My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK—The President's speech Wednesday night was of great interest and I was glad to note he took cognizance of the fact that he was putting pressure on Israel which could not be exerted on the Soviet Union. He speaks of the U.N. as though it acted by itself. Actually it acts as its member nations wish to act, and the U.S. should be a leader of those member nations rather than taking counsel from their fears. It seems to me that the time has come to face the fact that Israel is asking for some assurances from Egypt that she will accept what the U.N. decrees. Our backing has little value if we are always going to accept whatever Egypt says and never going to bring the same pressure to bear on Egypt and the Soviet Union that we bring to bear on Israel. I say "we" advisedly because when we do not lead but knuckle under we are still nevertheless responsible for what happens in the U.N. It is very difficult of course for the U.S., given the State Department's influence in this matter, to see that there has come a time when we will have to take a stand in opposition to an Arab state. This will be very difficult but we cannot always let our fear of hurting our oil interests give Nasser the advantage of calling every move in the Near East. I realize too the grave considerations of the excuse that might be given to the Soviet Union if we insisted that Egypt make some kind of commitment both on the Suez Canal and the Aqaba Gulf being open to all shipping and on leaving the Gaza Strip under U.N. supervision, but it can be pointed out that this is fair to the Soviets as well as to the U.S. It also insures that neither of us have undue influence over any area in the Middle East.

There are two points that we have to consider. In the first place economic sanctions can never be applied successfully to the Soviet Union because they operate in a sufficiently large area not to be as dependent on the West as Israel quite obviously is. In the second place the case of Israel is somewhat different from the case of Great Britain and France. Great Britain and France have vital interests in the free passage of ships in the Suez Canal but Israel took action in self defense to try to save the existence of its people. The Charter does not demand that any country allow itself to be annihilated. The President in his speech took cognizance of the threats by Egypt and other Arab states against Israel but did not show what really changed the situation and made Israel's demand for some kind of assurances that Egypt would obey the U.N. completely reasonable. I recognize that it is hard to go back and cover every point in a speech but these two seem to me necessary to bear in mind. What the U.S. does in its leadership in the U.N. will certainly influence the position taken by many other states.

E.R.
TMs 23 February 1957, AERP, FDRL