Volume #20 - 700.|
EUROPE AND THE MIDDLE EAST
Memorandum from Under-Secretary of State for External Affair|
to Secretary of State for External Affairs
November 12th, 1954|
In recent weeks we have been reviewing events in the Middle East to see whether there has been any improvement in the relations between Israel and its Arab neighbours. You may have seen the suggestions in the press that tension in the area was slowly decreasing and that there were glimmers of hope that in time the states concerned would reach some reasonably permanent settlement of their differences. As you are aware, Arab-Israeli relations are complex and our information about the happenings in the area is not always free from bias and doubt. We hope that in time this situation will be remedied by the reporting from our new missions in the Middle East. Meanwhile, any assessment must be hedged with reservations. This memorandum summarizes the conclusions of a more lengthy analysis of recent developments which may be of interest to you and which I have attached.
2. Incidents along the lines of demarcation between Israel and its neighbours have continued but the intensity of the border strife has declined. The truce supervision machinery has been overhauled and improved and is now operating effectively and with a high degree of cooperation from all the parties. General Burns appears to have established himself as an impartial judge of the manifold disputes arising between the states concerned. His initiative in trying to increase the effectiveness of the truce observation teams has been welcomed by the United Nations Secretariat, by the press and by officials of governments interested in but not directly connected with the Palestine dispute. You will have seen Sir Anthony Eden's tribute to General Burns.
3. The refugee problem continues to be an underlying cause of Arab dissatisfaction. Recently Israel made an important offer concerning the release of blocked accounts and the compensation of dispossessed Palestinian Arabs which may appease refugee sentiment to a considerable extent. The Government of Jordan has disavowed the negotiations which the Israelis claim to have held with representatives of the refugees about the release of blocked bank balances and the outcome is yet to be determined. The new Jordanian Government contains strong elements from the "west bank", that is, from the territory which was formerly within the Palestine Mandate. This probably accounts to a large extent for Jordan's obdurateness in its recent dealings with Israel. If Israel were to add to its announced concessions to refugees an offer to repatriate a token number of them, the Arabs' sense of injury on this score might be allayed.
4. To secure peace the Government of Israel may be prepared to make further concessions, even including minor alterations along the frontiers and some form of international control of the Holy Places. A corridor across the Negeb desert and access to and the use of the port facilities of Haifa, both of which the Israelis have already offered, should appeal to the trade-conscious Arabs. In return the Israelis would reasonably expect a final peace settlement, not too rigidly based upon the various United Nations resolutions and particularly those adopted before May 1948, and a consequent lifting of the Arab blockade. If comparative quiet could be maintained along the demarcation lines for six months or so, the present Arab leaders, most of whom are privately persuaded that Israel has come to stay, might be induced to promote the idea among their people and eventually to negotiate a modus vivendi with Israel. The chief obstacles to this development are (a) the barrier of hatred which the Arab Governments have allowed to be raised in Arab public opinion and which the aggressive and retaliatory acts of Israel have strengthened, and (b) the self-delusion which the Arabs have practised about their ability to crush the new state of Israel. In addition Israeli cries of protest and anger have frequently been overdone, increasing Arab suspicion about Israel's real intentions.
5. To create the atmosphere for Arab-Israeli negotiations the Western Great Powers may be required to reaffirm their determination to maintain the territorial status quo in Palestine. Both sides are anxious to be reassured on this score. It seems that something more positive than the Tripartite Statement of May 25, 1950 47 is needed. This need has become greater in recent months as a consequence of the United States decision to supply arms to the Arab states, notably to Iraq and Egypt, and of the United Kingdom withdrawal from the Suez Canal Zone. These two developments, combined with the successful outcome of the negotiations in Tehran, have undoubtedly paved the way for better relations between the Muslim states of the Middle East and the Western democracies but they have produced in Israel a sense of isolation, particularly since the Soviet Union has begun to woo the Arabs at the expense of Israel.
6. The arming of the Arabs against communism may well be more complicated than the proponents of the "Northern Tier Concept" care to admit. Because of the political instability in the countries concerned, their preoccupation with local problems, their distrust of foreigners and particularly those from the West, and the urgent need for economic development which is so much hampered by the crushing burden of defence expenditure, the "lining up" of the Arabs is fraught with risks not only for the Western cause but for the peace of the Middle East. It would be gravely misleading to conclude that the attainment of peace and stability in the area is merely a question of time. The danger of renewed hostilities is never far removed. It lies not so much in the intentions of the governments concerned as in an accidental outburst or an adventure embarked upon for political opportunity. Accordingly, there is some basis for the Israeli fear that the arms given to the Arabs to fight communism might ultimately be turned against Israel.
7. In these circumstances the control of the supply of arms to the Middle East, a control which has become dangerously lax in the last year, is in need of repair. It is clear from recent reports on the export of arms to Israel that the United States, the United Kingdom and France do not always agree on the quality and quantity of arms which should be shipped to Middle East countries. This failure to cooperate, combined with the fact that the countries in the area can and do obtain arms from still other sources, makes it practically impossible to maintain the so-called equilibrium in military power in the Middle East and merely adds to the "crisis of confidence" in Arab-Israeli relations.
8. Canada has been concerned primarily with Israeli requests for arms. The available evidence indicates that during the past year Israel may have been stockpiling beyond its ordinary needs for defence and internal security. This stockpiling could mean that
(a) The Israelis fear that time is on the side of the Arabs, that the latter will ultimately attack Israel, that therefore Israel must strike soon to achieve the military objectives which would compel the Arabs to make peace; or
(b) The Israelis do not fear an attack from the Arabs under present leadership but they do see a real possibility that Arab extremists may gain the upper hand and launch a new war; therefore Israel must be strong enough to ward off such an attack and "strong enough" must be assessed in the context of the proposed arming of the Arabs against communism.
On the basis of the information now available to the Department, (b) would appear to be the safer assessment. A third possibility that Israel has expansionist designs on territory beyond the present demarcation lines seems most unlikely in the present circumstances.
9. The assessment stated in the preceding paragraph does not imply necessarily that Israel's "fear complex" is well-founded or that Israel should be encouraged in it. The danger of over-arming one side, and thus tipping the balance of military power in the Middle East, is perhaps more real today than it was in 1948, because the scale at which arms are being supplied to the area is vastly increased. If our interpretation of recent developments is correct, the time may be ripe and the need is pressing for the Western Great Powers to re-examine closely in a coordinated way the entire field of Arab-Israeli relations with a view not only of bringing the supply of arms under control but of bringing the parties to the Palestine dispute to the conference table. The West's new-found friendship with the Arab states could be used not to encourage them in their bitterness against Israel but to sell them on the benefits which would accrue to all concerned, if a practicable solution could be found to the problems existing between the Arab states and Israel. There have been no clear indications that those powers are contemplating any comprehensive action to achieve those ends; nor have we any precise ideas on how such action might be initiated. What is clearly called for, however, is some positive step to create confidence on both sides in the Middle East, and a re-affirmation in more exact terms of the Tripartite Statement of 1950 would probably be a useful point of departure. 48
During the past year, and particularly during recent months, the Department has had to consider an increasing number of requests for the sale of arms to countries in the Middle East. These requests have increased in size and in importance and, from consultations with United States and United Kingdom officials, it is clear that the requests to Canada reflect a substantial increase in the arms exported into the Middle East from Western sources. The situation calls for a re-assessment of Arab-Israeli relations to see (a) whether tension in the area is slackening; (b) what has prompted the increase in the sale of arms to Middle East countries; and (c) what impact the present influx of arms is likely to have in the area. The subject matter is complex and the sources of information are not free from bias and doubt. The assessment must, therefore, be hedged with reservations.
Outbreaks of Violence
2. If violence along the borders of Israel were the sole criterion for determining whether relations had improved, there would not be too much room for optimism. At the beginning of July occurred a sudden and violent outburst between Israelis and Jordanians face to face in Jerusalem; the exact cause of this disturbance has not been determined. In September the Israelis were condemned by the Israel-Jordan Mixed Armistice Commission "in the strongest terms for this latest aggression", that is, the well-armed and well-organized raid by Israeli forces on the village of Beit Liqya, three miles inside Jordan. On October 2 the Israel-Egypt Mixed Armistice Commission, noting the deterioration on the situation along the frontier between these countries, condemned Egypt and called upon the Egyptian authorities "immediately and finally" to put an end to acts of aggression against Israel. There have been other sporadic but relentless killings, thefts, gun-fire, rustling and marauding along the demarcation lines. The infiltration from the Gaza Strip (Egyptian territory) has been particularly vicious and apparently is aimed at disrupting Israeli efforts to develop the Negeb desert. Israeli retaliatory raids, designed to "punish" the areas from which the infiltrators come, were deplored by General Burns in his report of September 7 to the Secretary General of the United Nations.
3. Taken by themselves these incidents are grave enough and if allowed to get out of hand they could, as General Burns has pointed out, lead to a renewal of general hostilities between the countries concerned. In the context of the bloody Qibya raid on Jordan territory in October 1953 and the consequent massacres at Scorpion Pass and Nahalin in March 1954, the most recent outbreaks are relatively tame. United Kingdom observers, who at one time feared that a major incident might occur during the annual manoeuvres of the Israeli Army which took place in September, were relieved to find that in fact the manoeuvres this year were on a relatively small scale, with fewer reservists called up than in previous years, and were conducted in comparative quiet. A significant difference too was that, following the grave disorders about the beginning of 1954, the Security Council took a renewed interest in the Palestine question, strengthened the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization and intensified the search for more effective methods for implementing the Armistice Agreements.
ATTITUDE OF THE PARTIES
4. Another discouraging factor has been the ceaseless campaign of vilification which each side has waged against the other. In the general debate at the present session of the General Assembly the Israeli representative and his Arab counterparts made charges and countercharges along the usual lines. Each side professed peaceful intentions and blamed the other for aggression. The Arabs clung to the General Assembly resolutions, the Israelis to the Armistice Agreements. Perhaps the opposing positions have become too doctrinaire to permit an about-face in public.
5. Yet even in the midst of the hot words exchanged, and the representative of Iraq was so intemperate that the President of the Assembly considered it necessary to reproach him, there were indications that the situation was not hopeless:
(a) The representative of Syria suggested that the deadlock on the Palestine question could be solved by the establishment of a Palestine Commission, consisting of the five permanent members of the Security Council, with wide powers to give effect to the resolutions of the General Assembly. Although this proposal was dismissed as "frivolous" by the Israeli representative and although it apparently did not have the endorsement of the other Arab members, the fact that it was presented and the relatively mild tone of the Syrian statement illustrated that not all the Arabs were bent upon the destruction of Israel. The Syrian position may have been taken because Syria had merely a care-taker government; it may also have perturbed some of the extremists in the Arab camp. However, it could exemplify some Arab resignation, in keeping with what we believe to be the private views of the more enlightened Arabs, about the fact that Israel has come to stay.
(b) The Israeli representative, declaring that there was a deep crisis of confidence between Israel and its neighbours, suggested that the only conceivable way of allaying such fears would be the conclusion of peace treaties, placing Arab-Israeli relations on a permanently normal footing, but as a preliminary or transitory stage to that end it might be useful to conclude agreements committing the parties to policies of non-aggression and the pacific settlement of disputes. The Egyptian representative, speaking immediately after the Israeli, stated that "the professed peaceful intentions of Israel cannot be regarded as valid even for a moment". He maintained that Israel was trying to delude the whole world as to its expansionist designs and was stirring up doubt about the true peaceful intentions of the Arab countries. The Egyptian statement has been generally regarded in the press as an immediate rebuff to the Israeli offer. It is by no means clear that the statement was so intended, particularly because the Egyptian representative did not deal categorically with the Israeli "peace proposal". This leaves slight room for hope that the Arabs might in time be prepared to consider the Israeli suggestion, or something like it.
The Refugee Problem
6. Clearly the unresolved problem of Palestine refugees looms large in the minds of the Arab political leaders. The representatives of Egypt and Iraq underlined it in their recent statements to the General Assembly. The refugees exert strong political pressure on the government of the countries in which they have resettled; they provide a fertile field for exploitation by political opportunists; they also play a large part in the infiltration across the demarcation lines. Uprooted from their traditional environment, unwanted in the new lands for international and domestic political reasons, and a constant drain on the economies of the Arab countries concerned, the Palestinian refugees pose what is perhaps the fundamental and certainly one of the most difficult problems in Arab-Israeli relations.
7. At the end of September the Government of Israel took an important step to conciliate the refugees and their Arab advocates. In continuation of its discussions with the Conciliation Commission for Palestine, Israel announced that it would release to absentee or refugee owners all outstanding bank balances in Israel, together with articles deposited for safe custody and the contents of safety deposit boxes at present vested with the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property. The total amount of the blocked accounts was about $8,500,000 of which one-third had been released earlier by the Israeli authorities. The Government of Jordan has disavowed the negotiations which the Israelis claim to have held with representatives of the refugees about the release of blocked bank balances and the outcome is yet to be determined. The new Jordanian Government contains strong elements from the "west bank" territory which was formerly within the Palestine Mandate. This probably accounts to a large extent for Jordan's obdurateness in its recent dealings with Israel.
8. About the same time, in an interview broadcast in Arabic, the Israeli Foreign Ministry stated that Israel was resolved to start a practical scheme of paying compensation to the Palestine refugees; that the Israeli Government believed that a practical plan could be found for interregional communication across the Negeb desert; and that Israel was ready to grant to Jordan facilities in Haifa harbour and transit rights for goods through Israeli territory. These conciliatory steps, believed to have been taken by the Israeli Government to ease the tension in Palestine, were given full publicity in the Arab press and although they have been the subject of Arab criticism, have been described by some Western observers as the most significant development in many months.
9. There has been an improvement in the relations between the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization and the parties. The prestige of the observer group and of the Chief of Staff has been restored. When General Burns entered upon the scene, the Israelis were not co-operating with the Mixed Armistice Commission for Israel and Jordan, largely because of their antipathy toward Commander Elmo Hutchison of the United States Navy, who in March had abstained in the voting on an Israeli resolution condemning Jordan for the ambush of an Israeli bus at Scorpion Pass; there was a backlog of cases to be dealt with by the appeals board set up by U.N.T.S.O.; and the observers had been denied entry into areas controlled by Israel unless accompanied by an Israeli conducting officer. At the present time the Israelis are cooperating with the Mixed Armistice Commission; the appeals board has begun to function again; the Israelis and General Burns have devised, not without an argument about the function and powers of U.N.T.S.O., a practicable method for facilitating investigations by observer groups. The impression is that the truce supervision machinery is running much more smoothly and that General Burns has the confidence of both sides, notwithstanding his differences with the Israelis. Since he arrived in Palestine under a cloud of Arab suspicion, these differences have probably served to persuade the Arabs that General Burns will be impartial.
10. In addition, military commanders on both sides have exercised restraint. The Arab Legion has been held in check, in large measure owing to the presence of British officers. The senior commanders of the Israeli Army have shown themselves willing to listen to reason. Many of the incidents probably result from hot-headedness among the militia and para-military forces which man the borders and from the nervousness of the armed civilians on both sides. Some may arise because the wandering Bedouins innocently or stubbornly refuse to give up their traditional ways in spite of the newly established frontiers. Other incidents, particularly those in Jerusalem and along the Gaza Strip, may well be the work of professional terrorists. There have been unconfirmed suggestions, for example, that the Muslim Brotherhood has played a part in these activities and that the incursions from Egypt bear the marks of training by ex-German army instructors, who if Nazis might relish the prospect of testing their techniques and their trainees against the Israeli inhabitants. The real possibility that these influences are at work illustrates the difficulties to be overcome not only by U.N.T.S.O. but by the local authorities in the countries concerned.
11. No analysis of Arab-Israeli relations would be complete without some reference to domestic politics, for these in large part dictate the external policies of the governments concerned. The rising Arab nationalism and the bitter resentment of the very existence of Israel have created an awkward situation for Arab political leaders, even the more moderate ones. The dispute with Israel is one topic on which it is very difficult to get any Arab to listen to advice or even to talk rationally. Even those leaders who confess privately that their rigidly negative attitude towards the Jews is a mistake cannot persuade any substantial body of local opinion that Israel has come to stay, and indeed hardly dare try to do so. As long as the widespread hatred and fear of Israel prevails in the Arab countries, it will not be possible for the governments concerned to parley with Israel, however shortsighted and stultifying this attitude may appear to the enlightened elements. What is needed is a lengthy period of quiet along the frontiers, to allow time for some relaxation of tension and for an inclination to peace to develop. If the Israelis could follow up their recent offer of concessions with restraint as regards armed excursions in retaliation against the infiltration into Israel, there is some hope that the atmosphere for peace can be brought about.
12. On the Israeli side the Government has also to deal with a roused public sentiment. Because of their successes in 1948, the Israeli militarists and other extreme nationalists see no reason why the present impasse cannot be solved by force. The economy of Israel, relying on the one hand on financial assistance from outside and crippled on the other by the Arab blockade and by the costs of defence, demands that an early solution be reached of the dispute with the Arabs. There is the lingering fear, heightened by irresponsible Arab statements, that the Arabs are merely gathering their strength for another attempt to crush Israel. A constant irritant too is the infiltration into Israel which frequently results in a loss of Israeli life and almost always in a loss of Israeli property. Faced with the urgent problem of placing the country on a sounder economic footing and with the pressure of a population which has expanded too rapidly through immigration, impatient and energetic Israelis are pressing for action by their Government which will compel the Arabs to make peace. The wonder is that the moderate elements, represented by Mr. Sharett, have been able to avoid the temptation of appeasing this rampant nationalism. Incidents like the massacre at Qibya and the more recent attack on Beit Liqya, suggest that from time to time the pressure for decisive action cannot be restrained; yet the folly of these punitive raids is that, far from deterring infiltration, they increase the hatred and thirst for revenge, setting up a chain reaction which could easily get out of hand.
Export of Arms to the Middle East
13. In recent months the Israelis have intensified their efforts to procure arms, particularly from the Western democracies. Their declared object is to refurbish the fighting equipment of the Israeli forces. The net effect of these purchases has been to increase greatly the military strength of Israel. The important question to be decided by the supplying countries is whether this Israeli quest for arms is born of a fear of an Arab attack or is indicative of an Israeli intention to seek a solution by force of the deadlock in Palestine. The weapons which the Israelis have been seeking - jet aircraft, tanks, aerial bombs and increased artillery - seem well beyond their needs for defence against the Arabs, in the present disorganized state of the latter. The best available evidence indicates that Israel could now defend itself against any attack the Arabs could mount. Moreover, the weapons in demand are not those normally used for punitive raids (assuming one could find justification for the retaliatory raids carried out by Israeli forces). This circumstantial evidence could mean, therefore, that the Israelis are contemplating large-scale operations.
14. On the other hand, the recent Israel efforts to obtain more arms have coincided with an intensive propaganda campaign by the Israeli Government and by Zionist organizations to persuade the world that Israel's future has been placed in jeopardy by the decision of the Western Powers to arm the Arabs against communism. The Israelis have expressed anxiety about the Turco-Pakistan Treaty, the United States agreement with Iraq on military aid and the United Kingdom agreement with Egypt about the Suez Canal Base. The latter agreement results, of course, in the lifting of the arms embargo in respect of Egypt and, taken with the others, could presage a preponderant increase in the arms to be shipped to the Arab states. The recent developments in the Middle East in the direction of closer cooperation between the Muslim states and the Western democracies have produced in Israel a sense of isolation, particularly since the Soviet Union has begun to woo the Arabs at the expense of Israel. In these circumstances and before the Arabs actually get their hands on the new weapons, the Israelis may well consider that they must now look to their own defences, if Israel is to survive.
15. A United Kingdom estimate in 1953 of Israel's military strength on full mobilization, which estimate was based on the assumption that Israel could receive substantial supplies of equipment from outside, was that the Israel Army could be expected to fight intelligently and tenaciously in defence of Israeli territory. Reliable observers believe that in any future struggle with the Arabs the superior efficiency, skill and organization of the Israel Air Force might well turn the balance. As in the case of the ground forces, the morale and fighting capacity of the Air Force would likely be higher in defence than in attack. Whether Israel would continue to be capable, as in 1948, of strongly repelling a combined assault by the armies of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria is an open question. Like Israel, the Arab countries have been strengthened militarily since 1948 and, if the proposed United States programme is carried out, they will receive additional aid, enabling them to expand and improve their fighting services. Nevertheless, the outcome of any new Palestine war would probably still depend on the amount of coordination and tenacity displayed by the larger Arab forces.
16. The Israelis have recently become alarmed at what they consider a change of attitude by the United States and the United Kingdom, but more particularly the former. In public statements Mr. Sharett has emphasized that Israel is fully aware that the Western powers are sincerely anxious to avoid "a new regional conflagration" and that their policies in the Middle East are by no means rooted in a deliberate design to injure Israel. The Israeli anxiety, however, is born of the conviction that by strengthening the Arabs, ostensibly to fill a power vacuum in the cold war, the Western Great Powers are dangerously encouraging countries to maintain "an illegal state of belligerence" against Israel and to refuse to make peace with it. In short, the Israelis fear that the arms supplied to fight communism will be turned at the propitious time against Israel. This fear underlies Israel's outspoken opposition to the Turco-Pakistan Treaty, the United States arms agreement with Iraq and the United Kingdom withdrawal from the Suez.
17. This Israeli fear has prima facie basis, because the Arab Governments have steadfastly refused to forsake publicly their previously avowed animosity toward Israel. (Last week, the King of Jordan declared that his Government's policy on Palestine was one of "no peace, no negotiations with Israel" and full support for the rights of Arab refugees.) It seems that in the negotiations with the United States about arms the Arab Governments have been reluctant for domestic political reasons to give openly assurances that the arms will not be used against Israel. For similar political reasons the Arab states have been slow to enter into formal agreements which would bind them closer to the West. Some leaders, like Nuri Said Pasha in Iraq, have expressed a desire to strengthen these ties but said they must hold back for fear of offending their own people or Arab neighbours who view with distrust any closer alignment with the West. Colonel Nasser is said to be privately in favour of a closer knit defence organization in the Middle East which would be associated with the West but apparently he too is unable at this time to carry Egyptian public opinion with him. Thus, if there were now to be any large-scale arming of the Arabs, there would be an inherent risk that peace within the area might be disturbed, especially if the extremists were to gain control in the Arab countries.
18. Officials in the United Kingdom and the United States concerned with the export of arms to the Middle East have emphatically asserted that there has been no change of policy. The primary objective has remained to maintain a balance of power as between Israel and its Arab neighbours. United States officials have pointed out that the arms agreement with Iraq and the proposed agreement with Egypt (on which little headway has been made) involves only a moderate programme of military assistance. They say that reports in the press on United States intentions with respect to the Arab states are completely out of balance. They are alarmed at the extent to which United States policy in the Middle East was made an issue in the Congressional elections, the results of which could mean a new swing in favour of Israel. These United States officials have clearly been suspicious of Israeli intentions. Although the United Kingdom officials do not say that Israeli motives are sinister, they are obviously worried by the recent build-up in the military strength of Israel. They are particularly anxious about a French decision, apparently taken independently of the United Kingdom and United States, to sell Mystère jet aircraft to Israel. The United Kingdom has, nevertheless, been selling some second-line jet aircraft and tanks to Egypt and Israel. It is clear from recent reports that the joint control of arms exports to the Middle East, ostensibly in implementation of the Tripartite Statement, leaves something to be desired.
19. Notwithstanding the continuing public denunciation and the perennial Arab threats, there seems little likelihood that the Arab states contemplate any new attack on Israel. Rivalry, jealousy and intrigue continue to bedevil the attempts at collective action by the Arabs. None of these states is strong enough yet to wage a separate war against Israel. All of them suffer acute political instability and economic depression. Lebanon, Iraq and Syria would probably treat with Israel, if they thought Egypt would follow suit. Jordan might be dragged or pushed into line. Egypt holds the key to peace in Palestine and the real hope lies in Colonel Nasser's ability to gain and keep the support of the volatile Egyptian public. He can only achieve this end by building on a solid foundation of economic and social reform. If he found the going too tough, he might be tempted to embark on a nationalistic adventure, such as the persecution of Jews in Egypt, which only very indirectly might lead to a war with Israel. To date he has kept control by beating one scapegoat but with the departure of the United Kingdom troops he and the Council of the Revolutionary Command will have to face their domestic responsibilities squarely. The recent crack-down on the Muslim Brotherhood is a step in the right direction for although it will embitter the enemies of the régime, it will shake the foundation of extremist opposition. If this stamping out of dangerous and irresponsible political opponents is accompanied by a real improvement in the economic and social fields, the Nasser régime might yet give Egypt its long-awaited stability. If Nasser were to be eliminated, however, the prospects for stability in Egypt and for peace in the Middle East might be gloomy indeed. The Israeli authorities know all this and the encouraging signs fail to relieve their anxiety, perhaps because they see all around them the instability and latent extremism which provide an explosive atmosphere for political adventure.
20. The Tripartite Statement of May 25, 1950, made by the United Kingdom, the United States and France, was designed to bring about a relaxation of tension in the Middle East and a consequent falling off in the quantities of arms purchased by countries in the area. Although the Western Great Powers were anxious to avoid an arms race in the Middle East, they recognized the need of the Arab states and Israel to maintain their armed forces at a sufficient level for internal security and legitimate self-defence and to permit them to play their part in the defence of the area as a whole. The purchasing states had given assurances that they did not intend to undertake any active aggression against any other state. Under the terms of the Statement, if those states were found to be preparing to violate frontiers or armistice lines, the United Kingdom, United States and France would immediately take action both within and outside the United Nations "to prevent such violation". The operative sections of the Statement are somewhat vague and, in the light of developments in the area since May 1950, there seems to be a growing need for a clarification of what action might be taken by the Western Great Powers to prevent the violations to which the Tripartite Statement referred.
21. It is because of the "crisis of confidence" in the Middle East that both sides have been pressing the Western Great Powers for firmer guarantees concerning their security. Each side needs to be reassured about and reinsured against the intentions of the other. In a joint approach in London on September 17 the Arab representatives urged that "urgent measures" be taken to deter Israel from any "further aggression" and asked that immediate assistance by given to the Arab states in order to strengthen them economically and militarily. A non-committal reply was given by the United Kingdom on September 21 because the Arab initiative was first regarded as little more than a counter to the Israeli campaign against the granting of undue assistance to the Arabs. Later when the Foreign Office had digested the Arab statement and the friendly and encouraging remarks of the Prime Minister of Iraq during his recent visit to London, the United Kingdom officials began wondering whether the time might not be ripe to persuade the Arabs to make some gesture, however small, which would contribute to the easing of Arab-Israeli relations. The United Kingdom officials have in mind a collective or separate public assurance by the Arabs along the line of the Tripartite Statement of May 25, 1950. United States and French authorities have been consulted on whether the Arabs should be approached on this matter.
22. For their part, the Israelis have sought formal assurances from the United Kingdom that the Arab states will not be allowed to acquire a marked superiority in arms over Israel. The Israelis have also inquired in what circumstances the United Kingdom would intervene on Israel's behalf in the event of an Arab attack. The Israelis have in mind the treaty obligations which exist between the United Kingdom and some of the Arab states. The Israeli Note was couched in the context of the Anglo-Egyptian Agreement on the Suez Canal Base, which Agreement in the Israeli view had unfortunate shortcomings that left Israel in an exposed position. The United Kingdom reply did not go much beyond the Tripartite Statement but did express gratification about the absence of serious incidents in the last few weeks along the Arab-Israeli frontiers. The Israelis have been pressing for similar assurances from the United States in connection with the proposed programme of military aid for the Arabs. The Israeli efforts have been reflected in the public pronouncements of Zionist organisations in the United States. Mr. Comay has voiced similar views in Canada.
23. Economic factors may in the end determine the future course of Arab-Israeli relations. Both the Israelis and the Arabs are suffering from the disruption of normal commercial relations in the area. The Israeli economy is greatly hampered by the Arab blockade and Israel would like to dispose of its excess industrial goods in Arab countries. The Arabs, in turn, would welcome an opportunity to sell oil and agricultural produce in Israeli markets. All the countries in the area are acutely aware of the need for economic development. All suffer the heavy burden of military spending. None of the countries, but particularly Israel, can ever flourish until peace has been established and the economic life of the area is permitted to develop freely. It is perhaps not too improbable, therefore, that the very urgency of the economic problems will ultimately prompt the nations concerned to strive harder to overcome their political differences.