Kennedy's View on the Johnson Plan
(September 25, 1962)
This memorandum states the direction that the President would like to see the U.S. take in handling the Johnson Plan and in attempting to gain Israeli support.
The President's view on the Johnson Plan, as I understood it, was as follows:
1. Rusk should try to shake Golda Meir's opposition to the plan, pointing out that whatever Israelis think the plan means we stand foursquare behind the assurances given by Mike Feldman.
2. If Mrs. Meir remains adamant, Rusk should propose a strictly controlled experiment with 10-20,000 refugees. If this pilot project works we can go further.
3. If this too is rejected, we tell Israelis we recognize plan is a non-starter, but insist that they and we so handle its demise that onus for its rejection can be laid at least partly at Arab door. US does not propose to assume primary responsibility for plan's failure.
4. US should then seek to gin up a negative Arab reaction as quickly as possible (this is going to take some doing, in order not to be too transparent).
I suggest that we show this to the President to make sure that it fairly reflects his thinking.
/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Palestine, Refugees, Vol. II, 8/62-9/62. Secret. Komer forwarded this memorandum to Kaysen on September 25 under cover of a note that reads: "Attached is my summary of President's views. I suggest that you show it to him. I also urge you show him Rusk's briefing memo as evidence that State's judgment on Israeli position is much different from Mike's. In any case I don't see how we lose, even domestically, by holding firm a little longer. We've got to consider cost to our whole effort with Arabs if on top of Hawk deal we back out on Johnson Plan without being able to avoid the blame. State and Joe Johnson sure handled tactics on this one poorly (they couldn't have picked a worse time). I'm damn sorry that I was off keeping VP honest while this went on." Komer added a handwritten note: "Ball thinks Dept's. position is 'protected' and will call Rusk in morning. I don't think George realizes what's at issue." (Ibid.)
Source: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963: Near East, 1962-1963, V. XVIII.