In discussing with you today the export of arms to the Middle East the deputation from the United Zionist Council of Canada is likely to follow the general line taken by Mr. Sharett on December 28 in a statement to press representatives in Israel and by the American Zionist Council on December 31 in a letter to Mr. Acheson. We have not seen the text of the Israeli note delivered to the United Kingdom Government on January 7 or the text of remarks to newspaper men in Washington said to have been made by Ambassador Eban on January 14, but we understand the arguments put forward have been as follows:
(a) Although equal numbers of jet aircraft have been offered by the United Kingdom Government to Israel and the Arab states, Israel will have to plan to build up its air strength to meet the combined strength of the Arab states.
(b) An arms race provoked in this way would defeat one of the purposes of the three-power declaration of May 25, 1950 (see para. 3 below) and would play directly into the hands of the Soviet Union by delaying economic and social development of the Middle East.
(c) If Arab armaments are unduly increased before the Arab states make peace with Israel, open warfare may be substituted for the present economic boycott, which already involves interference with the delivery of oil to Israel by pipeline or tanker and underlies the efforts of the Arab states to prevent the Bonn government from making material reparation to Israel.
(d) Arms should be denied to the Arab states until they undertake to cooperate in the defence of the Middle East as a whole and show a greater disposition to make peace with Israel, as suggested in the eight-power draft resolution approved by the Ad Hoc Political Committee of the General Assembly on December 11, 1952.
Attitudes of the United States and United Kingdom
2. After the Security Council lifted its ban on arms shipments to the Middle East in August 1949, the United Kingdom, United States and France discussed their responsibilities in this connection and on May 25, 1950 issued a joint declaration that they opposed the development of an arms race, that export of arms to the area would nevertheless be permitted where it was designed to assure the internal security and legitimate self-defence of the importing state or to enable it to play its part in the defence of the Middle East as a whole. The three governments would take immediate action if they found any state preparing to violate frontiers or armistice lines. Subsequently they secured guarantees from Israel and all the Arab states that imported arms would not be used for aggressive purposes.
3. Public opinion at home forced the United Kingdom to discontinue in November 1950 the supply of tanks and other heavy armour to Egypt, which was making difficulties about extending or revising the 1936 treaty. The ban on arms shipments to Egypt became complete in October 1951, when Egypt unilaterally abrogated the treaty. Shortly afterward the United Kingdom asked its NATO partners also to refrain from exporting arms to Egypt.
4. Relaxation of the ban was permitted on a moderate scale shortly after General Naguib came to power in July 1952. In September General Naguib asked for the release of 65 jet fighters ordered and partly paid for before the embargo began. Of these the United Kingdom decided to release 15 in order to build up the prestige of the new Egyptian government by enabling it to announce a tangible success in its negotiations with the United Kingdom Ambassador. Since the Egyptian air force is ineffective in equipment and training the decision was considered to involve little risk. The United Kingdom Government has asked its Western partners, however, not to regard this decision as a signal for general release of weapons to Egypt, since the latter has not yet promised to associate itself with the Middle East Defence Organization. Meanwhile Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq were informed in October that they might purchase up to 14 jet aircraft each from the United Kingdom. This offer was designed to create an atmosphere favourable to cooperation in regional defence planning.
5. When Israel's formal protest was delivered to the United Kingdom Government the latter reminded the Israeli Chargé on January 7 that no objection had been raised when the matter was first broached three months ago. Strang56 expressed surprise, moreover, that Israeli officials had complained to the press before taking the matter up through diplomatic channels, the original offers to export jet aircraft having been given no publicity.
6. It so happens that the issue began to be publicly discussed in Israel at the time when secret discussions were about to begin between United Kingdom and United States officials on possible arms shipments to Egypt from the United States. Both The Times of London and the New York Herald Tribune intimated that the purpose of the protests was to dissuade the incoming administration in Washington from giving Egypt military aid. The Herald Tribune thought the protests had had no effect.
7. The United States has concluded agreements with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Israel permitting the purchase of arms under the reimbursable aid clause of the Mutual Security Act. Mr. Sharett takes the view that Israel will have to be given the arms it cannot afford to buy if the Arab states continue to arm, and last August the American Zionist Council urged Mr. Acheson to give Israel a direct grant of $49,900,000 in military assistance, to be diverted from funds for aid to Greece and Turkey. The State Department and the Pentagon are giving priority, however, to planning a modest programme of arms export and economic aid to Egypt for the approval of the incoming administration. The State Department apparently feels even more strongly than the Foreign Office that Western support for General Naguib at this critical juncture may be the means of winning Arab cooperation and increasing the stability of the area.
8. Canada has not been under much pressure to export arms or military equipment to the Middle East, and it receives fewer applications for arms from all the Arab states combined than from Israel. In 1951 and the first nine months of 1952 applications on Israel's behalf had a total value of $986,830, while applications on behalf of all Arab states reached a total of only $349,267. This is explained by the fact that Lebanon and Syria are supplied chiefly by France, and Jordan, Iraq and Egypt by the United Kingdom, while Israel and Saudi Arabia purchase from the United States and occasionally from the United Kingdom. Sweden, Italy, Belgium and Switzerland are also selling to the area.
9. After the publication of the tripartite declaration of May 25, 1950, Canada arranged to exchange information with the United States and United Kingdom on arms sales to the Middle East and to consult both governments whenever requests might be received for heavy armour or unusually large supplies of "routine" equipment. This policy was adopted because the Canadian Government wished to avoid any action which might adversely affect the efforts of the three responsible powers to maintain stability in the area. A number of applications for export of arms have had to be refused on grounds of non-availability, but few cases have occurred where Canada has refused an application because of its informal understanding with the United Kingdom and United States.
10. Meanwhile at the United Nations Canada has cooperated with the United States and United Kingdom in trying to encourage Israel and the Arab states to compose their differences. At the recent session of the General Assembly efforts to secure direct negotiations between the parties broke down over the unwillingness of Israel to consider boundary adjustments which would enable a certain proportion of the refugees to return to their homes and the unwillingness of the Arabs to negotiate on any other basis. In the circumstances the United States and United Kingdom are now concentrating their efforts on securing Arab participation in the Middle East Defence Organization, assuming that an easing of their relations with Israel is more likely within that framework than outside it. They see no likelihood either of an early peace settlement or of a resumption of military attacks by the Arabs against Israel. For the moment both powers would probably appreciate the use of Canadian influence to discourage the psychological warfare in which both Arabs and Israelis are engaged.
Sir William Strang, sous-secrétaire d'État permanent, Foreign Office du Royaume-Uni, (à partir de novembre). Sir William Strang, Permanent Under-Secretary of State, Foreign Office of United Kingdom, (-November).