Rusk's second round with Golda Meir went fairly well./2/ At least we wound up with agreement to keep talking. But there was no agreement as to whether these talks should be on Johnson Plan (however modified or supplemented by US assurances) or on something else.
Golda showed Rusk another BG memo saying Johnson Plan totally unacceptable./3/ She then began talking about what Israelis would do, e.g. take a number of refugees in certain categories such as reunion of families, agree to some repatriation if Arabs agreed simultaneously to resettle majority of refugees, etc. All these were reversions to pre-Johnson ideas and all, in State's opinion, are total non-starters.
The Israelis are clearly probing hard to get a clear signal that we have abandoned Johnson. To pick up any of their ideas at this point would be tantamount to admitting this, and shouldn't be done yet. Reasons are:
1. Hawk offer has simply laid ghost that Administration pursuing an anti-Israeli policy. We have room to maneuver now.
2. We've told Arabs we back the Plan. To start talking now about less satisfactory alternatives will inevitably reveal that we've caved to Israeli pressure.
3. Such an open capitulation at this point (on top of Hawks) would risk a disastrous Arab reaction. We're already in plenty of trouble with Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc. Let's not give the Soviets another free ride.
4. We've got to force Israelis to cooperate with us more, not only on Plan but on Jordan Waters, border policy, etc. So we can't afford at this juncture to let them conclude they can browbeat us if they put enough pressure on.
Arab attitudes toward Johnson Plan are still unclear. FonMin Fawzi told Rusk that UAR might just buy the Plan, but if UAR does I'm half convinced Syrians, Iraqis, and Saudis will try and hang Nasser for it. Yemen revolt will increase inter-Arab acrimony. Indeed we have some reports Syrians already rejecting Plan (Saudis and Iraqis probably don't know about it yet). Therefore, Nasser (plus Jordan and Lebanon, which would also like to buy Plan) may find it politically impossible to do so. At any rate, let's keep cool till Arab stand matures. They may yet bail us out.
In sum, we've got to stand by Plan a while longer yet, while displaying full willingness to protect Israelis against the risks. We can't afford to let Israel or Arabs pin onus for Plan's failure on US.
So whether or not Johnson Plan is a dead letter, I think President will want to back State's play. If so, it remains imperative that US not speak with two voices. /4/
/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Palestine, Refugees, 8/62-9/62, Vol. II. Secret. A handwritten note on the source text reads: "(Taken from Pres. week-end reading dtd 9/29)"
/2/Secretary Rusk transmitted to the Department of State an uncleared memorandum of his September 28 conversation with Meir in Secto 50 from USUN, September 29. (Department of State, Central Files, 325.84/9-2962) For text, see the Supplement, the compilation on the Arab-Israeli dispute. A supplementary briefing memorandum from Talbot and Cleveland was transmitted to Secretary Rusk in New York in Tosec 51 to USUN, September 28. (Department of State, Central Files, 325.84/9-2862)
/3/Reference is to a September 17 letter from Ben Gurion to Harman. A retyped copy of the text, bearing a typed signature, is in the Kennedy Library, President's Office Files, Countries Series, Israel Security.
/4/On September 29, Rusk instructed the Department of State as a followup to his conversation with Meir to initiate a dialogue with Ambassador Harman in Washington. Rusk directed that correspondence from and memoranda of conversations with Israeli officials be examined to determine as many common elements of agreement as possible on the refugee question. Rusk predicted that the outcome would be something similar to the Johnson Plan, although it could not be called that, because that plan was "anathema to Israelis." He also indicated that conversations with Harman should focus on how to handle the situation in the General Assembly and PCC so that onus for the lack of immediate progress was not placed on Israel. (Secto 48 from USUN; Department of State, Central Files, 325.84/9-2962)
/5/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.