Letter from Kennedy to Hussein Discussing Refugees

(September 13, 1962)


This letter is addresses to King Hussein from President Kennedy thanking Jordan for its cooperation in discussing matters related to the solving of the Palestinian refugee problem, in addition to calling for the nation's continued support for achieving stability in the Middle East region.


Your Majesty: Dr. Joseph E. Johnson, Special Representative of the Palestine Conciliation Commission, has now presented to the Commission, to the Arab host governments and to Israel his plan for resolution of the Palestine refugee problem. During Dr. Johnson's skillful and unremitting efforts of the past year, I have continued to take a keen personal interest in the Arab refugees. As I wrote you on May 11, 1961: ". . . there will be no lack of United States interest in seeing that effective action is taken. It is my sincere hope that all parties directly concerned will cooperate fully with whatever program is undertaken by the Commission so that the best interests and welfare of all the Arab refugees of Palestine may be protected and advanced." Therefore, today I write you again frankly, and in confidence.

While Dr. Johnson is the representative of a United Nations body, it is both fitting and necessary that the United States, as a member of both the United Nations and the Palestine Conciliation Commission, and as the principal financial supporter of UNRWA, provide assistance and support to him. It is only as the members of the United Nations stand behind the work of its organs that meaningful results can be obtained. The cooperation and support of Jordan for Dr. Johnson's plans are also essential if the plan is to be successful in its humanitarian purpose of making possible fruitful lives for the Arab refugees. The particular significance for your country, of course, lies in the fact that nearly half of the refugees are found within Jordan's borders. Thus your attitude and that of your Government toward the Johnson Plan will have a critical bearing on its outcome.

I regard Dr. Johnson's plan as both fair and practical for the countries directly affected and for the refugees. Therefore I have asked Ambassador Macomber to share with you my thinking. It is my keen hope that you will find Dr. Johnson's plan not only advantageous to Jordan but a practical means of alleviating the plight of the refugees. I am optimistic that despite obvious difficulties both at the outset and as the plan proceeds Your Majesty's statesmanship can find ways to overcome these problems.

Since writing you nearly sixteen months ago, I have followed with close attention and interest developments in the Kingdom of Jordan. Thanks to your generous expenditure of time and to your frankness in discussing with him matters of mutual interest, Ambassador Macomber has been enabled to keep me fully informed. I have been gratified at the relationship which you have permitted to grow, reflecting the cordial and fruitful ties existing between our two countries and the mutual regard which prevails. Jordan's stability and integrity are important to the Free World.

Particularly impressive is the progress being made by the Government of Jordan under your leadership in meeting the myriad problems which inevitably arise when a people seeks rapidly to create a modern state with a stable political system, an economy employing fully the resources available, and a social system guaranteeing freedom and opportunity for all. In these efforts, Your Majesty, you and your Government will have the continuing encouragement, support, and assistance of the United States. In turn, of course, I should like to feel that the United States can continue to count upon the willing support and cooperation of Jordan in those matters which are of importance to both of us in maintaining peace and stability in the Near East and elsewhere.

I take this opportunity, Your Majesty, to offer you my best wishes and to express the hope that in your efforts to make Jordan a model state you will enjoy complete success. I understand fully the difficulties under which you and your Government labor, and I admire the courage, the steadfastness, and the wisdom with which you are facing those difficulties./2/

Sincerely yours,/3/

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, President's Office Files, Countries, Jordan, 4/62-10/62. No classification marking. An earlier draft of this letter was forwarded to McGeorge Bundy on September 8 under cover of a memorandum from Brubeck, which noted, among other points, that Jordan's attitude toward the Johnson Plan was of equal importance to that of Israel and the United Arab Republic, because more than half of the Palestinian refugees resided in Jordan. It also noted that the United States retained some leverage with Jordan because of large-scale U.S. economic assistance. A marginal notation on Brubeck's memorandum indicates that the original of the memorandum was directed to Feldman on September 8. The attached draft letter shows changes in Komer's handwriting. (Ibid.) The text of the letter was transmitted to the Embassy in Amman for delivery in telegram 116, September 14. (Department of State, Central Files, 325.84/9-1462)

/2/In telegram 117 to Amman, September 15, the Department of State instructed the Embassy to deliver this letter and make the presentation outlined in circular telegram 384 (Document 34). (Department of State, Central Files, 325.84/9-1562) Macomber reported on his meetings with King Hussein and other Jordanian officials concerning the Jordan Plan in telegrams 144 and 146 from Amman, September 15 and 16. (Ibid., 325.84/9-1562 and 325.84/9-1662) On September 19, Prime Minister Tell informed Macomber that the Jordanian Cabinet had formally decided that Jordan should not oppose the Johnson Plan and that Jordan should use its influence with other Arab states to persuade them "for tactical reasons" to give the Johnson Plan a chance. (Telegram 152 from Amman, September 19; ibid., 325.84/9-1962)

/3/Printed from an unsigned copy.


Source: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963: Near East, 1962-1963, V. XVIII.