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John F. Kennedy Administration: Telegram on UAR Discouraging U.S.-Israel Ties

(February 8, 1961)

In this telegram the meeting between Secretary Rusk and Ambassador Kamel of the UAR is summarized; much of the meeting was dedicated to the UAR trying to convince the United States to stop supporting Israel, stating that by helping Israel the U.S. relationship with Arab countries would be ruined.

1570. Following from uncleared memo of conversation:/2/

/2/The conversation was recorded in three memoranda of conversation that are ibid., 611.86B/2-761, 770G.00/2-761, and 884A.1901/12-761. Prior to the conversation, Talbot sent a briefing memorandum to Rusk on February 6. (Ibid., 601.86B11/2-661)

UAR Ambassador Kamel paid initial call on Secretary February 7. After expressing felicitations on behalf FonMin Fawzi, Kamel made following points: (1) common opposition to communism constituted "binding factor" in foreign relations USG and UAR; (2) UAR fears re both Zionism and Israel color Arab public attitudes, explain acceptance Soviet help and existing "coolness" in Arab-West relations. French assistance Israeli reactor is only most recent example steady Western support Israel; (3) Arab-Israel question should be put in "refrigerator" and not discussed in American political arena. Would be helpful if West also able influence Israelis remain quiet and reassure Arabs re threat posed by continued Israeli immigration.

Kamel concluded that "freezing" Arab-Israel issues would exert stabilizing influence in area following which specific problems could be approached through diplomatic channels. Hoped progress made in US-UAR relations since 1958 would be continued, with primary attention areas of agreement such as economic and cultural cooperation rather than points of difference. USG and other world powers could not afford be hypersensitive political criticism in Arab press. Small states like UAR, on other hand, had to react to such press criticism.

Secretary replied it was natural pay considerable attention points of friction between states but we should not of course overlook opportunities work quietly improve relations. There was great deal of progress which could be achieved. We intended to do our share and hoped UAR would also. Secretary recalled with appreciation Fawzi's customary readiness talk over problems and asked Kamel convey his personal regards.

Re Congo, Secretary noted we had indicated to UAR in Cairo general line US thinking. There was no "American plan", but we felt renewed discussions in UN forum would be useful in effort examine steps which might be taken move towards settlement. Congo would otherwise be drawn into vortex world problems. We felt it was not in anyone's interest except Communists for Cold War to be exported to Congo. Communists' tactics were becoming more sophisticated and effective in achieving penetration through non-military means. This development posed great threat to countries like US and UAR which opposed communism. We recognized UAR was critical factor in this struggle both in Near East and African areas and would like to keep in close touch in hope we could be mutually helpful./3/

/3/President Nasser conveyed his views on the Congo situation to President Kennedy in a letter of February 20. President Kennedy's reply was sent on March 1. (Ibid., Presidential Correspondence: Lot 71 D 370, Kennedy-Johnson--UAR, 1961 thru 1965) Acting Secretary of State Bowles sent the text of a suggested reply to the White House under cover of a February 27 memorandum for the President. (Ibid., Central Files, 770G.00/2-2761)

Secretary noted Administration has said little publicly re Near East. Kamel said he had welcomed this. Referring Arab fears Israel Secretary asked whether way might be found allay suspicions perhaps through some statement along lines Tripartite Declaration./4/

/4/Reference is to the statement by the Governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, issued on May 25, 1950, concerning the military balance in the Middle East. For text, see American Foreign Policy, 1950-1955: Basic Documents, vol. II, p. 2237; also Foreign Relations, 1950, vol. V, pp. 167-168.

Kamel emphasized new declarations or guarantees would only be regarded by Arabs as interference in area in support Israel. Would be preferable seek stability without talking about it which would only create trouble. Kamel expressed hope both West and Arabs could remain quiet and work to build up relations. This connection, he noted Arabs frankly suspicious new Administration due coincidence Truman administration and establishment Israel. However, he had sought explain to his government differences between "Trumanism" and new administration which he felt not unfriendly Arabs. It would nevertheless be important neutralize pressure groups here and UAR would take similar action against unfriendly elements there. Secretary noted quiet diplomacy useful improving relations between governments but not much help calming public suspicions. Kamel opined that, if US-UAR relations could be placed on basis mutual confidence, UAR would deal with Arab public opinion.

Secretary said he wished emphasize that we had been concerned at reports of Israel's nuclear development and intended to follow this question closely. We had received assurances from both Israel and France. These had made clear that reactor was for peaceful purposes and not for weapons production. USG opposed spread nuclear weapons and would make every effort remain currently informed re status and nature Israeli development this field. Kamel inquired what practical measures might be taken and suggested UAR might propose to UN that investigator be sent ascertain whether purpose reactor will be peaceful or not. Secretary cited IAEA and bilateral agreements on peaceful uses atomic energy as possibly helpful in satisfying Kamel's concern re practical measures but said could not reply in more detail without opportunity study.

As Kamel was leaving, Lewis Jones pointed out Israelis have requested two resident atomic scientists from IAEA for Weizman Institute and had taken position in favor international controls at recent IAEA meeting. Jones noted both developments would appear reinforce Israeli assurances as to peaceful uses new reactor. Kamel said he welcomed information and would include it in his report.


Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.86B/2-861. Confidential. Drafted by Brewer (NEA/NE); cleared by Hart (NEA), Buffum and Stanger (IO/UNP), Coote (AFW), and Farley (S/AE); and approved by Seip (S/S). Repeated to Amman, Baghdad, Beirut, Jidda, London, Leopoldville, Tel Aviv, and Taiz.

Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963: Near East, 1962-1963, V. XVIII. DC: GPO, 2000.