Ambassador Eban called at the Secretary’s request. The Secretary said that he had no particular pronouncement to make but that the situation in the Middle East is critical and could become acute, and he did wish to have a chat before leaving on his trip to Karachi. The Secretary said that he had the impression from newspaper reports that the Israel Government feels that the Secretary, in his previous talks with Sharett and Eban about arms, had misled the Israelis with respect to US intentions. Ambassador Eban said that he would not use the word “misled” but the Israel Government felt that there had been a discrepancy between the Secretary’s statements to Mr. Sharett in Paris [in late October 1955] for instance and the testimony which the Secretary had given before the Senate Committee last week. The Secretary said that it must be evident to Israel that intervening events necessarily have to be taken into account. In particular, it has been most important not to do anything that would destroy the possibility of success of the Anderson mission. The Secretary said he had just received word that Nasser would be seeing Mr. Anderson on the evening of March 4 despite other meetings which it had been reported in the papers Nasser would be having with Arab leaders during the coming week.
The Secretary said that he was frank to say that there was not the close working relationship which ought to exist between Israel and the United States; that Israel appeared to be carrying on a form of political warfare against this Administration; that Israel had seemed to be entirely self-centered, there being no evidence that the Israel Government had given any consideration whatsoever to the vital interests of the NATO countries in maintaining accessibility to the oil and other resources of the Middle East. The Secretary said that he had tried repeatedly to get relations between the United States and Israel on a more understanding basis but so far without success. He wished to make a special effort before leaving on his trip to get a better relationship underway in place of the virtual undeclared political warfare that Israel was now carrying on.
Ambassador Eban said that Israel, for its part, felt that the United States does not understand Israel’s problems. He said that all that has happened during the past weeks had borne out the IG’s belief that Egypt was an instrument of the Soviet Union. This was underscored by the coup in Jordan over General Glubb. Jordan has now gone over to the group of Arab countries dominated by the Soviet Union. Israel is more gravely threatened than any other country of the West. The newspapers have reported that Nasser had agreed to let Cairo be the center of the Communist labor organization [- - -] after it had been kicked out of Vienna. The Cairo radio is out and out pro-Soviet. That is the kind of man Nasser is and he is in the process of creating a close alliance between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan. Ben Gurion and Sharett interpreted the Secretary’s testimony before the Senate Committee as being negative on the possibility of arms for Israel, and negative on the Security Treaty, at least until there was agreement on frontiers, which they did not foresee. All the Arab states are receiving arms either from the United States, Great Britain or the Soviet Union. Israel alone is receiving none. The Ambassador said that in his testimony the Secretary referred Israel to the United Nations but no country could get less security from the United Nations than Israel. The Soviet Union would cast a veto against aid to Israel in the Council, and in the General Assembly, there could be no two-thirds majority for Israel against Arab and Soviet opposition. The Israel Government’s diagnosis of all of this is that Israel stands alone. Ben Gurion and Sharett’s position is that if this is correct the United States should say so, so that the people of Israel could develop the necessary courage and means to deal with their situation.
The Secretary said that he had taken no position in his Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony that was different from what he had said to Ambassador Eban and Sharett before. He had said on many occasions that he does not favor the US giving a security pact to Israel until the frontiers have been fixed. He, therefore, does not see that as a new negative. With respect to arms, we believed on all the intelligence available to us that to have shipped to Israel the arms they requested would have destroyed all hope of the Anderson mission. The Secretary said that he knew that the Israel Government had never held hope for the Anderson mission but we have—not absolute hope but some. We want to explore the possibility of a settlement fully and we do not want to destroy all hope of one by sending arms which would, at best, have a doubtful effect on Israel’s ultimate security. The political campaign being waged by the Israelis against the Administration does not make the situation easier; not, primarily, because of the domestic aspects of it but because of the great obstacles it creates to efforts to save the Middle East from Soviet domination. The Arabs have always said they cannot rely on the United States, and they are, therefore, tending more and more to put their reliance upon the Soviet Union. The more the friends of Israel try to exert pressures against the Administration, the more difficult it is to convince the Arabs that they do not need to turn to the Soviets. All the activities that friends of Israel customarily resort to in whipping up pressure—the paid advertisements, the mass meetings, the resolutions, the demands of Zionist organizations, the veiled threats of domestic political reprisals—do not help to create a basis for understanding cooperation between our two Governments. The Secretary said he could not believe that that was a wise way, from the point of view of Israel’s interests, to operate.
The Secretary said no change in US policy toward the Middle East should be inferred from his statement to the Senate Committee. The preservation of Israel remains a goal of American policy. We do not, however, intend to move toward that goal in ways that would destroy the Anderson mission and our influence with Arab countries.
The Secretary said that this Government has plans for dealing with various contingencies in the Middle East. If we had greater confidence in each other, we could talk over those plans. The present veiled hostility which Israel displays toward the US Government is not, however, a good way in which to attack common problems. He said it was a misconstruction of his remarks to say that we are “merely turning Israel over to the United Nations.” The Secretary said that everyone that he had talked to, including many members of Congress, had said that the present Palestine problem was one where the United Nations should properly do something. The Secretary said that we talk about the United Nations, not to remit Israel to a hopeless forum, but to have a foundation upon which the United States can act. If the Soviets should veto a sound proposal we would nevertheless have a stronger moral basis for action.
Ambassador Eban said that he thought the Anderson mission would have a better chance if the present imbalance of arms in the area were corrected. As it is, Nasser has everything to gain by stalling. The Secretary said that Nasser has no reason whatever to believe that we may not give the Israel Government arms at any moment. The Secretary said he did not wish to make any promises or statements on which the Israel Government might later base further allegations of lack of good faith, but let us assume that at some point the US decides that the Anderson mission has failed, that is the sort of problem we ought now to be discussing together. Israel cannot possibly acquire from the US or elsewhere arms enough to defend itself without reliance upon outside assistance. We do not think it is wise or possible to get an exclusive security treaty for Israel ratified by the Senate under present conditions. The Secretary said that he had given thought to the possibility of a Formosa-type resolution to deal with the Middle East situation. But the situation is different with respect to the problem of defining the aggressor. In the case of Formosa, it was clear who the aggressor would be and we could enter into an alliance with Formosa. It is not our desire, however, at least now, to make an alliance with Israel against the Arabs. The Secretary said he had also given thought to the possibility of using the Uniting for Peace Resolution, which permits action either by the Security Council or the General Assembly. If a resolution in the Security Council were vetoed by the Soviets, it would clarify the situation and show the hypocrisy of the Soviet Union. It would make it easier then to take action outside the United Nations. We would be reluctant, for various reasons, to see the matter get into the General Assembly. On all of these possibilities and problems, it would be helpful for us to know more about the thinking of the Israel Government.
Ambassador Eban said he wished to take exception to the Secretary’s reference to “political warfare” against the Administration. He said that nothing was happening in this country that does not happen in Sweden, Britain, Switzerland or any other country in the world. Many citizens, not merely Jews but others, have friendly impulses toward Israel and like to see it prosper. He said that he would take every necessary measure, however, in the Israel Embassy to see that its officers behaved properly. The Secretary said that he was not, at this moment, raising the question of the Israel Embassy engaging in improper activities. What he was referring to rather was the situation of the two governments working at arms length. The activities he had referred to would not be going on if Zionist organizations did not feel that they would help Israel. The Secretary said that both the President and he had made the decision to formulate our foreign policies without reference to the effect upon domestic politics. That was, therefore, the least important part of the problem. The bad part of it is that these activities put us in a position where the Arabs believe, however erroneously, that American policy is formulated as a result of Jewish pressures. It makes it difficult for us to do things that we could otherwise do more readily. The Secretary said he assumes that Israel wants peace. Israel could now win at least a few battles but in the long run, Israel must get on a basis of friendship with its neighbors. A battle, even if won, would for a very long time make the situation worse. Israel should be constantly concentrating on the question of how to get into a peaceful relationship with the Arab states. The US has a great many pressures and influences it can bring to bear on the Arabs if Israel does not force us to throw them away. We have many arrows in our quiver, a great deal more than the Israel Government does, but we are in danger of getting in a position where we cannot use them. The oil and cotton markets as well as other economic relations give us opportunities to exert influence. But when the Jews put on mass meetings in this country they create a situation where the Arabs feel it is not safe for them to rely on the United States.
The Secretary said he admires greatly the acumen which Jewish tradition provides but Israel’s present policies toward the United States prevent us from benefitting from it.
Ambassador Eban commented that he believes it is not possible to put any trust in Nasser. The Secretary said that he would agree that, even on the most charitable assumption, Nasser is trying to get the best of both worlds. The Secretary said he does not like that but he is prepared to live with it if that is the necessary price to achieve peace in the Middle East. If it turns out that Nasser is going measurably beyond that, we shall then have to deal with the situation accordingly.
SOURCE: Russel's account of meeting between Eban, Shiloah, Dulles, Hoover, and Allen, March 2, 1956, FRUS 1955-1957 XV, doc.151.