Saturday, August 13, 2016

109 - Ambassador Nicholls Report of Talk with FM Sharett, April 13, 1956

I asked to see the Foreign Minister today. He received me in Tel Aviv.

 2.   I said he would have noticed I had not this time been instructed to call on him to counsel restraint. That, I felt sure, was because I had been able to report at an early stage with conviction, my belief that Israel would show all possible restraint. I thought myself that she had done so, and that this view was shared in London.

3.   I went on to say there were nevertheless two important reservations I must make. Firstly I could not believe that the shelling of Gaza was either necessary or wise, and I much regretted that I had been misled by an official communication into reporting that the object of the shelling was simply to silence an Egyptian gun position. We now knew there had been no gun positions in Gaza itself. Secondly, there were reports today, which I thought were probably true, that Israeli fighters had penetrated deep into Jordan and shadowed a civilian aircraft flying to Cairo. If this report proved accurate the world would not share Israel’s indignation at yesterday’s violation of her air space by Egyptian aircraft. Mr Sharett took note of both points and, on the first asked me to believe that there had been no intention to deceive.

4.   Other points of interest were
a.         Mr Sharett said he feared Fedayeen activities were not over. There were indications that more attacks were likely and that the intention was to attack populace places. He was considering sending a warning of this to the Secretary General in Cairo. [- - -]
b.         The Secretary General had replied to Mr Ben Gurion’s message of yesterday [- - -] with a telegram which asked for statement of Israel’s attitude on a number of points. Mr Ben Gurion had replied (unconsciously echoing Fawzi) that these could conveniently be dealt with orally when the Secretary General came here on April 17. He explained that Israel Government felt at a disadvantage when all their communications with the Secretary General were in writing and liable to become public property, whereas corresponding Egyptian comments, proposals and counter proposals were oral and could be disavowed at any time.

5.   Mr Sharett ended by expressing appreciation of the release of Meteors and hoped that we would not stop them.

SOURCE: Nicholls to FO, tgm. 193, April 13, 1956, TNA FO371/121774 VR1091/117.