Agreement. The SG answered that he would have, of course, to accept it and convene a meeting, but it was doubtful whether any good would result. He had an idea -  one that occurred to him during this visit but has not yet ripened - to approach the four powers and ask them to bring pressure to bear on Cairo to improve the Armistice Agreement. He thought such a preliminary preparation should take place before a formal initiative is taken.
            The SG presented the statement he would like to issue upon completing his Middle East tour. The Egyptians approved the text and he now asked our approval. He assumed that other Arab governments would also approve it.
            The PM went over the text and said that, were he in the SG's place, he would not have signed it because it did not present the reality; however, he did not oppose its publication. I said that I had two questions regarding para.3, one regarding the past and the other regarding the future. The past concerns the Egyptians’ approval and the future - Jordan’s approval. Was it clear to the Egyptian leaders when they expressed their agreement with this para that it was binding them to stop opening fire, to put an end to the [economic] boycott that they are maintaining contrary to the UN Charter, as well as to the Armistice Agreement and the Security Council’s [1951] resolution [WebDoc #2] to stop interfering with Israeli shipping? And in the same vain, would it be clear to Jordan when it gives her approval of this para. that this binds her to activate Article VIII of the Armistice Agreement, i.e., to participate in the meetings of the Special Committee set up to settle our freedom access to the Mount of Olives, to Mount Scopus, to the holy places, to Latrun, etc.?
            I said that the matter of implementing Article XII could be raised in this context. On the basis of the SG’s statement we would be able to declare – without any hint of suspicion regarding the truthfulness of the Arab governments’ agreement to its contents – that we were very happy that they are willing to return to faithfully respecting the Armistice Agreements, and therefore we proposed to convene meetings in accordance with Article XII for the purpose of discussing the way of implementing the Agreement’s obligations which have not been executed to this day.
            That SG agreed that, if this was what we wanted, we would be able to rely on his declaration in the future as binding the Arab governments to a certain extent, but it would be better if we do not do this in the very near future lest the Arabs accuse him of having tricked them [orig. in English].
            At the end of this part of the meeting, I asked: Is my assumption that the three obligations included in para. 3 of the [SG’s] statement – to avoid aggressive actions, to respect the territorial integrity of the other side, and to settle any conflict by peaceful means – are to be implemented integrally? [(integral implementation) added in English] The SG answered that this was so.
            In parting, the SG again expressed his great satisfaction with his visit and his deep impression of what he saw in our country.
            The PM concluded the meeting by congratulating the SG as a member of the Swedish people, to whom we are deeply indebted for saving thousands of our brothers during the Holocaust in Europe.

            The meeting lasted about an hour and a half and was conducted in a fresh and tension-free atmosphere, as if the sky became purified after the storm which erupted between us last night.
            Next morning, when I accompanied the SG to Lod Airport, he took out the draft of his statement from his pocket and said that he was still thinking about the serious questions I had raised him regarding its para. 3, and concluded that it would be better to revise it. Instead of saying that all the parties involved have “reaffirmed their adherence to their obligations in accordance with the Charter and the Armistice Agreement, and stressed their determination to abstain from any aggressive action,” it would be said “reaffirmed their adherence in accordance with the Charter and the Armistice Agreement, and stressed their determination to abstain from any aggressive action, etc.”  I said that the meaning of the paragraph was thus diminished, for the confirming of the obligations demanded by the Charter and the Armistice Agreement was dropped out. On the other hand, I said, there was in the new draft a greater measure of honesty and harmony with reality. The SG agreed with this definition of mine and said he was very much impressed by the questions I had posed to him and, to be truthful, he had tried to draw the statement closer to reality. It was obvious that he was overcome by a fear lest he fail in attaining Jordan’s agreement to para.3 of his first draft, and therefore decided to make this easier for them. He certainly also wanted to avoid being accused of [issuing] a statement that tried to cover up the Arabs’ crimes by flowery language.
            At the time of writing this report I am unaware of the fate of the final text of the revised statement.


SOURCE: DFPI 11, doc.56.