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John F. Kennedy Administration: Arab Leaders To Be Briefed On Refugee Talks In Jerusalem

(February 27, 1963)

This is a memorandum from the Department of State to the Embassy in Jordan with instructions to the Ambassadors concerning upcoming talks in Jerusalem on refugees with Barbour as the U.S. representative.

Accordingly, Ambassadors Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus should seek appointments with heads of states for about same period. We wish first talk to be at this level but subsequent discussion may be with FonMin. Lest Arab host country representatives in New York (who have urged New York as most useful locus for talk--which it may be in long run) consider themselves by-passed, we have instructed USUN inform them of our intention speak to heads of state, in first instance, as indication importance USG attaches this resumed initiative.

Arab leaders should be informed we planning hold similar talks with Israel and vice-versa.

We do not wish publicity given these talks but in handling inquiries should news become public, addressees should respond that UNGA Res 1856 directed PCC continue its endeavors seek solution refugee problem and as PCC member we seek initial exchange views with governments concerned re useful next steps in examination this problem. We feel much of value has already been accomplished in work of Commission and Special Representative Johnson over past year and half, but have no predetermined view as to nature continued diplomatic exploration. It is our hope, however, that all parties, cognizant of importance international community attaches to progress that will benefit refugees (as indicated 100 - 0 vote for Res 1856) will in this next phase examine problem with greatest possible imagination, dispassion and good-will.

For Ambassadors Macomber, Meyer, Knight and Badeau: Foregoing also useful opening for your presentations to heads of state, which should take following general line:

1. At behest of parties and with their assurance readiness resume substantive examination following GA, USG did not press for consideration of substance of problem in that forum. As PCC member we now wish resume substantive discussion initially through quiet and we hope unpublicized bilateral talks. These could continue at same level or subsequently be devolved to Foreign Minister or delegation in New York as desired.

2. With considerable statesmanship and foresight Arab host states did not reject ideas formulated by Johnson although they were not then ready acquiesce in specific operation he proposed. Stated reason for this was lack assurance Israel would cooperate and in principle accept Para 11 Res 194 (III). This Arab emphasis on prior public move by Israel had its counterpart on Israeli side in concern (a) for its security should there be incitement induce greater proportion refugees choose repatriation than might otherwise be case and (b) re cooperation Arab host states in definitively resettling refugees who so opted. These concerns, like the Arab, were manifested in desire for prior assurances and agreement on specifics.

It appears to USG that type prior declaration each side seeks from other is virtually ruled out by realities of situation on each side. In such situations probably most a proposal for solution can realistically encompass is operation in which true interests each party reasonably safeguarded and which can be halted by either at any time if cooperation of other not forthcoming in practice. Nevertheless, seems to us that underlying Arab fear was scepticism re Israel's permitting a serious degree of repatriation pursuant Para 11. What, we wonder, would Arab attitude be if there were reasonable unpublicized assurance on this cardinal point or on others of concern perhaps through third party?

3. In these discussions, USG not in any way seeking limit range of suggestions and we earnestly seek candid views of governments as to "if not Johnson's plan per se, with which parties did not go along, what then?" For it is clear that "no progress" on a dilemma that has robbed hundreds of thousands of persons of opportunity lead useful lives and which yearly denies this to thousands more newly born cannot be allowed. We are and will be doing what is within our capacity encourage more efficient use of funds in educating these persons for productive life, but even with the best efforts of all concerned such measures as can be taken by UNRWA will not satisfactorily reach ever-expanding human core of problem, nor will they satisfy a world community and its members who must face increasing domestic pressure devote limited resources to other world problems of great urgency less encumbered by rigid postures on part of those directly concerned.

For Ambassador Barbour: You should emphasize at outset that publicity re these talks will not advance their purpose.

The Israelis have requested your talk with Ben-Gurion begin with brief restatement US views. While our purpose is hear Israel's long-promised ideas for progress, following is brief statement recapitulating points made to Israelis in previous bilateral exchanges:

"Refugee problem becoming more acute, not less so. Progress is in best interests GOI and USG, and exploration possibilities separated out from general problem Arab-Israel peace is worthwhile.

"Realistically, progress dependent upon solution containing concurrent elements of repatriation, resettlement with compensation in Arab states, and resettlement with compensation elsewhere. Since `legislative' framework within which this initiative undertaken is Res 194, true wishes individual refugee when confronted with real choice without external pressures should be ascertained.

"GOI apparently not willing meet Arab request that it recognize in advance alleged `right' in principle under Paragraph 11 of every refugee who so opts to be repatriated; Arabs are not prepared meet Israel request that they recognize in advance that only solution lies in resettlement of most refugees. Therefore, a negotiated settlement does not appear feasible. This, to us, is point of cardinal importance.

"While under any means of settling problem some repatriation must occur, only fair and practical solution lies in resettlement of most refugees.

"Process by which refugee preferences are obtained should have effective safeguards and controls.

"Recognition of sovereign rights of parties is essential.

"There should be due concern for security interests of each party.

"There should be due concern for economic and financial burdens which progress will entail.

"There should be a realistic definition of simultaneity as applied to process of repatriation and resettlement.

"Israel recognizes obligation pay compensation to resettled refugees.

"In accord with their sovereign rights determine admissibility individuals, governments should be assured provision for their appropriate screening in any process for movement of refugees."

1. Following your presentation foregoing statement, we expect hear PriMin's statement of Israeli views and hopefully proposals.

2. To extent these incorporate at least some of known Israeli preconditions (such as: inapplicability Para 11 and Johnson's work, essentiality explicit prior Arab agreement, consideration in any settlement of only those refugees who actually left what is now Israeli territory) which would preclude Arab cooperation, USG reservations re such stipulations should be reiterated.

3. Following full discussion Israeli views, you should ask PriMin consider problem in following light; i.e., what are Israel's fundamental apprehensions in regard refugee solution?

4. After hearing these, you should seek explicit statement of what Israel would be willing to do (in terms of repatriation and compensation) if ways could be found reasonably (i.e., by something less than explicit point by point prior Arab-Israel agreement) meet these basic concerns. If PriMin objects to stating this, even though for USG info only, and insists Arab contribution be first identified, you should press him, pointing out that during previous phase this initiative a plan was carefully drawn seeking to meet (and believing we had met) Israel's concerns at each step, only to have it rejected by Israel after it had been put to parties; USG unwilling again begin laborious construction elaborate plan without more explicit understanding as to Israel's contribution.

All Action Addressees should cable reports. Department will be glad furnish further guidance at any time.

For Tel Aviv: Crawford will arrive shortly before and participate in first talk returning Department thereafter. Travel data by separate tel.


Sources: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963: Near East, 1962-1963, V. XVIII. DC: GPO, 2000.