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Thursday, December 14, 2006

MERIA Journal V.10, N.4 (December 2006) Gat: Britain and the Occupied Territories After the 1967 War


Published by the GLORIA Center,
Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya

Volume 10, No. 4, Article 4/7 - December 2006
Total Circulation 23,500

Moshe Gat*

This article discusses the change in British policy towards Israel following Israel's victory in the 1967 War. It examines how prior to the Six Day war Britain and Israel enjoyed a friendly relationship characterized by the former's absolute commitment to maintaining stability in the Middle East. Britain supplied Israel with arms and gave political support in the United Nations as well as in the international forums. The article studies how following the war, Harold Wilson's government sought ways to minimize the damage Israel's victory had wrought to Britain's economic interests. This policy change was manifested in support of the Arab position regarding the territories captured by Israel in the course of the war.

From the end of the 1950s until the 1967 Six Day War, relations between Great Britain and Israel were friendly, in particular regarding British support for Israel's right to secure borders. This policy was expressed in arms shipments and political support for Israel at the United Nations in the conflict between Israel and its neighbors. The two countries generally conducted an ongoing dialogue to find ways to prevent flare-ups between the armed forces of Israel and its neighbors, which could have a negative impact on British interests in the region. These interests included--among others--the flow of oil; development of economic relations with Arab countries; and, primarily, checking Soviet penetration of the Middle East.


The Six Day War ended with a smarting Arab defeat, but also a serious corresponding blow to British economic interests in the region. In order to curtail the economic damage, for a short period after the war, the British government under Harold Wilson sought to disassociate itself from Britain's pro-Israel image by supporting the Arab position vis-a-vis the territories captured by Israel during the course of the war. This British position led to tensions between the British and Israeli governments. This tension reached a peak when Israel's Prime Minister Levi Eshkol labeled British Foreign Secretary George Brown as an enemy of Israel and charged that British policy sought to deny Israel its gains in the war and, in essence, to undermine Israel's very existence.

The article at hand seeks to examine British policy led by George Brown in regard to the occupied territories that reached its peak in UN Security Council Resolution 242 in November 1967.


After the 1956 Sinai Campaign, it was clear to the British government that the de-colonialization process was inevitable. While the Campaign did not result in the immediate relinquishment of the United Kingdom's hold on the Middle East, it did indicate that Britain's withdrawal from the region was only a matter of time. It pointed out that for this reason steps should be taken to do this gradually, in a manner that would minimize damage to British interests--many of which were shared by the West as a whole.[1] Great Britain maintained a military presence in the region that was designed to check Soviet expansion and penetration of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East as a whole, in order to ensure the free flow of oil from the region to the UK and Western Europe.[2]

Prime Minister Harold Macmillan voiced British strategy for maintaining peace and stability in the region in a May 1963 speech before Parliament. He said that "...her Majesty's Government [is] deeply interested in peace and stability in this area, and are opposed to the use of force or the threat of force there as elsewhere in the world..."[3]

The British government viewed Israel's military power as an important component in maintaining peace and stability in the region. Consequently, it did not refrain from sending arms to Israel and viewed this support as a vehicle for preventing war, or as the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan chose to term it, to contribute to the consolidation of stability.[4] This was expressed by the British Ambassador to Israel in a communication to the Foreign Office in which he wrote:

We do not give the Israelis arms because they are pro-Western or because we admire their achievement. We give them arms because our interest in the Middle East is to keep the place quiet and to prevent war. Anything which makes war in the Middle East more likely is against the interests of Western powers.[5]

The stability that the British so keenly sought to maintain was not, however, long-lasting, due to the conflict over water resources between Israel and its neighbors, a conflict which threatened the relatively lengthy period of stability that had preceded it. In late 1963, neighboring Arab states learned that Israel had completed construction of its National Water Carrier, designed to carry water from the Sea of Galilee to the south of Israel. The Arabs viewed Israel's water program as an "existential threat" to the Arab nation, as dangerous to their existence as was the establishment of the State of Israel itself in 1948.[6] In an emergency conference convened in Cairo in January 1964 to address the prevention of exploitation of water from the Sea of Galilee by Israel, Arab leaders approved as countermeasures the diversion of the headwaters of the Jordan River and the establishment of a Unified Arab Military Command to prepare a program for a military build-up of all Arab forces.[7] In essence, the water dispute set in motion dynamic forces within the Arab-Israeli conflict that had a decisive impact on the relationship between Israel and its neighbors. It pulled the region towards a relentless rise in tension, which ultimately culminated in full-scale war.[8]

The British government supported the Israeli position on the issue. Great Britain was of the opinion that the actions of the Israeli government were in keeping with international law,[9] and that attempts by the Arab states to divert the headwaters of the Jordan River flowing into the Sea of Galilee was a patent attempt to sabotage Israel's future development.[10] Nevertheless, the British government did not make this position public. British interests were too important to jeopardize them by supporting the Israeli position, no matter how justified. The best policy, it was surmised, was to maintain a low profile, or in practice to continue a policy of not taking a position siding with either side in the dispute. Such a policy, the British government surmised, would help preserve British interests in the Arab world.[11]

Nevertheless, maintaining a low profile and refraining from taking sides was interpreted by the Arabs as support for the Israeli position. The Arabs were distrustful towards the British, and memories of the Suez Campaign--in which Britain, France, and Israel had secretly coordinated their attack on Egypt together--were still fresh in their minds. They were aware that Great Britain was secretly providing arms to Israel. The Arabs believed that fundamentally, British policy was pro-Israel and anti-Arab. One of the most salient expressions of Great Britain's support of Israel in Arab eyes was Great Britain's attempts in the days prior to the start of the Six Day War to organize an international maritime task force that would break the blockade on the Tiran Straits at the mouth of the Red Sea.[12] 

Furthermore, on June 2, 1967, three days before the outbreak of war, Prime Minister Harold Wilson met with President Lyndon Johnson in Washington in a last ditch attempt to open the Tiran Straits to Israeli shipping and thus to avoid war. The meeting, which was fruitless, was viewed with suspicion in the Arab world and as a sign of a Suez-like conspiracy. In their minds, the British prime minister appeared to be leading an attempt to establish an anti-Arab coalition designed to serve Israel's objectives. The Egyptians, who had learned of the trip of Mossad Director General Meir Amit to Washington on May 30, saw such meetings as a clear case of "a Suez type plot" being woven by Great Britain, the United States, and Israel.[13]

It is instructive that, in any case, the Wilson-led government preferred an Israeli victory in a war with the Arabs. While such a victory would have a negative impact on the standing and interests of Great Britain, an Egyptian victory would be far graver. An Egyptian victory would pave the way for the collapse of pro-Western regimes, oil supply was liable to be disrupted, and such an outcome would surely bolster Soviet influence in the region.[14] The 1967 War between Israel and its neighbors indeed ended in an Israeli victory, but it inflicted a high economic price on Great Britain. One could even go so far as to say that the magnitude of economic damage done to Great Britain was of the same magnitude that the defeat dealt the Arabs. The closure of the Suez Canal caused serious economic losses, along with the Arab oil embargo, forcing Britain to buy oil from other, more expensive sources. Finally, the oil-rich Arab states began to withdraw their money from Britain's banks.


As soon as hostilities ceased, the Wilson Government's policy was to find ways to preserve Britain's vital interests. The Foreign Office defined these interests as a large and very profitable share of the oil operation, large Arab investment in London, a growing export market, ensured communications by sea and air to the east, and the denial of effective control of the area and its resources to the Communist powers.[15]

The British judged that they must act simultaneously along two paths: a comprehensive solution between Israel and its neighbors and rapid improvement of its image and realization of a rapprochement with the Arab world.[16] The preferred path was a comprehensive settlement. In their assessment, the dismal Arab defeat created conditions that could possibly bring about a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The assumption was that although the Israeli government was "dizzy with victory," it would be willing to return all the territories occupied in the course of the war. In the context of a comprehensive settlement, there would be a need to deal with the refugee issue. A solution to this problem would help remove general Arab bitterness, it was surmised.[17]

Very soon it became clear to the British government that a comprehensive peace was not on the horizon. The Arab states had yet to recover from their humiliating defeat in order to consider negotiation, let alone the direct negotiations that Israel demanded. The two primary superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, who viewed the Middle East as a theater of the Cold War, could not reach an agreement on the nature of a comprehensive settlement. The USSR demanded categorically, prior to any discussion on any arrangement between Israel and the Arabs, that Israel withdraw its forces from all territory occupied in the course of the war. The United States, on the other hand, held that the war had created an opportunity to achieve a more fundamental settlement between Israel and its neighbors. The American administration's strategy was that the return of occupied territories would only take place in exchange for a peace agreement, and it did not consider territorial changes out of the question.[18]

From the British standpoint, as long as the two superpowers were locked in a struggle, the possibility of a comprehensive settlement looked distant.[19] Therefore, they put their sights solidly on one immediate goal: protecting the national interests of Britain. Their aspiration was to achieve the same status that the French enjoyed in the Israeli-Arab conflict. The policy of French President Charles de Gaulle, they believed, was the way to go. The French general had succeeded in positioning France as an unaligned party vis-a-vis Israel and the Arabs. To be more precise, de Gaulle succeeded in preventing his government from being identified with Israeli policy, even before the outbreak of the war.[20]

If Great Britain harbored any fears as to the security and survivability of the State of Israel as it had prior to the war, this concern dissipated in its wake. The outcome of the Six Day War surprised the British to a certain extent. All indications pointed to the fact that Israel had the ability to deal with the Arab states, but the stunning blow it delivered was far greater than they had expected. It was assumed that in the future, Israel would be able to defend its existence and ensure its rights to unfettered passage through the Tiran Straits. Moreover, Israel enjoyed the support of the Americans, and American policy guaranteed Israel's existence and its rights as a nation.[21] Under such conditions, the British surmised, "there is no serious danger that either of these rights will be threatened for the foreseeable future, whether there is a peace settlement or not."[22]

"Unless we succeed in disassociating ourselves convincingly from Israel's action," said British Foreign Secretary George Brown, Great Britain would remain constantly under the threat of punitive actions by the Arabs. Not only that, but there was a pressing need to establish good relations with the Arab states as soon as possible. In the first stage, such overtures were to be accomplished by giving declarative expression to British policy towards the war and its outcome, as an indication of Great Britain's attitude towards the Arab world. That is to say, the British Government was to promulgate declarations which would be comparatively pleasing to the Arabs.[23] Officials in the Foreign Office recommended, for instance, that in order to improve relations with the Arab world as soon as possible, to ensure the opening of the Suez Canal and the supply of oil, Great Britain should condemn Israel as "the aggressor" on June 5:

On the lines that we have now examined that evidence, have come to the conclusion that the Israelis fired the first shot, and take the view that it was reprehensible of them not to wait for the efforts we and others were making to extricate them from the admittedly impossible situation in which the UAR had placed them.[24]

In addition, they recommended that the differences in outlook between Great Britain and Israel vis-a-vis the status of Jerusalem should be made as prominent as possible. The officials cited that the safest points on which to concentrate might be the need to keep Jerusalem an open city.[25]

The British foreign secretary did not go as far as his advisors in the Foreign Office suggested, although a declarative dimension was needed to appease the Arab world. On June 17, 1967, a week after the end of the war, the foreign secretary declared that there should not be an imposed solution, and that the war should not be allowed to lead to territorial expansion.[26] A more compelling expression of this sentiment was made in Foreign Secretary Brown's speech before the United Nations General Assembly on June 21, 1967. The foreign secretary turned to the Arabs and clarified that his country had not participated in the war on the Israeli side and that accusations of this kind caused damage to Britain's relations with its Arab friends. As for the outcome of the war, Brown said that the war should not lead to territorial expansion, and in short, demanded an Israeli withdrawal from the territories that had been occupied. He warned the Israeli government from taking steps vis-a-vis Jerusalem that would be counter to this principle. He added that should the Israeli government annex the eastern part of the city, as it intended to do, Israel would not only isolate itself from world public opinion, it would also loose the affection it had enjoyed up to that point. The British foreign secretary underscored that any settlement had to include recognition of all states in the region to exist and ensure unfettered passage through international sea lanes, including the reopening of the Suez Canal. In order to work towards a settlement between Israel and its neighbors, Great Britain recommended that the United Nations appoint a special envoy to the region.[27] The speech was fundamentally pro-Arab. Indeed, the next day, the British cabinet cited in its minutes that the purpose of Brown's speech "...had been to make it clear that we had not given, and were not giving, full support to either party in the recent conflict and to begin the process of improving our relations with the Arab states, which was essential if our oil supplies from them were to be resumed."[28]

From Israel's standpoint, Brown's address was no more than an attempt to ingratiate the Arabs at Israel's expense--a case of pure betrayal. Great Britain's policy changed from support of the Israeli position--sometimes open, sometimes covert--prior to the war, to a leadership position among the countries seeking to deprive Israel of its victory in the war. This British zeal, in essence, encouraged the Arabs to ignore the reality of their defeat and fueled their demand that the situation be "reversed" to facts on the ground prior to the war. In the wake of Brown's speech at the United Nations, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Golda Meir minced no words, labeling the British foreign secretary "a Judas."[29]

The State of Israel did not bar withdrawal from the territories occupied in the course of the Six Day War. Rather, it declared its desire to achieve security in exchange for territories. The territories were viewed as a bargaining chip, which it fully intended to exploit in any future peace negotiations with the relevant Arab states and had no intention of relinquishing.[30] Indeed, on June 19, 1967, the Israeli government passed a decision, which was transmitted to the Americans, stating that Israel was prepared to: 1) withdraw to the international border with Egypt, subject to demilitarization of the Sinai Peninsula and steps to guarantee unfettered navigation through the Tiran Strait and the Suez Canal; and 2) to withdraw to the international border with Syria subsequent to demilitarization of the Golan Heights, subject to a commitment that the headwaters of the Jordan in Syria would not be diverted. There would be separate negotiations regarding the future of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and a solution to the refugee problem.[31] The Israeli government was interested in establishing a peace based on direct negotiations between Israel and its neighbors, while keeping Jerusalem a unified city under Israeli control. From Israel's perspective, there was no pressure in timing, and all matters had to be weighed through the prism of security needs.

From the standpoint of the British government, Israel's position did not take into account the interests of its friends. Israel's position was viewed as rigid and uncompromising, and its military prowess had become a handicap rather than an asset. The British believed that instead of using its strength to be pragmatic towards the Arabs, Israel was using its power to take an extreme position.[32] Israel had undergone a metamorphosis--from a country fighting for survival to one that demonstrated an uncompromising attitude towards the Arabs. Israeli inflexibility was expressed in the question of Jerusalem. A short time after Israeli forces took control of East Jerusalem, Israel declared the unification of the city. In addition, Israel announced that the status of Jerusalem was a non-negotiable issue and ignored the United Nation's June 28 resolution calling for repeal of the city's unification. Prime Minister Eshkol said that Israel without Jerusalem "would be a country without a head."[33] The British government did not oppose unification in and of itself, but it was opposed to unification under Israeli control. Its preference was "to some form of internationalization."[34] However, beyond this, the British believed that annexation as the fruits of occupation was a dangerous precedent. Annexation would never be acceptable to the Arab world and would constitute an obstacle to any future negotiation. The British held that the future of Jerusalem "...will be a key issue in any settlement and would be likely to block any general settlement."[35] In essence, the British government took a leadership role among the countries fighting the unification of the city and warned the Israeli government that this step was liable to undermine good relations between the two countries.

In addition to Great Britain's opposition to the unification of Jerusalem and its demand that a solution be found to the refugee problem, expressed openly and emphatically, the most pressing and urgent matter from a British standpoint was the reopening of the Suez Canal. The closure of the canal caused tremendous losses to Great Britain, which impacted directly on Great Britain's balance of payments. Prime Minister Wilson clarified to Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Abba Eban that Britain paid an exceptionally heavy price for the closure of the canal. Great Britain's support for free navigation through the Tiran Straits prior to the war led to a Middle East oil embargo that forced Great Britain to buy oil from other sources at much higher prices per barrel.[36]

The British presumed that the Israeli government would take into account Britain's support prior to the outbreak of the war as well as the heavy price Britain had paid for its support in the aftermath and, therefore, would take into account and assist Britain in ensuring the opening of the canal as soon as possible. The Egyptians themselves were willing to open the canal to shipping, but they demanded that Israel withdraw its forces from the eastern bank. Despite Wilson's appeal to Israel's minister of foreign affairs and repeated appeals to the Israeli government requesting that Israel take steps to bring about the opening of the canal to shipping, Israel was adamant that only through direct negotiations with the Arab states was the Jewish state prepared to reach agreements about this and all other issues. The Israelis clarified to the British time and again that the Arabs must recognize that they would not achieve anything unless they negotiated directly with Israel. From an Israeli perspective, it seemed that time was on Israel's side, and all that Israel needed to do was to sit tight and wait for the Arabs to face reality. Alternatively, Israel could maintain the status quo or change it through negotiations.[37]

The British felt that it was totally unrealistic to expect the Arabs to agree to direct negotiations with Israel. The only hope for progress towards a settlement was to mobilize UN machinery by appointing a special envoy, and the effectiveness of the organization hinged to a great extent on agreement between the two superpowers. If the Israeli government were to rely solely on its military might, in the end it would be hesitant to embark on pragmatic motions towards the Arabs. The British stressed that "the longer the situation continues carrying with it the build up of new frustration and resentments on the Arab side, the harder it may be to reach a settlement which will hold."[38] In practical terms, circumstances would lead to Arab extremism, preparations for another war, and acts of terrorism against Israel.[39]


The Israelis remained staunch in their position. Moreover, in the course of time, the Israeli government went from talk about its willingness to give back territories occupied in the war in exchange for a settlement with the Arabs, to demands that the so-called de facto "border'" (that is, the 1948 Armistice Line, the Green Line) be adjusted in any final comprehensive settlement that would set secure and internationally recognized borders. In practice, the June 19 decision of the Israeli cabinet simple dissolved and ultimately was rescinded.

Prime Minister Levi Eshkol did not demonstrate leadership in cementing Israeli policy of territorial concession. Certain parties and political figures stepped forward to fill the void by putting into effect their own political outlook.[40] Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan declared that Gaza was part of the State of Israel and that under no circumstances should Israel agree to go back to the 1948 Green Line.[41] Minister of Foreign Affairs Abba Eban spoke of revision of the borders under which Jerusalem would remain one city, and the Syrians would no longer sit atop the escapement overlooking Israeli territory. Moreover, he clarified that Israel could not accept reestablishment of an Egyptian presence in the Gaza Strip.[42] Minister of Labor Yigal Allon, a respected strategist and heroic figure, argued that from a security standpoint, the Jordan River (and the middle of the Dead Sea) must be made Israel's eastern frontier with the Kingdom of Jordan. Therefore, an Israeli presence of urban and agricultural and military settlements should be established in the Jordan Valley basin.[43] Demands for border changes meshed with the rise of political forces within existing parties and beyond, which called for Israel to hold on to the territories taken in the war, based on religious grounds, historical and legal foundations, and security considerations. During this period, the term Greater Israel (Eretz-Israel Ha-Shleyma) was coined, and, indeed, the Israeli government took concrete steps in this direction, approving resettlement of the Etzion bloc in the West Bank and by the Banias tributary in the Golan Heights.[44]

Annexation of territories occupied in war constituted a dangerous precedent in the eyes of the British, who viewed this step as but another manifestation of Israeli intransigence. Israel's continued presence in the occupied territories was considered dangerous; all the more so given the influx of Jewish settlers into the territories (despite Israeli attempts to mask its intentions by defining the settlements as "military outposts"). The British were convinced that Jewish settlements were liable to trigger extremism and frustration in the Arab world, which would then blame the British and the Americans for Israel's actions.

The British believed that there was an atmosphere of moderation in the Arab world that needed to be taken advantage of. The Arabs no longer seemed to believe that they would benefit from renewed fighting or that Israel could be destroyed. This assessment was based on the fact that the Arab states, convening in Khartoum in late August to early September 1967, were willing to renew the supply of oil to the West. Egypt's president himself was interested in patching up relations with the West and even expressed his willingness to open the Suez Canal, if Israel withdrew from the eastern bank, not the entire Sinai Peninsula. From a British perspective, Khartoum was a sign of a more rational approach to the problem of Israel and of seeking settlement. Israeli intransigence was likely to propel the Arabs back into an uncompromising position.[45]

Signs of moderation in the Arab world found expression in the forging of renewed ties between Great Britain and Egypt soon after the conclusion of the Six Day War. This was after years of severed ties between the two countries. Egyptian willingness to conduct talks in order to reestablish relations constituted an important high sign on the road to a settlement. In Brown's assessment, as the Arab state with the greatest influence in the Middle East, Egypt was a linchpin. Egyptian policy, he surmised, "will be crucial to a satisfactory Middle East settlement and to the reopening of the Suez Canal, which is of primary importance to us [Great Britain]."[46]

Indeed, the Khartoum Conference signaled moderation and realism among the Arab states (except for Syria and Algeria) towards Israel. While the Khartoum Conference resolved that there would be no peace with Israel--expressed in passage of what became known as "the Three Nos" (no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel)--the gathering did not discuss military action or any concrete steps towards destruction of the State of Israel. Rather it discussed only coordination of diplomatic work to bring about withdrawal of Israeli forces from Arab soil.[47] The Israeli government did not view the Khartoum Conference's deliberations and resolutions as an expression of moderation or realism. Rather, they had the opposite reaction. Minister of Foreign Affairs Abba Eban said that Khartoum slammed the door and the window that could lead to peace in the future.[48] The conference was perceived as an obstacle to realizations of Israel's best intentions after the war, expressed on July 19, 1967. Israel viewed the decisions as irresponsible and alienated from the genuine interests of the peoples of the region and contrary to the principles enshrined in the UN Charter.[49]

The British policy designed to cement close relationships with Egypt was viewed by Israel as but one negative component of British policy emerging in the wake of the war. Even if the policy was fueled by a clear British interest in reopening the Suez Canal and protecting the United Kingdom's economic interests,[50] it was contrary to the existential interest of the State of Israel.[51] Prime Minister Eshkol told the British ambassador to Israel angrily that the British government "...seemed to be taking the lead in every effort to whittle any Israeli position: First of all over Jerusalem and... in the United Nations generally, but Israel was not going to throw away her survival however great the pressure exerted on her."[52]

Eshkol placed full responsibility for this British policy, which was grossly detrimental from an Israeli perspective, on Foreign Secretary Brown, whom he viewed as an enemy of Israel. Parallel to this, the Israeli media conducted a sometimes harsh campaign against British policy, and Brown in particular. One of the Israeli papers went so far as to write that one was hard put to differentiate between Bevin and Brown.[53]

Materially, the personal attack on Brown was not justified, for the foreign secretary was merely presenting his country's policy. Wilson, who was considered a friend of Israel, was no different from Brown in protecting British interests. In fact, in a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Abba Eban, Wilson clarified unequivocally and with brutal frankness the urgent need to open the canal. Despite the declarative stance of the British officials in the UN, the British government wanted Israel to appreciate the economic damage Great Britain had sustained for supporting Israel before the war, and the economic difficulties it now faced as a result. The Israeli government, however, not only did not show any signs of understanding Britain's troubles, but also adopted an inflexible and uncompromising position.[54]

British eagerness on the declarative level (or as Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons Richard Crossman put it, "to make noises"[55]), the objective of which was to show the Arab world that Britain was not siding with anyone in the conflict, attempted to mitigate the economic damage and to do everything possible to reach a quick settlement. In fact, Brown read the situation correctly, for lack of progress spelled frustration, resentment, terrorism, and deterioration to renewal of open hostilities. Despite the declarative dimension adopted by British representatives in international forums such as the United Nations and beyond, the British policy of trying to get close to the Arab world was not, fundamentally, detrimental to vital Israeli interests. British policy was designed to work on behalf of a comprehensive settlement that would serve as the foundation for peace and stability. Its components were, among others, a withdrawal from territories occupied during the war, mutually recognized borders between Israel and its neighbors, an end to the state of war, the right of all countries in the region to live in peace, an international effort to solve the refugee problem, and respect for the right of all nations "through international waterways."[56]

Brown announced emphatically time after time to the Israelis that he would never be party to a proposal that did not safeguard Israel's security.[57] Indeed, the British succeeded in the end in bringing about a decision in the Security Council in the spirit of this British policy. Resolution 242, which was passed by all members of the Security Council, laid down principles for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

The resolution called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied territories and an end to belligerency. It also guaranteed freedom of navigation through international waterways and the dispatch to the Middle East of a special representative of the secretary general in charge of aiding the achievement of a peaceful settlement.[58]

The resolution was an expression of British diplomacy skills. There was no commitment to direct negotiations, a fact which raised the ire of the Israeli government. There was no demand for a complete withdrawal. The resolution was vague on purpose, because only in this manner would it be acceptable to all the parties, allowing each to give it their own interpretation. Abba Eban labeled the decision "a creative dead lock."[59] Nevertheless, it served as the foundation for all diplomatic efforts towards progress on a political solution between Israel and its neighbors.

*Moshe Gat is Head of Special Programs and Professor of Modern History at the General History Department and the Political Studies Department, Bar-Ilan University, Israel. Email:


[1] William Jackson, Britain's Triumph and Decline in the Middle East (London: Brassey's Press, 1996), p. 136; Anthony Gorst and Lewis Johnman, The Suez Crisis (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. xi, 151. John Darwin, Britain and Decolonisation (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1988), pp. 223, 227, 280-86.

[2] Foreign Office Records, London (FO), FO371/170165, Minutes by Hood, March 6 and 16, 1963; Cabinet Record, London (Cab) 148/3, Note by the Secretaries, October 13, 1963, March 3, 1965; Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons Official Report, 5th Series, Vol. 707, columns 1337-38.

[3] FO371/170537, FO to Tel Aviv, July 22, 1963, and Minute by Morris, August 28, 1963; Parliamentary Debates, 5th Series, Vol. 677, May 14, 1963.

[4] Prime Minister's Papers, London (PREM) 11/4933, de Zulueto to Prime Minister, November 21, 1961; FO371/170538, Macmillan to Eshkol, August 13, 1963.

[5] FO371/150857, Tel Aviv to FO, October 25, 1960.

[6] Fred J. Khouri, "The Jordan River Controversy," Review of Politics, Vol. 27 (1965), p. 43; Miriam R. Lowi, Water and Power: The Politics of a Scarce Resource in the Jordan River Basin (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 119.

[7] FO371/175557, Arab Summit Conference, January 28, 1964; Yitzhak Rabin, Service Notes (Tel Aviv: Ma'ariv Library, 1979), pp. 119-20; al-Ahram (Egypt), January 18-19, 1964.  

[8] Cab133/247, Background Notes, January 31, 1964; FO371/175574, Minute by the FO, January 15, 1964.

[9] Foreign Relations of the U.S. Diplomatic Papers (FRUS), Near East, 1962-63, pp. 770-72; FO371/175574, Guidance No. 25, January 13, 1964; Daniel Hillel, Rivers of Eden: The Struggle for Water and the Quest for Peace in the Middle East (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 161.

[10] FO371/175574, Minute by Morris, January 22, 1964; Cab133/247, Minute by the FO, January 31, 1964.

[11] Israel State Archive (ISA), Hez/7/3526, Jerusalem to London, February 16, 1965; FO371/180666, Tel Aviv to FO, January 16, 1965.

[12] Harold Wilson, The Labour Government: A Personal Record (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971), p. 395; Cab128/42, Conclusion of a Meeting, May 23, 1967; Peter Paterson, Tired and Emotional: the Life of Lord George-Brown (London: Chatto and Windus, 1993), p. 218.

[13] Herman F. Eilts, "The Six Day War in the Eyes of Egypt," Asher Susser (ed.), Six Days-Thirty Years: New Perspectives of the Six Day War (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1999), p. 95; Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London (FCO), 7/489, Cairo to FO, June 3, 1967.

[14] Cab128/42, Conclusions of a Meeting, May 30, 1967; Cab129/130, Memorandum by the Secretary of State, May 29, 1967.

[15] PREM13/1621, FO to Certain Missions, June 16, 1967; Cab128/42/2, 46th Conclusions, July 11, 1967.

[16] Cab128/42/2, 39th Conclusions, June 15, 1967, and 46th Conclusions, July 11, 1967.

[17] PREM13/1620, Moscow to FO, June 10, and FO to Certain Missions, June 16, 1967; FCO17/521, Brief by the FO, June 12, 1967; Fco17/522, Wilson to Johnson, June 15, 1967.

[18] FRUS, 1964-68, Vol. 19, pp. 563-64; Richard B. Parker, The Politics of Miscalculation in the Middle East (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1993), p. 127; Nitza Nachmias, Transfer of Arms, Leverage, and Peace in the Middle East (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988), pp. 22-23.

[19] PREM13/1621, Record of Conversation, June 20, 1967.

[20] FCO17/502, Brief by the FO, June 17, 1967.

[21] Cab129/133, Memorandum by Brown, July 7, 1967.

[22] Ibid. PREM13/1621, Record of Discussion, June 20, 1967; Paul Gore-Booth, With Great Truth and Respect (London: Constable, 1974), pp.367-68.

[23] Cab128/48/2, 46th Conclusions, July 11, 1967; Cab129/132, Memorandum by Brown, July 7, 1967.

[24] FCO17/34, Minute by Thomson, June 14, 1967

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ha'aretz (Israel), June 18, 1967.

[27] FCO17/600, Brown Speech, June 21, 1967, Ha'aretz, June 22, 1967.

[28] Cab128/42/2, 41st Conclusions, June 22, 1967; Frank Brenchley, Britain and the Middle East: An Economic History 1945-1987 (London: Lester Crook, 1989), p. 154.

[29] Ibid, p. 354, Note 16; ISA, Hez/17/1391, Jerusalem to London, October 15, 1967.

[30] Reuben Pedatzur, The Triumph of Embarrassment; Israel and the Territories After the Six Day War (Tel Aviv: Bitan, 1996), pp. 28-29.

[31] Rabin, Service Notes, p. 226; Abba Eban, Memoirs (Tel Aviv: Ma'ariv Library, 1978), p. 430; ISA, Prime Minister files, 10/6304, July 9, 1967.

[32] FCO17/502, Brief by the FO, June 17, 1967.

[33] FCO17/506, Brief for the Cabinet, September 7, 1967; FCO17/505, Memorandum by Brown, September 13, 1967; Moshe Gilbo'a, Six Years-Six Days; Origins and History of the Six Day War (Hebrew) (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1969), p. 259.

[34] Cab128/42/2 41st Conclusions, June 22, 1967; FCO17/521, Record of Conversation, June 21, 1967.

[35] PREM13/1621, FO to Tel Aviv, June 16, 1967; FCO17/541, Record of Meeting, August 30, 1967, and Meeting with Eban, September 15, 1967.

[36] Cab128/42/3, 57th Conclusions, September 28, 1967, and 58th Conclusions, October 11, 1967; ISA, Hez/4/1391, Remez to Lourie, October 18, 1967.

[37] PREM13/1623, FO to Tel Aviv, August 17, 1967; PREM13/1627, Record of Meeting, November 6, 1967; National Archives, Washington (NA), RG59/1803, Hughes to Acting Secretary, September 22, 1967.

[38] FCO17/541, Meeting with Eban, September 15, 1967.

[39] FCO17/508, Brief by the FO, November 15, 1967.

[40] Pedatzur, The Triumph of Embarrassment, pp. 70-71; Dan Bavly, Dreams and Missed Opportunities 1967-1977 (Hebrew) (Jerusalem: Carmel, 2002), p. 33.

[41] Ma'ariv (Israel) and Ha'aretz, August 10, 1967.

[42] PREM13/1624, Record of meeting, November 6, 1967.

[43] Ma'ariv, August 15 and October 8, 1967; Bavly, Dreams, p. 41.

[44] Ha'aretz, September 26, 1967.

[45] Cab128/42/3, 54th Conclusions, September 7, 1967 and 55th Conclusions, September 14, 1967; ISA, Hez/4/1391, Record of conversation between Eshkol and Hadow, October 15, 1967. Brenchley, Britain and the Middle East, p. 150; George Brown, In My Way: The Political Memoirs of Lord George Brown (London: Penguin Books, 1971), p. 233; The Americans held a similar opinion, see FRUS, 1964-68, Vol. 19, p. 90.

[46] Cab128/42/3, 55th Conclusions, September 14, 1967, and 63rd Conclusions, November 2, 1967; ISA, Hez/4/1391, Remez to Jerusalem, October 21, 1967.

[47] Fred J. Khouri, The Arab-Israeli Dilemma, (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1985), pp. 313-14; David Schoenbaum, The United States and the State of Israel (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), p.162; Yoram Meital, Egypt's Struggle for Peace, Continuity and Change 1967-1977 (Gainsville: University Press of Florida, 1997) pp. 42-43.

[48] Eban, Memoirs, p. 439.

[49] Pedatzur, The Triumph of Embarrassment, p. 175.

[50] FCO17/548, Tel Aviv to FO, October 16, 1967.

[51] ISA, Hez/4/1391, Savir to Remez, October 16, 1967.

[52] FCO17/548, Tel Aviv to FO, October 16, 1967.

[53] Ma'ariv, November 2, 1967; ISA, Hez/4/1391, Record of conversation between Eshkol and Hadow, October 16, 1967; FCO17/548, Brown to Wilson, October 24, 1967.

[54] Ibid.

[55] ISA, Hez/17/1391, London to Jerusalem, July 19, 1967.

[56] FCO17/504, Brief for Talks with Lord Caradon, July 21, 1967; ISA, Hez/4/1391, Eban to Jerusalem, October 12, 1967, and Eban to London, October 13, 1967.

[57] FCO17/548, FO to Tel Aviv, October 24, 1967; ISA, Hez/4/1391, New York to Jerusalem, October, 12, 1967, and Remez to Jerusalem, October 21, 1967 and Record of Conversation between Eshkol and Hadow, October 25, 1967.

[58] Paterson, Tired and Emotional, pp. 220-21; Cab128/42/3, 68th Conclusions, November 23, 1967.

[59] Interview with Eban, Skira Hodshit, Vol. 3, No. 4 (1987).

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