Israel Cabinet Discusses Stand on the Merger of Arab Countries

The Israel Cabinet today discussed the latest developments in the Middle East created by the formation of the Jordan-Iraqi federation and the Egyptian-Syrian merger, and the implications these mergers may have for Israel.

For the time being, the Israel Government is abstaining from any official comment on the unifications. This silence indicates the restrained attitude which is now being displayed by Israel, as compared with the immediate warnings voiced by Israel when the Iraqi-Jordanian union was mooted in autumn, 1956.

Observers analyzing this difference are of the opinion that it stems from the fact that, in 1956, Israel was concerned not so much about the general plans for an Iraqi-Jordanian union as with the immediate threat to move Iraqi troops into Jordan to the Israel frontier, Another factor is probably the fact that Soviet penetration in the Middle East was less pronounced in 1956 than it is at present, and this too influences Israel’s attitude.

However, the overwhelming difference between the present feelings in Israel and those which prevailed in 1956 lies in the fact that, in 1956, Israel was tense and jittery because of the threat of Soviet arms newly-obtained by Arab countries. The lighting victory in the Sinai campaign gave Israel confidence and self-assurance that the Arabs alone cannot defeat Israel without overt military assistance from the outside. And the Israelis believe now that the Soviet Government would not risk open intervention which may start a major, possibly global, conflagration.

In Israel, the Iraqi-Jordanian and the Syria-Egyptian mergers are, therefore, now being judged by the criterion whether these mergers substantially change the existing balance of power in the area. It is the prevailing opinion that, while the consequences of the mergers may become grave for Israel, the mergers do not imply an immediate major change in the balance of power between Israel and the Arab countries.

JORDANIAN-IRAQI MERGER MAY AFFECT STATUS OF ARAB REFUGEES

One important aspect of the present situation, being closely watched in Israel, is the effect of Iraqi-Jordanian federation on the status of the half-million Arab refugees in Jordanian territory. Jordan is the only Arab country that has given the Arab refugees full citizenship rights. However, because of the country’s meager resources, the refugees cannot find work in Jordan, and continue to live in refugee camps.

Iraq has abundant resources, coupled with a shortage of manpower. The question is whether the new federation will give equal rights to all Jordanians, including refugees. If that were done, then the refugees might be able to seek employment in Iraq and have a chance to resettle in Iraq.

Israel, meanwhile, has not yet decided whether to initiate a possible move in the United Nations that the new Iraq-Jordan Federation be limited to one UN membership instead of the present two, separate memberships. Nor has any Israeli decision been taken as yet regarding the two seats now being held by the partners of the “United Arab Republic,” Egypt and Syria.

A Bagdad announcement yesterday stated that Iraq and Jordan intended to retain their separate United Nations representations. The attitude of the Cairo Government is not clear on the UN representation issue, and there were some vague indications that the Egypt-Syria union might itself decide to relinquish one UN seat.

The Jordanian Radio, which until now identified itself as the “Hashemite Broadcasting Service,” changed its identification tonight to the “Arab Federation Broadcasting Service.”

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