U.S. Pursues Evenhanded Policy on Refugees, Refuses to Recognize PLO
(November 17, 1964)
The Johnson Administration
here outlines its intention to prevent any
change in policy toward the Palestinian
. This document also refers to
a new organization, the Palestine
, which the Administration
does not plan to recognize as representative
of the refugees.
106. Circular Telegram From
the Department of State to Certain Posts1
Washington, November 17,
954. We do not expect to undertake any major initiative on Palestine
refugee problem for time being, and hope to steer UNRWA item through
GA with no change for worse in basic elements of overall Arab-Israel
conflict over refugees.
We intend maintain to maximum degree "even-handed" position
which will resist all proposals designed to tip balance in favor of
one side or other. This policy should give us maximum leverage to obtain
our objectives, and produce middle-of-road res acceptable to all. With
UNRWA up for extension this year, we have increased capability for keeping
problem within tolerable limits.
Some new elements have entered picture. Cairo non-aligned conf declaration
included statement endorsing "rights of Palestinians to homeland"
and Arab League has endorsed new and stronger refugee organization called
"Palestine Liberation Organization." We do not know that either
of these factors will have any strong influence at UNGA, but we must
be ready in event Arabs decide to press forward for additional UN backing
for refugee cause in Palestine. On other hand, in keeping with even-handed
position, we must be alert for Israeli efforts to ram through partisan
As usual both sides are expected to open early campaign at UN and in
capitals throughout world to gain adherents in this annual contest.
Palestine Liberation Organization is making plans to send special missions
to various govts to seek support for Arab objectives; Israelis are planning
Many governments will look to US for lead. In your discussions this
subject, you may be guided by following:
1. USG favors even-handed res along lines last year's. It would extend
UNRWA for perhaps two years. Exact length of time to be left open for
2. We continue oppose Arab proposals for UN custodian for Arab properties
in Israel. We will also strongly oppose any Arab attempt gain GA endorsement
of non-aligned conf declaration on Palestinian rights, or to win GA
recognition of Palestine Liberation Organization as official representatives
of Arab refugees.
This connection, if govt to which you accredited asks US attitude toward
any special missions by PLO, you should state USG does not recognize
it as official reps of refugees at UNGA, and we would be concerned at
any effort by PLO to convert UNRWA item (essentially a humanitarian
issue) into political problem (Arabs' anti-Israel objectives). If PLO
missions ask to see Emboffs we prefer Embassies decline. We do not,
however, believe PLO missions likely be very effective.
(We have informed Israeli officials we will brief our Embassies on
USG substantive position on PLO and authorize them to give our position
clearly and forthrightly to any government which asked our judgment
on this matter. We declined however to take initiative since any approach
by USG could raise allegations of "imperialist" pressure and
befog substantive issue in manner which might help PLO. We also said
we could not tell other govts how they should receive foreign visitors.)2
3. Similarly, we continue oppose Israeli partisan res for direct negotiations,
and regard as unrealistic Israelis' objective of eroding at this time
traditional UN affirmation of refugees' right to repatriation or compensation
(Para 11 of res 194 of 1948).
Embs should report any developments this question.3
1 Source: National Archives and Records Administration,
RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, REF 3 UNRWA. Confidential. Drafted by
Campbell; cleared by Stackhouse, Jernegan, William B. Buffum, Louise
McNutt of FE/RA, George N. Monsma of ARA/IPA, and in substance by Ross
E. Freeman of EUR and Joseph J. Wagner of AF/AFI; and approved by Sisco.
Sent to 37 Embassies and pouched to 61 Embassies and USUN.
2 Harman raised this with Talbot in a meeting on November
12, summarized in circular telegram 905 to Tel Aviv, November 12. (Ibid.,
3 The General Assembly did not discuss issues relating
to UNRWA at its 19th session. On February 10, 1965, the General Assembly
adopted Resolution 2002 (XIX), in which it extended the mandate of UNRWA
for one year, to June 30, 1966, "without prejudice to existing
resolutions or to the positions of the interested parties."
Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, V. 18, Arab-Israeli
Dispute 1964-1967. DC: GPO,