6-338 Meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister, November 13, 1948

Date: November 13, 1948

November 13, 1948
Paris, France

MOSHE Shertok, 4:30 p.m.

Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Shertok and Abba Eban, Israeli representative at the United Nations, called on Marshall to discuss the possibilities for a Security Council–sponsored armistice in Palestine and negotiations for a settlement there, as well as the admission of Israel to the United Nations. Shertok “wished to speak very frankly and confidentially” to Marshall regarding Israel’s relations with the United States and the USSR His government had attempted “to steer a middle course,” and while there was “no doubt” where Israel’s sympathies lay, “Israel was having increasing difficulty in proving to its people, in view of the position which we had taken on various aspects of the Palestine question, that the United States desired friendly or as friendly relations with Israel as did the U.S.S.R.” He appeared to suggest that US support for his nation’s positions regarding negotiations, an armistice, and admission to the United Nations “would counterbalance the sympathy” many Israelis were developing for the USSR.

Marshall responded that “it was our main purpose to bring about agreement between the Arabs and the Jews in Palestine and that we were not necessarily concerned as to what the agreement was as long as it did not involve conquest by war. I re-emphasized this point several times during my conversation. I said that if Israel openly flouted or defied the United Nations or the Security Council, it seemed clear it would be unable to gain admission to the United Nations, and that such other matters as loans and de jure recognition would, of course, be affected.

“I said that we had been endeavoring for a long time to make it possible for the Arabs and Jews to agree. I said that thus far we had been successful in bringing the Arabs and, I might add, the British along with us, in the steps which the United Nations had taken. I said that I was convinced the Arabs greatly feared that Israel might not be content with its present position in Palestine, and that it might endeavor to branch out and would actually take steps in this direction. I said that reports of Israeli arms purchases in Czechoslovakia and their receipt increased Arab fears in this respect. I expressed the opinion that we were closer to an agreement between the Arabs and the Jews at the present time than we ever had been and said to Mr. Shertok, in brief, ‘Don’t overplay your hand.’

“I also added that I had not seen any of the Israeli representatives in Paris since my last conversation with Mr. Shertok in October, and that I had not done so because I had learned from experience that what was said in confidence was immediately thereafter known in New York. I said that I understood the long historical background in Israel’s struggle, but that my attitude was that we should now deal with each other in the normal fashion as Foreign Secretaries each representing his own Government.”

Shertok thanked Marshall “for the frank expression of my views” and, wishing to be “equally frank,” made clear his belief that Britain was attempting to use a November 4 UN resolution to deny Israel control of the Negev and that he had “definite evidence that the British were now supplying the Arabs with men and arms.” Marshall responded that he had heard and investigated such reports and was convinced that the British were not doing so. He concluded by emphasizing again “the importance of an agreement between the Arabs and Jews and strongly stressed that we now had a real opportunity of reaching it.” (Foreign Relations, 1948, 5: 1577–80. This memorandum was written by Fraser Wilkins of the US delegation.)