Tuesday, August 23, 2016

126 - Selected Foreign Diplomats' Comments on FM Sharett’s Resignation, June-July 1956

On June 21, 1956, Francis Russell recorded the following exchange with Reuven Shiloah, who had recently returned to Washington following consultations in Israel:

            1. There will be no change in Israel policy [Shiloah stated] as a result of the resignation of Mr Sharett as Foreign Minister and the assumption of that post by Mrs Myerson. He said that the difference in temperament between Ben Gurion and Sharett had for a long time caused more or less strained relations between the two and that for various reasons the situation had just now come to the breaking point. I told Shiloah that nevertheless the departure of Sharett at this time was bound to cause disquiet in many quarters over the extent to which IDF influence in the Israeli Foreign Office would increase. Shiloah said that Sharett's inability to obtain arms from the West, particularly the United States, and other failures of his policy had weakened his position. I said that it must be obvious to the I[srael] G[overnment] that the major part of Israel's difficulties stemmed not from the Sharett policies but from those for which Ben Gurion was responsible. I said that I had not much contact with Mrs Myerson when I was in Israel but the one or two experiences I had were not reassuring. 

SOURCE: FRUS 1955-1957 XV, doc.405.


On July 3, Eban was more colorful in offering Assistant Secretary of State George Allen the following personal impressions of Sharett's resignation:

            [Eban] said it had been entirely at the insistence of Ben Gurion, who had "suddenly woke up one morning and decided to get rid of Sharett." Eban compared it to a couple who had been living together for forty years and suddenly decide to divorce. Ben Gurion and Sharett have quarrelled over various matters for many years but nothing whatsoever has happened to worsen their relationship. He declared that no policy question whatever was involved in the resignation and that it was purely a personal clash. Eban emphasized that any speculation that Israel might now go over to a preventive war was entirely incorrect. He said that the resignation had caused very considerable internal turmoil in Israel, which has no written constitution and no basis for judging whether Ben Gurion was legally justified in requesting Sharett's resignation. . . . Ben Gurion's tendency toward dictatorial methods have [sic.] apparently increased with age.

SOURCE: Allen, memorandum of Conversation with Eban, July 3, 1956, FRUS 1955-1957 XV, doc.420. 


On June 22, the U.K.'s permanent representative at the United Nations, Sir Bob Pierson Dixon, while assessing the chances of Dag Hammarskjöld's next moves to de-escalate Middle East tensions, wrote to the Foreign Office as follows: 

"One reason why the Arabs are still so excited and unreasonable is, I am sure, that the Israelis have behaved so provocatively in the past. With Sharett gone, there may be a real risk of the Israelis ruining the Secretary-General's chances by statements or actions designed to infuriate the Arabs."

SOURCE: Pierson Dixon to Shuckburgh, secret despatch 1071/539/56, June 22, 1956, TNA FO371/121743 VR1074/360G.


James M. Ludlow of the Statue Department's United Nations office noted, in a June 29 conversation with Shimshon Arad, First Secretary at Israel's Washington Embassy: 

"I said I was sorry to see Mr Sharett leave his post. Despite all the difficulties and differences of opinion which might have occurred between the United States and Israel, Mr Sharett had represented a degree of caution and moderation which was essential if there were ever to be any peace and stability in the Near East. [- - -] I felt that in Israel's and our interests it was of real importance at this stage of the game that nothing be done to upset a perhaps uneasy but nonetheless calm which prevailed in the area. From Israel's point of view there was everything to gain and nothing to lose by avoiding any untoward difficulties or incidents." 

SOURCE: FRUS 1955-1957 XV, doc.415.


In his report to the 290th meeting of the National Security Council (July 12), U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles stated that tensions 

"had increased considerably [in the past 2-3 weeks] in part because of the alarm that General Burns had created in the minds of the governing group in Jordan. Moreover, the Arab governments were worried about the change in the Israeli government and the departure of Sharett, whom they considered a comparative moderate."

SOURCE: FRUS 1955-1957 XV, doc.446.