Chapter VII - Middle East

Part 1


Section A - Visit of Prime Minister David Ben-gurion to Ottawa, May 24-25, 1961

646. DEA/12850-L-2-2-40

Memorandum from Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs to Prime Minister

SECRET [Ottawa], May 20, 1961

Discussion of Israeli Security Position and Need for Arms

In the attached telegram 97 of May 16,† the Canadian Ambassador in Tel-Aviv reports that she was informed by a senior official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry that Mr. Ben-Gurion “would not bring a shopping list with him this time but would want to explain Israel’s security problems and security needs so that any request made later for Canadian military equipment would be considered against this background.”

  1. As our Ambassador points out, there is an element of propaganda in some of the recent emphasis placed in Israeli official statements concerning the UAR’s growing strength and its hostile intentions towards Israel. This should not, however, be allowed to obscure the fact that there are very real grounds for concern by Israel about its future security.
  2. If Israel should decide that the military balance with the UAR is likely to turn significantly against it in the next few years and that it is essential to take steps to correct this situation, there would be four main courses which it might consider:
    1. Try to obtain a significant increase in arms,
    2. Try to secure an external guarantee of its security,
    3. Develop a nuclear weapons capability,
    4. Launch a preventive war against the UAR.

In any new attempt to improve its security position, Israel would probably first try course,

  1. – obtaining more arms; possibly reinforced by (b) – a security guarantee. If Israel thought it improbable that it would receive satisfaction on its request for arms or a security guarantee, then of course it would be more likely to proceed to courses (c) – nuclear weapons; or (d) – a preventive war.
  1. If the Israeli Government should decide to adopt one or more of these courses, it would be logical for it to prepare the ground by the kind of public campaign in which it is now engaged. While this official expression of increasing Israeli concern about its security is in a sense, therefore, partly a propaganda exercise, it may also be an indication that the Israeli Government is so concerned about its security that it has in fact decided to adopt one or more of the courses outlined above.
  2. It is impossible to make a reliable estimate of the present relative military capabilities of Israel and the UAR (the only Arab country which could in practice be expected to make a significant military contribution in an Arab-Israeli war.) The difficulty in making such an assessment arises from the need to weigh the decided superiority of the UAR in numbers of troops and quantities of equipment against such relatively intangible factors as the Israeli superiority in morale, training, efficiency of organization and intelligence and in their technical proficiency in handling their equipment. All the evidence indicates, however, that while the Israelis’ relative superiority in these fields is probably still conclusive, it is a steadily declining factor and that at some point in the next few years it will no longer be sufficient to counterbalance the UAR’s superiority in numbers of troops and quantities of equipment. This is a prospect which, in the continuing absence of any progress in improving Arab-Israeli relations, no responsible Israeli can view with equanimity.
  3. An additional source of worry for the Israelis is the effect that future developments in Algeria may have on Israel’s ability to procure arms from France, which at present is its major supplier, particularly for such controversial items as high performance aircraft. If the forthcoming negotiations in Evian do not lead to an Algerian settlement or lead to a settlement which involves continuing strained relations between an independent Algeria and France, there may be no significant change in French policy regarding arms exports to Israel. On the other hand, if a settlement is reached which holds out the hope of a reasonably close association between France and an independent Algeria, France will have a very substantial interest in improving its relations with the Arabs because of the effect such an improvement would have on its relations with the Algerians. In these circumstances the French might come to regard close French-Israeli relations, not as they have in the past as an aid to French policy in Algeria, but as a definite liability to harmonious French-Algerian relations. This might make it increasingly difficult for Israel to obtain its arms requirements from France and would lead it to seek additional sources of supply. The United Kingdom in recent months has supplied Israel with two submarines and large quantities of heavy military equipment, particularly Centurion tanks. The UK might well be prepared to increase its supplies to Israel to maintain an arms balance in the area, but would probably be reluctant to supplant France as Israel’s major supplier and might well seek to have Canada and the United States share some of the public odium in the Arab world of being a substantial supplier of arms to Israel.
  4. Canada’s present policy is not to supply significant military equipment to either side in the Arab-Israeli dispute. There have been repeated endeavours by the countries concerned and by Canadian suppliers of military equipment to have exceptions made to this policy. However, the decision to make exceptions would raise the question of whether a new role of arms suppliers in the Middle East would be consistent with our general political position in the area. The main lines of our policy for the Middle East have been to work for peace and stability through U.N. peace keeping instruments. Our successful participation in UNEF and UNTSO, both of which operate on UAR/Israeli borders, would appear to depend to a large extent on our capacity to maintain in the area a reputation of impartiality and of peaceful intent.
  5. The policy outlined above has not meant a complete embargo on military equipment to the Middle East. Considerable sales of equipment of a military or dual-purpose nature have taken place. Most of these exports have been directed to Israel, but only because the number of export permit applications received from Israel has exceeded to a considerable extent the number received from Arab countries. An attempt has been made to ensure that no military equipment of a combat nature has been exported to the area. In June 1960 the Secretary of State for External Affairs approved the issuance of an export permit for 100 telephone terminal units with a total value of $500,000 for the Israeli Army. The sets were required almost entirely for permanent installations constituting the civil communications system in the southern part of Israel which is operated by the Israeli army. We have also exported aircraft engine parts of a dual-purpose nature to both sides, but applications from Israel for substantial quantities of parts for an aircraft engine which can be used in Sherman tanks have been refused since Israel has a tank rebuilding factory. Similarly, applications from Israel for Shervic tractor spares, which are interchangeable with Sherman tank spares, have been refused.
  6. In October, 1960 the UAR wished to import a number of Caribou aircraft. This aircraft was designed to operate as a troop transport and is ideal for operations such as those which would occur in the Middle East. The psychological impact of selling such an aircraft to the UAR would have been considerable and would probably have been looked upon in the Middle East as a change in our present policy of not supplying significant military equipment to either side in the Arab-Israeli dispute. Consequently our Embassy in Cairo was informed that an application for Caribou aircraft would not be accepted by the Canadian authorities. The Embassy was instructed to inform the UAR authorities that the Caribou aircraft would not be sold in present circumstances to any of the parties to the Arab-Israeli dispute. More recently the Government of Jordan expressed an interest in purchasing Caribou aircraft and were informed that applications for the export of this aircraft to Jordan could not be approved.
  7. As far as Israel is concerned, the Cabinet on February 21 agreed that an export permit should not be issued at this time for the export of electronic equipment (UHF transceivers) to the Government of Israel. Israel had wished to import two prototype transceivers for evaluation purposes. If the transceivers had proven acceptable to Israel, they would have been incorporated in the Dassault Mirage supersonic Jet fighter which the Israeli Government is purchasing from France. The introduction of the Mirage aircraft into the Israel Air Force is viewed with concern by the Arab States. It was felt that the supply by Canada of equipment to go into this aircraft would probably contribute in some degree to a further deterioration of UAR-Western relations.


647. DEA/10963-40

Secretary of State for External Affairs to Ambassador in United States

TELEGRAM ME-306 Ottawa, May 28, 1961

Following for Ambassador from Prime Minister.

Please arrange to deliver urgently to President Kennedy the following message, Begins:Z
The Prime Minister of Israel was my guest in Ottawa on May 24 and 25. We had a number of conversations which ranged over a wide area of subjects but which naturally concentrated on the situation in the Middle East. Mr. Ben-Gurion has in mind a specific proposal which he will be explaining to you and on which he sought my views. He stated and reiterated his view that a very significant contribution to relaxation of tension and to the growth of confidence in the Middle East would be made by a declaration by the United States and the Soviet Union guaranteeing the territorial integrity and the independence of all Middle Eastern states. Mr. Ben-Gurion would also be pleased if the United Kingdom and France were to associate themselves with such a declaration. He thought that even if the Soviet Union were not sincere in its eventual intention to implement such a guarantee the declaration itself would have a very important impact on the minds of the people of the area, particularly the Arabs, and might even offer President Nasser an opportunity to recede from his public position of extreme hostility to Israel and to consider the possibility of negotiations for a settlement. Mr. Ben-Gurion added that the whole Middle Eastern area was beset by fear and a declaration by yourself and Mr. Khrushchev would have a calming and reassuring effect which would stem the tide of tension.

  1. I told Mr. Ben-Gurion that although I had serious reservations about the likelihood of the Soviet Union making good on any such guarantee, I was impressed with his exposition and recognized the psychological value such a declaration would have in the area. At his request I agreed to let you know of our conversations before you left for Europe.
  2. With all good wishes for the success of your meetings in Paris and Vienna, I am, sincerely yours, John G. Diefenbaker. Ends.Footnote 1

648. DEA/10963-A-40


TOP SECRET [Ottawa], May 29, 1961

Summary of Conversations Between Prime Minister Diefenbaker and Prime Minister Ben-gurion in Ottawa, May 24 and 25, 1961

Mr. Diefenbaker invited Mr. Ben-Gurion, if he wished, to begin the discussions with a general statement and then perhaps to discuss specific situations such as disarmament, Laos, East-West relations and, of course, the Middle East. Mr. Diefenbaker said he hoped very much to hear Mr. Ben-Gurion’s views.
Mr. Ben-Gurion said he did not propose to discuss Laos which had become a rather mechanical situation and was but one manifestation of the Cold War. He thought that neither Russia nor the United States would make real war. The Russians realized that war meant suicide and, in any case, the Russians believed religiously that the capitalist world was doomed and that the victory of communism was inevitable: recourse to war was therefore unnecessary. Mr. Ben-Gurion saw the East-West Cold War as a contest for the souls of the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America. (He remarked that he did not know China but he knew Russia well; he had read 13 volumes of Lenin and several volumes of Stalin.) He said that although the Soviet Union would not make war, neither would it accept the status quo. Their philosophy required dynamic action. In Eastern Europe small minorities ruled by virtue of the near presence of Soviet armies. He had been in Bulgaria right after the Second War when the Russians occupied the country. At that time the Communists were only 3 per cent of the population but they were able to take over the government easily. The West, however, was prepared to accept the status quo and had no intention of liberating Eastern Europe. Even Mr. Dulles had not been seriously bent on liberation. It was very different for the Russians; they would exert all pressures short of war. The Soviet Union had its own political parties in all countries of the free world but the West could not operate parties in the Soviet Union. Russia itself was changing but its objectives and principles remained the same. The Soviet leaders intended to make the whole world communist – and had had a great success in China.
The real contest was now for the minds and hearts of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Until Castro, it was the view of the United States that the Western hemisphere was safe; but no-one thought so now. The possibility was very real that communist governments would be set up in several other countries. The free world makes a great mistake in not giving enough attention to the problems of hunger, disease and poverty in many countries; for people living in such conditions political liberty alone is unimportant. Slogans about freedom had no meaning for them. (Mr. Ben-Gurion said that India was an exception but wondered how long this true democracy would last and what would happen when Mr. Nehru went.) The free world, in addition to offering freedom, must say significant things and give useful things to the poor countries. Canada had a particularly important role to play, out of proportion to the size of its population, because it was materially and technically advanced but had never had colonies or dominated other nations.
Mr. Ben-Gurion pointed to Ghana as an example of the need for assistance. Ghana was a dictatorship and most people cared little for political freedom; most of all they wanted education and food. The obligation of the free world was to bring decent standards of living to such people but the way in which aid was given was of primary importance. The free world must offer its aid with true humility, must deal with underdeveloped people as equals and must never exhibit a sense of superiority. The United States had been extremely generous and had had the best of intentions but, despite this, Americans were not well liked in underdeveloped countries. American technicians had often shown a superior attitude. People dominated for centuries wanted friendship and equality. Israel had been able to do something in this field because of the particular experience of her people. In the United States the Peace Corps was a splendid idea but the way in which it carried out its work was all-important; everything depended on the right mental attitude. People doing technical assistance must not come as benefactors but as brothers.
Mr. Diefenbaker asked what was the Arab attitude towards receiving assistance. Was it similar to that of other African countries? Mr. Ben-Gurion replied that it was but, of course, the Arabs could not be compared with the people of Ghana or Nigeria. These latter countries were not normal nations but, rather, geographical expressions. The Arabs are not primitive; they have a great history and culture. Mr. Diefenbaker mentioned the worthy contribution which the United Kingdom and France had made to the territories they had governed in Asia and Africa. He wondered what the situation would have been if Britain had not established its rule in India. Mr. Ben-Gurion agreed that the contribution of Britain and France had been great but pointed out that 80 per cent of the Indian population was still illiterate and that average per capita income was about $50 per year. The United Kingdom and France had been able to produce and serve an elite in colonial countries but the vast masses of people had been relatively untouched.
At this point Mr. Diefenbaker asked the Israeli Prime Minister for his opinion of President Nkrumah. Mr. Ben-Gurion replied that Dr. Nkrumah was not a communist but was a genuine patriot. However, he had great ambition in Africa and for this reason had aligned himself with Nasser and was leaning towards Moscow. Sekou Touré, also, was not a communist but his country might become a communist satellite.
Mr. Diefenbaker enquired about the number of technicians Israel had working in Ghana. Mr. Ben-Gurion replied that there were about 100 (the United States, he said, had only 20) and that about 500 Israelis were employed in Africa in technical assistance. He added that there were about 1,000 Africans training in Israel. Dr. Nkrumah had admired the Israeli system of using the army to build settlements and had patterned his Builders’ Brigade on this. But enthusiasm for this effort had not been high in Ghana (the situation in Israel was very different) and the results in Ghana had not been outstanding. (The results of training Burmese in ways of establishing frontier settlements had, however, been highly satisfactory.)
Mr. Diefenbaker enquired how the West could proceed to help underdeveloped countries successfully and gain their sympathy when the communists had the same things to offer and the underdeveloped countries could play one off against the other. Mr. Ben-Gurion was not sure that the Russians were really offering so much help. He mentioned the comments of the United Kingdom High Commissioner in Nigeria that African countries tended to look to Russia, China and Israel for help because these countries had had recent, relevant experience in re-organizing societies and economies. The African countries were too poor and too unsophisticated to follow the example of the United States, United Kingdom or France.
Mr. Diefenbaker wondered, considering that the Soviet Union was the world’s greatest imperialist power, what real African feeling about that country must be. Mr. Ben-Gurion agreed with the description of the Soviet Union and cited the recent history of Soviet territorial aggrandizement. But nevertheless the U.S.S.R. had had some success in raising the charge of “imperialism” against the West and in efforts to identify Western economic aid as “neo-colonialism.” Mr. Ben-Gurion had talked with President Eisenhower about this and said that Mr. Eisenhower had agreed on the fundamental need to enlist the right sort of dedicated people in aid programmes.
Mr. Diefenbaker said he was aware of the conversation with President Eisenhower and the effects Mr. Ben-Gurion’s views had had on the U.S. administration. The Prime Minister confessed to serious doubts that the West could successfully compete with the communists by means of grants for the support and understanding of the underdeveloped peoples. Neither East nor West had a monopoly on the granting of aid and the ultimate effect probably balanced out. At the same time he was increasingly convinced of the need for exchanges and training programmes with the underdeveloped countries. In this field, he said, he knew that Israeli aid had been most effective. Mr. Ben-Gurion said the human approach was far more important than the scope of material aid. Mr. Diefenbaker agreed and said that judgements on countries so often depended on the people one met. He referred to his own favourable impression of Israel in this regard. While human contacts were most important he thought that the “Ugly American” was extremely exaggerated.
One of Mr. Ben-Gurion’s party remarked that Israel had been able to make very good use of American technical assistance because Israel knew what it wanted and needed, whereas many African countries had not clearly assessed their requirements and lacked detailed plans. Mr. Diefenbaker agreed and said he had seen this factor in operation at Huleh in Israel. He then asked what had been the total amount of outside aid for Israel since 1948. The answer was that technical assistance had come to about $20 million, $250 million in economic aid, about $150 million from loans, a very substantial amount from German reparations, and about $480 million from Israel bonds, of which $150 million had been repaid. Mr. Ben-Gurion said that Israel’s earlier immigration, before the War, had brought both skills and funds to the country but that recent immigration had been a great financial burden on the state. Mr. Diefenbaker again questioned whether economic aid was an effective way of influencing the people of other countries. He mentioned that Canada’s outlay for aid of all sorts to other countries since 1946 had been $4 billion, 400 million and that, on a per capita basis, Canada stood second only to the United States.
Second Conversation
On the morning of May 25, the Prime Ministers turned to the Middle East. Mr. Ben-Gurion said there was less trouble there now, among the Arab states and between these states and Israel. The improvement was due largely to the presence there of United Nations forces, among which Canada played a considerable role. (Note: This statement was later repeated publicly by the Israeli Prime Minister.) In Egypt there had been some developments but President Nasser’s object was domination of the Arab world and, now, Africa was receiving his attention. He was pro-Soviet although he called himself a positive neutralist. He was exploiting opposition in Africa to Western influence, particularly of the United States and NATO. In Iraq, Kassem, despite the earlier expectations of some people had turned out not to be a Communist. He was genuinely anxious to preserve Iraq’s independence. The situation in Iran was not stable. The Shah meant well but was not a very strong leader. The Parliament was weak and there was a good deal of corruption in public life. The new Prime Minister, Amini, was an intelligent man who wished to get rid of corruption, preserve democracy and Iran’s links with the free world. The country’s main problem was to improve and develop its agriculture. Israel was helping Iran to build modern farms. In answer to Mr. Diefenbaker’s question, Mr. Ben-Gurion said about 25 to 30 Israelis were working in Iran. Relations between the two countries were excellent.
Relations between Israel and Turkey were quite satisfactory, Mr. Ben-Gurion went on. Military rule in Turkey was temporary. The Gursel government honestly wanted to return to the democratic processes but were afraid that the Democratic Party might be able to regain power. Turkey’s economic structure was bad. Help from the United States had gone either into the military effort or to urban industrial development; not nearly enough had been directed to agricultural development. The place of religion in the country’s life had been enhanced. Turkey’s attitude towards the West was unshakable but Turkey would like to be somewhat more independent and would like to rely rather more on NATO than on the United States alone.
Jordan’s fate was an unknown factor. Perhaps King Hussein’s decision that his new wife would not be Queen would have a soothing effect. In general terms, Mr. Ben-Gurion thought that the Arab states should receive help and encouragement from the West. Egypt, with its rapidly growing population, particularly needed help. Mr. Nasser had indeed done some good things for his country. However, he had gone too far in his relations with the Russians and it was doubtful if he could come back.
Mr. Diefenbaker enquired about the effect and influence of the Palestine refugee population in Jordan. Mr. Ben-Gurion said there were about 600,000 refugees in Jordon but that they were mostly not refugees in a true sense. They were all Jordanian citizens and a great proportion were gainfully employed. At this point, Mr. Ben-Gurion gave detailed historical illustrations of the departure of the Arabs from what is now Israel. He also responded to Mr. Diefenbaker’s question about the origin of Yemeni Jews and gave his own impression that they were the most Jewish group of all. Returning to the refugee question, Mr. Ben-Gurion said that without the consent of Egypt no Arab state could solve the refugee question or make a general peace settlement with Israel. King Abdullah had been murdered because he thought a separate arrangement for Jordan was possible.
Mr. Diefenbaker asked what form of settlement the Israeli Prime Minister envisaged. Mr. Ben-Gurion noted that cooperation between Israel and her neighbours could be most beneficial for the area. Iraq and Syria had substantial natural resources and were under-populated. They required both technology and a pioneering spirit. Such a spirit was required in Egypt, too. But in Egypt, and the Arab world generally, there was a great obstacle in the form of unsatisfactory human relationships; there were sharp class divisions and the more fortunate had very little concern for the fate of the common people. Israel wanted not merely peace but real cooperation. To achieve a settlement both sides would have to offer something. Mr. Diefenbaker enquired as to what would have to be offered. He had seen the frightful conditions in refugee camps and was aware of deep Arab resentment at what they considered ejection from their homes in Palestine. Mr. Ben-Gurion replied that it was a complete invention that the Arabs had been expelled and the Arabs knew this was a lie. The children of the refugees, however, probably believed it was true as their minds had been systematically poisoned. Jordan wanted to keep the refugees and needed them. If the Arabs made the political decision not to destroy Israel, the refugee problem could be readily settled along economic lines. Mr. Diefenbaker asked whether refugees could leave Gaza. Mr. Ben-Gurion said that very few could and that this was understandable since Egypt was overpopulated and had unemployment. But Iraq could absorb many thousands of refugees; it was a country of great potential.
Mr. Ben-Gurion then gave his view that the Arab intention of destroying Israel was not just to be rid of an independent state but to exterminate or scatter the Israeli people, they were aware of the degree of Jewish attachment to the soil of Palestine. If the Arabs won a war it would be quite in character if they embarked on mass slaughter.
Mr. Diefenbaker asked about the size of Israel’s armed forces and was told that the army was about 45,000, with trained reserves of 250,000. The Arabs, of course, had a tremendous numerical superiority. The quality of the Egyptian forces was improving; they had a standing army of 210,000, and reserves of 50,000; they had better weapons than Israel and about four times as many weapons. Egypt had 9 submarines. The Russians had sent very good military instructors but, fortunately for Israel, “Egyptians are not Russians.” Iraq had a standing army of 70,000 men. Mr. Ben-Gurion thought that President Nasser was not convinced the UAR could at this time beat Israel but he probably believed he could do it in one, two or three years’ time. Nasser had said this to his army so often that he could scarcely back down. In a real sense Nasser was the captive of his own propaganda. Mr. Diefenbaker asked where the UAR submarines were and was told they were at Alexandria. Mr. Ben-Gurion was not certain whether Alexandria was to be considered a UAR or a Soviet submarine base.
Mr. Diefenbaker asked whether Mr. Ben-Gurion would wish to say something about Israel’s plans regarding nuclear reactors. He pointed out there had been much interest in the Arab world and elsewhere, particularly because of reports of some degree of concealment in this matter by Israel. There was genuine fear of a nuclear weapons programme. Mr. Ben-Gurion revealed that last week two American scientists, sent by the U.S. Government, inspected the Israeli reactors and have reported to the U.S. Government. Mr. Ben-Gurion continued and said that Israel had two fundamental problems: water and power. Power was more expensive in Israel than anywhere else; coal and oil had to be imported. For the time being, nuclear power continued to be more expensive than conventional power but his scientific advisers believed that in 10 or 15 years nuclear power would be economically attractive. It was too expensive for Israel to set up a nuclear power plant now but it was essential to train and develop a cadre of nuclear scientists and technicians who could meet the problems of nuclear power when it became economic. The United States had helped with the first small reactor and the French Government was helping Israel to build the second. Israel had also decided to set up a small pilot separation plant which would produce about 300 grammes of plutonium per year. Although every nuclear power station has a potential for producing atomic weapons, Israel’s rate of plutonium production was not very menacing. The first Israeli reactor was located near the Weizmann Institute and the new one was about 40 kilometres southeast of Beersheba. When a power station is built it will be in the Negev and would help operate the desalination programme.
Mr. Diefenbaker enquired whether the supplies of military equipment from France met Israel’s needs. Mr. Ben-Gurion said Israel was getting all it could pay for now but obsolescence set in so quickly. In answer to a further question, Mr. Ben-Gurion said that the UAR had received 20 MIG 19s and they might get twice as many more.
At this point Mr. Ben-Gurion turned to a matter to which he clearly attached much importance. He said there was one step which could be taken which would serve to reduce tensions substantially in the Middle East. This would be for the United States and the USSR to issue a declaration of guarantee for the independence and territorial integrity of all Middle Eastern states, including the Arab states, Israel, Iran and Turkey. All these countries had fears and apprehensions from one quarter or another; Israel felt threatened by the Arab states, the Arab states felt threatened by Israel and Turkey and Iran felt threatened by Russia. A declaration of this sort by the United States and the Soviet Union (and Mr. Ben-Gurion would welcome the association of France and the United Kingdom) would be conducive to relaxation of tension and the promotion of international confidence. Although a joint appeal for peace by Russia and the United States would be a good thing as far as it went, it would not have any very significant effect. But a guarantee might open the way leading to a peaceful settlement. He just did not know if the Russians would agree to such a declaration. Mr. Diefenbaker doubted that the Russians would be sincerely prepared to carry out a guarantee. Mr. Ben-Gurion said that even if the Russians were not sincere, such a declaration would be a great help in its effect on the Middle East, Africa and Asia. This impact would be largely psychological. It would offer Mr. Nasser an opportunity to withdraw from carrying out his threats, without losing face in the process.
Third Conversation
In a further meeting of the two Prime Ministers later in the day Mr. Ben-Gurion referred to the supreme need for peace if Israel were to achieve its national aspirations and meet the requirements of the people. Peace had to be achieved in any case for reasons of moral principle. A great step would be taken if the two Great Powers would declare themselves for the integrity and sovereignty of all nations in the Middle East and insist that peace be kept. What contribution could Canada make? Canada could not dictate to the United States and Russia and her influence fell short of being decisive; but Canada was a great moral factor and had great influence. Mr. Kennedy was about to meet Mr. Khrushchev in Vienna. It would be a great achievement if he could get Mr. Khrushchev to join in a declaration on the need for a negotiated solution in the Middle East. This was attainable if Israel and Egypt could only sit down together. The needs of all people in the area were the same: health, food and education. Israel’s youth should be builders, not soldiers and exactly the same applied to Egypt. Mr. Ben-Gurion said Canada could have a substantial influence in urging the desirability of a guarantee of national integrity and the need for a peaceful settlement. “This is what I would like you to do,” he said to Mr. Diefenbaker. Mr. Diefenbaker again said he was not sure a declaration such as Mr. Ben-Gurion proposed, would be effective since the USA would respect its obligations but the Russians would seek to evade theirs. In any event no harm would come from such a declaration and some value might lie in it. He understood the importance for Arab minds of Soviet adherence to such a declaration. Mr. Diefenbaker said he would inform Mr. Kennedy before the President left for Europe and would say that he had been impressed with the presentation of the proposal Mr. Ben-Gurion had made.
Mr. Diefenbaker said he had been invited by President Nasser to visit Cairo this summer but because of pressure of engagements at the time he would not be able to go. He had met President Nasser in New York last Fall and had found him a most unusual personality. He might accept Nasser’s invitation later but was not sure now. But he would like to have the opportunity to talk to him. Mr. Ben-Gurion said: “Good. You go to Egypt. I would like that.” He enquired whether Mr. Diefenbaker would also visit Israel at that time. Mr. Diefenbaker said he had rather planned to return Mr. Karamanlis’ visit and go to Greece at the time he went to Egypt and he was not sure if a visit to Israel as well would be a practical possibility. He would have the Department of External Affairs see what could be worked out.

649. DEA/10963-40

Memorandum from Secretary of State for External Affairs to Prime Minister

CONFIDENTIAL [Ottawa], July 11, 1961

Attached for your consideration is a draft letter which you might use in replying to Mr. David Ben-Gurion, whose letter of June 12 is attached.†
As the principal subject of Mr. Ben-Gurion’s letter is related to the subject to be discussed during Mr. Duncan Sandys’ impending visit to Ottawa,Footnote 2 you may wish to send a reply to Mr. Ben-Gurion before the Sandys’ visit takes place.
As you know, the internationally recognized capital of Israel is Tel Aviv. You will note that Mr. Ben-Gurion’s letter is date-lined “Jerusalem.” In order to avoid any misconstruction which could be placed on the way your reply is addressed, it is suggested that your letter to Mr. Ben-Gurion be addressed simply ‘Prime Minister of Israel’ (with no city mentioned). It is assumed that in any case the letter would be delivered either through our Ambassador in Israel or the Israeli Ambassador here.Footnote 3



Prime Minister to Prime Minister of Israel

Ottawa, July 12, 1961

My dear Prime Minister,
Thank you for your letter of June 12† in which you were kind enough to express your appreciation of your visit to this country in very generous terms. I am glad to hear that your trip here was pleasant and instructive. I can assure you that you made a deep impression on each of us and that your presence here will constitute one of our most happy memories.
I concur entirely with your suggestion that in the face of the monolithic communist bloc, the free world should close its ranks as much as possible. Indeed Canada has been one of the most active supporters of this idea in theory and in practice. The Canadian Government has worked earnestly in this direction by encouraging the widest measure of cooperation in all fields of activity among NATO countries and, indeed, among all the nations of the free world, and we shall continue to do so. Furthermore, our efforts have also been directed toward the free countries beyond the Atlantic area which represent such an important element of the free world.
In our efforts to achieve a closer association of the whole free world, we have tried to keep firmly in our thoughts the need to include closer ties with countries such as your own, which are outside our more immediate associations but which share in full measure our devotion to freedom. I think Canada’s role in this connection – in the Commonwealth and in our other international associations – should be to try to develop close links between all nations of the free world.

I am,
Yours sincerely,


Footnote 1

Kennedy’s reply was not located. The American response is discussed in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, Volume XVII (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1994), document 56. See also the record of Kennedy’s conversation with Ben-Gurion, ibid., document 57.

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Footnote 2

See document 510.

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Footnote 3

Amended by P.M. July 12. [H.B. Robinson]
Amended version seen by SSEA 14/7. R. C[ampbell]

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