Thursday, September 8, 2016

132 - Excerpts of letter from Reuven Shiloah to Teddy Kollek, July 6, 1956

                                                                    Embassy of Israel, Washington
                                                                    July 6, 1956

To:     Mr T. Kollek, Prime Minister’s Office, Jerusalem
From: R. Shiloah, Israel Minister, Washington

My Dear Teddy,

I am sorry for not having yet thanked you for your friendly treatment during my last visit to Israel, and for your cables and letters since then. I beg for your forgiveness.

I have postponed writing since I wanted first to examine anew the situation here and update my knowledge and my appraisals, and also because I was waiting for Eban's return from Israel, hoping to learn from him a more accurate evaluation of the situation and the mood prevailing at home, rather than from information gathered from newspapers and private letters.

My opinion regarding the personnel changes at the Foreign Ministry is known to you. For many years now (in fact, ever since 1930 when I went out to Baghdad for the first time on behalf of the [Zionist] movement and perhaps even earlier when as a young member of the “Socialist Youth” in Jerusalem I heard M.S. lecture), I have been connected by deep ties of work, admiration and affection to M.S. I have gone with him a very long way, facing many obstacles, but also filled with achievements and creativity. Under his tutelage and with his help I took my first steps in diplomacy, Arab affairs, security matters and international affairs. I always found in him a loyal friend who gave advice and encouraged and supported me on every idea or initiative that I proposed. Nevertheless, I was always fully aware of his weaknesses. For several years now I have frequently been in disagreement with him over quite serious matters – both personal and political. For years I have watched with great trepidation as his relations with the Prime Minister and the defense establishment deteriorated, and for a number of years now I have held the belief that, for his own good and future and in the best interests of the State, he should remove himself from foreign affairs for a while. On objective grounds, I thought that it was not good that a man who is destined to shoulder central tasks in the State [in the future] should devote himself only to foreign affairs.

I also believed that the deteriorating relations between him and the PM were increasingly undermining the government’s ability to act, [- - -] endangering the government and the State even in normal times and even more so during the current serious year. Still, I had hoped that M.S., with a big effort and the help of friends and other advisers among those who have been working with him in recent years, would perhaps be able to mend fences with the PM and improve the relations of his office with the Ministry of Defense and the Army. But this effort has not been made.

I am convinced that there was no alternative to this tragic amputation, but it hurts me deeply that it is attended by so many complications, so much bitterness and personal animosity on the part of all those involved.

The main problem is certainly how to bring about a speedy healing of the wounds, and how to normalize the necessary social relations that the operation was meant to achieve, to bring about stronger contacts and mutual peaceful relations between the Foreign Ministry and the defense establishment  – the IDF, the PMO and the Defense Ministry, how to enliven and encourage the morale of the foreign service, to drive out the [deadening] routine dominating it and make it once again creative, maintaining its proper standing as befits a state under siege and  facing a state of war.

I do not have many fears regarding the quality of relations between Golda and the PM, but I cannot hide that I am worried about the relations between [the MFA and other] offices, the [IDF] staff, etc.

I did not receive from Eban a clear picture of the [prevailing] political mood at home, nor regarding the plans of creating a more unified leadership for foreign and defense matters. Possibly, during A.E.'s stay in Israel these plans had not yet crystallized. A.E.'s impression is that the aim is to leave things as they are for the time being. I certainly agree that no hasty steps should be taken, and that there is no need for a crisis and upheavals beyond the upheaval of the Golda-M.S. changeover. However, I do think it is incumbent on us to begin the planning and systematic implementation of repairing the structure of the [foreign] office and service, as well as the personnel structure and work methods.

I am not prepared to propose a detailed written personnel and organizational plan (I would not hesitate to do so if asked), but it seems to me that some things cannot be delayed. It is my opinion that unification of dealing with, and the responsible authority regarding, matters of the Armistice Agreements should be speedily given directly to the IDF, with the political direction being given to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. This issue has been a bone of contention between M.S. and the PM, and at the time I saw it not as a personal conflict but as an obvious matter of principle. In my opinion the experience learned during the first years of the State has proved the correctness of the contention that the responsibility here should lie in the hands of the Defense Minister and the IDF staff, together with an active participation – at times a decisive one - of the Foreign Ministry. [- - -] I cannot recall a more successful period in Armistice affairs, as well as in other matters, as under CoS Yigael Yadin with Moshe Dayan as the responsible [liaison] officer to the MACs and myself, your obedient servant, as the MFA’s representative for this matter.

I hear from State Department sources that they were informed by their Embassy in Israel that it has already been decided to transfer responsibility for MAC affairs to the IDF, and that Yosef Nevo has already been appointed as the [liaison] officer responsible for this matter. If this is true then I am very happy.

[- - -]

Best wishes,

SOURCE: ISA FM 130.19/4488/1. Parts of the letter are quoted in Haggai Eshed, Reuven Shiloah: The Man Behind the Mossad: Secret Diplomacy in the Creation of Israel, transl. by David & Leah Zinder, fwds. by Shimon Peres & Haim Herzog, (London: Frank Cass, 1997), 229-30.