Volume #26 - 386.|
Note de la Direction du Moyen-Orient|
pour le sous-secrétaire d'État aux Affaires extérieures
le 20 janvier 1959|
DR. EYTAN'S TALK WITH THE UNDER-SECRETARY|
On January 16 Dr. Walter Eytan had over an hour's talk with the Under-Secretary. Ambassador Lourie was present.
2. The Under-Secretary enquired about how the joint Ghanaian-Israeli shipping line was going. Dr. Eytan replied that it was going well and that there had even been a request from the Guinean authorities to allow them to work out an association between a Guinean-French joint line and the Ghanaian-Israeli joint line. The West Africans seemed to feel that a country like Israel would not take advantage of them. They were, of course, concerned about their colonial history and they knew that Israel was not going to attempt to assert imperialistic influence over anyone. In fact Israel was really embarrassed with the extent of the requests for assistance that it received. (The Under-Secretary said he was glad to hear of this because Canada had had a somewhat embarrassing reputation for disinterested generosity since the war.) Israel was very interested in establishing relations with these African countries as soon as possible: they had recognized Guinea at a very early date and were among the first, and perhaps, in fact, the first, to recognize; and they expected to establish a Chargé d'Affaires in Conakry without delay "because - well to put it crudely, to forestall Nasser." The Israelis had learned from experience nearer home that the first thing the Arabs were intent on doing in a new country was to put Israel in the worst possible light. Of course, the Arabs would be represented in West African countries too, but this would be all right if Israel were first.
3. Dr. Eytan thought the desire of the Asians and Africans for technical assistance and training was striking. Not long ago about nineteen different countries had been represented at one time in various seminars and training courses being conducted in Israel. The Burmese had provided an interesting experience recently: on their own suggestion, the Burmese had sent whole families, instead of just the male representatives, for a course in Israel on border settlement problems to equip them for pioneer life in unsettled Burmese areas. These Burmese had, incidentally, had to learn Hebrew with English as the only common language. The children were, of course, quick at Hebrew. Most of the courses in Israel, especially at the universities, had to be conducted in Hebrew. Dr. Eytan referred specifically to the example of a young Nigerian at a university in Israel who had learned to speak Hebrew fluently in eight months and took all his classes in Hebrew. Hebrew was becoming something of a diplomatic lingua franca in Tel Aviv to judge from Hebrew conversations which Dr. Eytan had heard take place between the off-spring of two diplomats in Israel. Farming techniques seemed to be of great interest to the Africans, and Israel was glad to have them come for training. On one course, after the available places were filled, one West African turned up for the course anyway and the Israelis naturally had to take him in notwithstanding.
4. Dr. Eytan said that the situation in East Africa was not quite so good. Israel, however, was now in regular trade with East African territories since, via Eilot, direct sea access was no longer impossible as a consequence of Egypt's continued denial of Israel's legitimate right to use the Suez Canal.
5. The Under-Secretary asked about the situation nearer home. Dr. Eytan said that there was not very much change in the basic situation. There was a good deal of western comment on developments in Iraq,512 but this tended to exaggerate the situation. The Under-Secretary asked how these descriptions compared with those of the situation in Lebanon in the month or two prior to the Iraqi revolution. Dr. Eytan seemed to think that there were not too many similari-ties in the situation. The Under-Secretary enquired about the Israeli reaction to the United States landings in Lebanon.513 Dr. Eytan considered that the United States landings had been probably useful in the sense that they had put a stop to a dangerous trend and the withdrawal had been carried out very skilfully, but the situation had been very difficult to assess. It certainly was questionable whether the Eisenhower doctrine derived much benefit from the landings, however. At the time Dr. Eytan had been struck by the similarity of the situation in Czechoslovakia in 1948 when the Russians entered Prague. The Under-Secretary was not satisfied that the analogy was entirely valid. The United States landings had been possible because the United States had been prepared for some different situation. The Iraqi revolution had precipitated the landings because the Americans had considered that "the crust was pretty thin" in the whole area and the attempt in Lebanon, therefore, was to prevent a break-out in one country of particular concern to the United States. But the situation in which they acted had undoubtedly taken the United States by surprise. Dr. Eytan said he was not so sure. Israel did not really know in advance that the Iraqi revolution would occur, but Dr. Eytan had received, a few days after July 14, a letter from Iran, dated July 12, from a person who was in a position to know what was going on in Iraq; and this letter specifically referred to a daily expectation that an uprising would take place against the Iraqi royal family and that there would be a sweeping away of the old régime. The forecast in the letter had been fully borne out by events just two days later. He thought, therefore, that the United States Ambassador in Baghdad should have been aware of this possibility, or at any rate, that the United States Ambassador in Tehran should have been alive to the possibility. Ambassador Lourie, however, agreed with the Under-Secretary that the United States gave every evidence of not having fore-knowledge. Dr. Eytan seemed to think the scale of the landings in Lebanon so large as to predicate some fore-knowledge. The Under-Secretary said he did not think this was the case, that the landings had been prepared for other purposes. They had, in any event, constituted an important stabilizing move - motivated possibly by a desire to dampen down the ardour of the Turks and Iranians, for instance, who had showed some signs of wanting to get involved in the restoration of the situation in Iraq.
6. The Under-Secretary enquired whether the Israelis had had any talks with William Rountree. Dr. Eytan mentioned that they had not because Rountree had not come to Israel on his recent trip since the United States wanted, apparently, not to detract from the attention being paid to the Arabs. The Under-Secretary asked how Israel viewed the likely agreement between the UK and the UAR, and more generally, UAR relations with the west, and particu-larly the United States. We thought that better western-UAR relationships were probably a good thing for Israel as well. Dr. Eytan replied that it could be a good thing for everyone, a normalization of western-UAR relations. He hoped that if there were a restoration of normal relations, then the first task to be undertaken by the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, with the support of other western countries, should be jointly and severally to make plain to the Cairo authorities the need to get down to the question of restoring peaceful relations with Israel.
7. The Under-Secretary asked whether Israel had improved co-operation with the United Nations. Dr. Eytan replied that the major question was how the United Nations dealt with such a grave situation as that in relation to the Palestine problem, where one of the parties to the dispute refused to drop its attitude of active hostility towards the other and insisted on continuing to regard a state of war as in existence. Israel was not prepared to accept various United Nations bodies as arbiters of this situation when the other party refused to deal on the basis of peace as a common objective. The Arabs refused to negotiate on the basis of the fundamental precepts of the United Nations Charter. The Under-Secretary said he had a somewhat more general approach in mind. It seemed to him that the United Nations in fact represented the ultimate source of any guarantee of Israel's security. True, the Organization was in some respects rickety, but nevertheless it seemed to have greater possibilities than "special relationships" which Israel might seek to establish, e.g., with the United States. Dr. Eytan intimated that Israel had to judge these questions in a pretty hard-headed fashion. The Under-Secretary conceded that this might be true, but suggested that it was doubtful whether the United States, after the Lebanese landings, let alone the United Kingdom and France after Suez, would ever again be able to act except through the United Nations. Even in the case of Lebanon, the United States had in fact linked its action to eventual United Nations approval. Israeli co-operation with the United Nations seemed an essential requirement in Israel's best interests in the long run. Dr. Eytan enquired what kind of co-operation would be possible, bearing in mind the lack of respect for United Nations objectives in the Palestine problem. He argued that it was difficult to see how co-operation with the United Nations would serve any useful purpose if Cairo refused to play ball. For instance, the situation in relation to Jordan was entirely different. For the past two years there had been a relatively happy relationship between Israel and Jordan. Even children could walk along that border without fear. Why not elsewhere? The Under-Secretary suggested that one aspect of co-operation might well involve economic undertakings, because one of the most intractable problems, that of the Palestine refugees, seemed to be capable of progress towards a solution only in the event of a general rise in economic activity in the Arab states which would alone create the jobs necessary to draw the refugees out into stable employment and eventual resettlement. He recalled talking to Dr. Chaim Weizmann (in 1943?) who had had, ten years before Hammarskjöld, the same broad confidence in the desirability of economic development. Dr. Eytan commented that Israel, of course, would agree with the importance of economic undertakings. They had had great hopes of the Eric Johnston plan but, of course, that had been upset by Arab obstructionism and it was very difficult to pursue economic plans in the light of such an attitude. Israel would have greater confidence in turning to the United Nations if it made some attempt to give Israel the just, impartial treatment to which it was entitled, and to work energetically for peaceful resolutions, i.e., those enjoining peaceful solutions on the other side. For ten years the United Nations had been passing resolutions on the Palestine problem and not once had it used the word "peace." The nearest thing was a draft resolution in 1952, sponsored, he was glad to say, by Canada and seven other countries which had at least used a periphrastic euphemism for "peace" - "working for a reduction of tensions" or something like that - although it had failed to achieve adoption for lack of a majority. It was hard for Israel to accept the need to improve relations with the United Nations if it had no expectation of just treatment, but a continued tendency to put Israel in an unfavourable position. There was a complete failure to grasp the essential moral basis underlying the whole Palestine issue and to assess the blame on an impartial basis.
8. The Under-Secretary conceded that it was always difficult to sort out the original rights and wrongs of these situations, but he wanted to go back in a purely arbitrary way to take just one example of an occasion where he thought Israel had made a mistake about this question of co-operating with the United Nations. That was the question of UNEF. In the light of experience would Dr. Eytan not agree that Israel's best interests would have been served by its agreeing to the stationing of UNEF on both sides of the border? He was sure that the Israelis had thought very hard about this question, but had they not, in fact, decided unwisely? Dr. Eytan emphatically thought not: the aim of Israel in that situation had been to make it quite clear that UNEF was being stationed on Egyptian territory in order to demonstrate where the blame lay. The Under-Secretary suggested that that decision had probably cost Israel a good deal in terms of its relations with the United Nations.
9. Dr. Eytan said that Israel was coming more and more to the view that a good many United Nations members tend to regard Israel "as something of a bother because of the problems we are supposed to create." The Under-Secretary assured him that Canada did not feel that way, nor most western countries, which would always show concern for Israel. In Canada there was a large body of opinion that has the greatest concern for Israel's relations with the Arab states. The west would always have, at the very least, a clinical interest in a matter affecting their security - although it was true that this could sometimes be translated by some individuals into the view that "Israel was the pearl in the oyster."
10. The Under-Secretary enquired whether the talks during Mr. Hammarskjöld's recent trip had been helpful. Dr. Eytan recalled that he had seen Mr. Hammarskjöld just before he left. The talks had been cordial and friendly, although he could not say they had had much in the way of results. It was interesting that Mr. Hammarskjöld had stayed three days. In past visits - was it ten or eleven? - he had stayed only one day before rushing off elsewhere. This time he had apparently enjoyed himself. Prime Minister Ben Gurion had taken him down to his place on the desert. Mr. Hammarskjöld had amused himself by accompanying Mr. Ben Gurion on his morning walk through the desert - pictures had been taken - with Ben Gurion in his old tattered battle-dress, Hammarskjöld very proper in tidy suiting with his tie fixed just so. Ambassador Lourie recalled that these pictures had been shown on television here recently.
512Voir la première partie./See Part 1.
513Voir volume 25, chapitre II, 5e partie, section b./See Volume 25, Chapter II, Part 5, Section B.
514En décembre 1958, Rountree se rendit au Liban, en Jordanie, en République arabe unie, en Iraq et en Grèce.
515En 1953, Eric Johnston fut chargé par le président Eisenhower d'obtenir un accord entre Israël et ses voisins arabes pour l'aménagement du Jourdain. La Ligue arabe rejeta son plan en octobre 1955.