This memorandum evaluates the manner in which Joseph Johnson should approach the Israeli government to achieve a viable solution to the refugee problem.
Dr. Johnson plans to arrive in Tel Aviv on April 14. Rather than seeking agreement on a specific "package", he intends to take soundings on a variety of possible approaches to a limited initial movement of refugees in a limited period, in the hope that such a pilot project would break down long-standing psychological and political barriers.
Arab leaders appear to understand the full U.S. backing of the Johnson-PCC initiative. They are being (uncharacteristically) cautious in avoiding propaganda or other moves that would jeopardize the initiative and place on them the onus of recalcitrance. Israel, on the other hand, assures us of its cooperation (although deprecating Dr. Johnson's chances of success) while quietly stimulating action designed to thwart the effort. It has encouraged Congressional support of direct Arab-Israel peace negotiations, which would cut across the lines of the Johnson mission and show the U.S. in Arab eyes as the partisan supporter of an Israel propaganda line. Israel representatives seek our acknowledgement that this effort is "for-the-record" only, presumably to water down the reluctant commitment to cooperate in a try at this sort of approach which Ben-Gurion made to the President last May.
Both we and Dr. Johnson think the Israelis need to be reminded in general but firm terms of Ben-Gurion's commitment to the President and of our full support of the PCC initiative. To give the requisite emphasis to our views, we suggest you call in Ambassador Harman (30 minutes would be adequate). A parallel approach by Ambassador Barbour to Prime Minister Ben-Gurion and Mrs. Meir is planned, as well as a talk with selected American Jewish leaders to solicit support.
1. That you see Ambassador Harman April 12 or 13./2/
/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 325.84/4-1062. Confidential. Drafted by Crawford and cleared by Ludlow in draft and Sisco in draft.
/2/Secretary Rusk initialed his approval of the recommendation and scheduled a meeting with Harman at 4:30 p.m. on April 13.