Tuesday, August 16, 2016

117 - FM Sharett, Draft Letter to Canadian Foreign Secretary, Lester B. Pearson, May 2, 1956

My dear Pearson,
          I am taking advantage of the presence in Paris (on his way home) of the Israeli Minister in Washington, Mr Reuven Shiloah, to ask him to transmit to you this letter.
          I understand that in connection with the NATO meeting matters of the Middle East are likely to come up for consideration. Mr Shiloah is particularly well informed on the affairs of our area and I hope that despite what is bound to be a very crowded schedule you may nevertheless find it possible to see him. At the same time my purpose in sending you this personal word is to express to you in more direct fashion something of the anxieties which continue to press upon us as a result of recent developments, and of which you will have heard in greater detail from [Israel’s Ambassador in Ottawa, Michael] Comay.
          The Czech-Egyptian arms deal was concluded last September. The gravity of the threat to the peace of the Middle East and to Israel’s very existence implicit in this massive addition to the military strength of Egypt has increased with every month that passes. Neither the Hammarskjöld mission nor the recent Russian declaration have in any degree served to mitigate the danger. We have cooperated and will continue to cooperate to the full with the Secretary General. But any temporary relaxation of tension on the borders as a result of local technical arrangements (and already there have been gross breaches by the Egyptians of their renewed cease-fire undertaking) cannot and does not affect the basic fact that Colonel Nasser is day by day, week by week, and month by month training his army, his air force and his navy in the use of his new equipment, is coordinating and organising under Egyptian command the neighbouring Arab states for a united hostile front against Israel, and is developing among his people a war psychology the only meaning and purpose of which is an assault on Israel at some time to be decided by himself.
          Our plea for arms of a quality and in quantity sufficient to meet this threat was first addressed to the Government of the United States in October last. That request was based inter alia on the conviction that we and the Western Powers have a common vital interest in the maintenance of peace in our area and, secondly, that peace can be assured only by putting Israel in such a posture of defence that any assault upon it can be effectively countered, and would at the least be extremely hazardous to the aggressor.
          More than six months passed without any positive response on the part of the United States. At one stage we were urged to rely on that part of the 1950 Tripartite Declaration under which the United States, the UK and France undertook to prevent and resist aggression in our area. To-day it is clear that that undertaking is hedged in with such reservations that it would be a slender reed indeed on which to stake the lives of the people of Israel and the future of our State. Subsequent advice to place our faith at the moment of crisis in action to be taken by the United Nations, could hardly be taken seriously by our people which has not forgotten that only by a hair breath and as a result of its own supreme exertions did it avoid annihilation at a time when the United Nations stood passively by [in 1948] in failure to support its own [partition] resolution of a few months before [i.e., November 29, 1947]. We are also acutely aware of the paralysis of action implicit to-day in the ever present threat of a Russian veto in the Security Council.
          A few weeks ago we were informed by the Government of the United States that while they considered our fears warranted and our request for defensive arms, and in particular fighter planes, fully justified they would prefer us to try to obtain them from countries other than the United States.
          I do not need to tell you what these months of delay have meant to us in terms of the risks run and anguish felt. For the moment, however, there was no alternative but to turn elsewhere and we applied to the French and to yourselves. The French have made available to us a dozen Mysteres which are important and deeply appreciated, but which fall far short of our minimal needs as against the many scores of Mig fighters and Ilyushin bombers received by Egypt from its Communist suppliers. So far as Canada is concerned we are still hoping for early and affirmative action in response to our request for twenty-four F 86's.
          In the meantime the sands are running out. Nasser’s megalomaniac objectives of Arab Empire in which the elimination of Israel is a central and essential element remain unchanged. The withholding of arms from Israel far from serving to moderate Nasser’s forward drive has acted as a stimulus and an encouragement to him to proceed with his far-reaching designs in the belief that he can do so with relative impunity. Is the Western world really so blind as to find again a thousand reasons for refusing to do what it knows to be right in the vain hope of gaining some fresh easement at the hands of the potential aggressor? We cannot believe it. In this hour we appeal again to the democracies of the West. And in particular I turn to you, whose friendship for Israel has not faltered and who played so imaginative and constructive a part in the decisive days of November 1947, with a personal plea to use your influence in enabling Israel to meet this dire threat and thereby to assure the peace of the Middle East and possibly much more.
                                                                        With kind regards,

SOURCE: Draft (FA/947) which Reuven Shiloah was to have transmitted to Canada’s Secretary of State for External Affairs, Lester B. Pearson. A handwritten Hebrew note at the top of the letter indicates it was “not sent.” ISA FM 130.02/2448/6-i.