2339. Ref: State 96223./2/
/2/Telegram 96223 to Tel Aviv, December 3, instructed Barbour to focus on the question of IAEA safeguards in his coming meeting with Eshkol and Eban. (Ibid., DEF 12 NEAR E)
1. In conversation with FonMin Eban Jan 10 (PM Eshkol on vacation and I did not wish delay discussion further) I urged that GOI reconsider carefully its stand on IAEA safeguards. Drawing particularly from reftel, I stressed importance we give to this matter, our confidence and reasons therefore that IAEA system inspection need not endanger Israeli security or reveal commercial secrets, and our view that unilateral Israeli accession to IAEA safeguards would be positive contribution to world peace, raising esteem in which Israel held in world and working in Israel's own self interest.
2. Eban's response centered about three points: (A) "national dignity" (B) national security (C) domestic political considerations.
3. Re (A) national dignity. Eban objected to Israel's being asked to give up something while the same demands were not being levied on UAR. He rejected idea that somehow Israel "owed UAR something" in this matter. Israel's own peaceful disposition on area nuclear matters had been made abundantly clear in recent statements by himself (Realite interview and "Meet the Press") and by Israel Delegation in UN. His researches showed him he said that a basic premise of arms control agreements was mutual recognition of sovereignty, right to existence of partners in agreements. There seemed to be no disposition on part UAR make such elemental concession in case Israel. Instead one only heard talk of war of liberation. He wondered whether USG was not seeking do too much to increase range of assurances to UAR and not taking sufficient account Israel's concerns. He said Israel's hopes for progress in this problem rested largely on the achievement of general non-proliferation treaty.
4. In my rejoinder I emphasized we not pushing Israel to take action under assumption Israel owed UAR anything. Rather we felt this was something Israel could do that would serve its own self interest and broader interests world peace. Nuclear variable lent whole new dimension to Middle East arms race and was regarded by us with utmost seriousness. We were not asking Israel to do anything we would not ask UAR, though in case latter, in view paucity its nuclear facilities, this almost academic question at this time.
5. As for possibilities general non-proliferation agreement we were hopeful, but its prospects were uncertain and we could not rely on it solely as a check to M.E. race at this stage.
6. Re (B) national security. In response my question Eban said that nuclear facilities in plural he had referred to in conversations Nov 2 were various components of Dimona complex and there no others. GOI concerned that details of Dimona lay out would become known to UAR through inspections and thence through important Egyptian presence at IAEA headquarters. Inquiry had been made to Israeli reps in Vienna and consultations undertaken with experts in Israel and both agreed inspection carried substantial security risk.
7. I countered with reminder that under IAEA procedures GOI would have say in who inspectors would be and that Israel's presence or lack thereof on IAEA Board of Governors would not affect protection it would enjoy in this respect.
8. Re (C) domestic political considerations. Eban's point here was closely related to "national dignity" argument. He asked how GOI could explain to Israeli people if it were to unilaterally accede to IAEA inspection while the UAR does nothing. Israeli people would wonder where national equality was then.
9. I suggested that Israeli people might very well understand such an action as we would: as a logical next step in the unilateral reassurances that Israel has already given to world about its nuclear intentions. It might even be argued that such unilateral action would be more palatable to Israeli public opinion than a bilateral agreement with Nasser, though I recognized that bilateral agreements would ultimately be desirable.
10. Eban said that he would again consult the PriMin and experts on the various technical problems. He agreed to take up with PriMin the suggestion that my next meeting on this subject be with both of them. Eban suggested that we consider putting in writing future exchanges on the subject. I said I hoped we would not formalize our discussions to this extent at this stage. It seemed to me that if we felt we needed to put things in writing we could use informal bout de papier procedure. He agreed.
11. In parenthetical remarks near end of discussion of subject Eban expressed GOI satisfaction with talks with Ambassador Bunker. Said GOI feeling was that water is essential aspect of desalting project not nuclear power. Any means technically feasible to get required water would be satisfactory to Israelis.
12. I closed with expressed hope GOI would give this subject careful priority attention it merited. Eban said he would be in touch as soon as he had had further discussions.
13. Comment: Foregoing is summary lengthy conversation being reported more fully by airgram./3/ Believe I covered all points of reftel with in some cases additional what, I hope, were supporting arguments. No doubt but that the going is heavy. MFA Assistant DirGen Bitan, who was present at conversation, said later at lunch he thought progress along lines we were pressing was unlikely. No doors have been shut however and I did not detect in Eban's remarks any desire to stop our exchanges. It would of course be quite helpful if we could convey to Israelis some sign of UAR give in practical matter of IAEA inspection.
/3/A memorandum of the conversation was enclosed with airgram A-414, January 16. (Ibid., AE 13 IAEA)
Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, AE 13 ISR. Secret; Exdis. Repeated to Cairo.