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John F. Kennedy Administration: Refugee Initiative Discussed With Jordan

(April 18, 1963)

This is a telegram from the Department of State to the Embassy in Jordan giving guidance for discussions on the refugee initiative.

464. First talk in present bilateral discussion phase of Arab refugee initiative has now been held in Arab host country capitals and Jerusalem. While initial guidance (Deptel 402 to Amman, etc) for most part sufficient cover continued discussion we wish Ambassadors carry on, following observations may be helpful, particularly in provoking parties into more new thinking:

For Amman: Accordance final para Embtel 463,/3/ we hope you will resume exchange views with Hussein at early date. We would like if possible get him away from generalities and into such specifics as (a) those suggested numbered section two of Deptel 402 (re Arab skepticism as to Israel's permitting serious degree repatriation and effect on Arab leaders' thinking if there could be reasonable assurances made on this point); (b) probable ultimate repatriation-resettlement option ratio of refugees in Jordan if confronted with honorable individual choice pursuant Paragraph 11 and present realities; (c) how he would wish see compensation aspects of a UN compensation-resettlement-repatriation program handled to avoid inflation and assist those refugees choosing settlement in Jordan to obtain gainful employment; (d) estimate of number refugees Jordan might ultimately be able absorb given continued generous foreign assistance both to Jordan for economic development and to the resettling refugee to help him take up productive role in society. FYI: Resistance to treatment of refugee problem separated out from over-all Arab-Israel problem has been recurrent theme of Hussein's since inception PCC initiative. Point to be pressed with him is that refugee situation is getting worse not better as numbers increase through birth and USG each year experiencing sharply increased difficulty in getting funds for continued support of UNRWA even at present levels. If we do not move decisively in search for honorable solution which preserves Jordanian and Near East stability, initiative could very soon pass from our hands with, we fear, consequences far less favorable for the individual refugee and disruptive of stability. End FYI.

For Beirut: We look forward to Ambassador and FonMin Takla continuing useful talks begun by Charge Wilson and President Chehab April 5 (Embtel 913). In answer Chehab's concern, GOL can be reassured as to USG's continuing intention heed Lebanon's special confessional problem in any approach to solution.

For Cairo: Re Embtel 1723, we hope you will be able see Nasser as soon as unity and Yemen developments permit. We were interested that Hilmi so promptly picked up our reference to possibility some third party might play role in conveying between the parties attitudes and positions that could not realistically be taken publicly nor directly. We mentioned this because in a situation where each side demanding public prior assurances other cannot possibly give but where expectations on specifics of an operational solution might just possibly be reconcilable, it obvious that there might be useful honest broker role for third party. We not thrusting USG into this role now or in future. Nor, on other hand, would we decline it if these talks should show possibility that current divergencies could be appreciably narrowed. We would be interested in Nasser's view of how current unity movement likely bear on bilaterals and in thoughts he may have as to how these might be most profitably pursued in light changes taking place. Point for Hussein re initiative passing from our hands should also be stressed with Nasser, not as threat but as reflection political realities in US.

For Damascus: Unless unity developments cause Syrian leaders preclude further talks with Embassy, we would like hear Bitar's promised further comments (Embtel 719). He may be assured that it precisely in "spirit of exchange of information and ideas"--not imposition of our thinking or a predetermined proposal for solution--that we seek joint examination this problem.

For Tel Aviv: Regardless of source publicity which followed April 2 talk, we wish strong effort made avoid such publicity in regard future sessions.

We hope next talk can continue along lines indicated basic instruction.

Re points which arose in April 2 talk (which in general we concur was moderately hopeful in tone):

1. Agreement between parties: we commend your line that direct agreement not possible. PriMin's statement that understanding between Israel and US and between Arabs and US would be adequate is, hopefully, indication of GOI awareness of the realities on this point. In future discussion, however, care should be taken not to leave impression that we think it possible, even with USG in-between, to obtain Arab agreement on all specific elements on which Israel says it must have clear-cut prior understanding. (This is not to say, of course, that we unwilling to talk to Arabs, as we do to Israel, about realities of refugee problem and its possible solution.)

2. Good example of (1) is PrimeMin's stipulation that once agreement reached, there will be no more refugee problem in UN, in press, on radio, etc. Whereas it might well be possible get Arabs agree that refugee issue would not be raised in UN once an operation for solution under way, and while we have earlier agreed with Israel that Arabs would have to understand Israel's cooperation would cease if there were propaganda incitement to repatriation, it unrealistic think such an operation could be conducted under total seal of silence and that there would be no further mention of refugee problem in press or radio. We assume, but would like clarification, that PriMin did not intend his remarks in this all-inclusive way. (If he did, he going well beyond his stipulation to US representative last August that Nasser understand propaganda incitement to repatriation would terminate Israel's cooperation.)

3. Re number bona fide refugees, you may say Department concurs your delegation appropriate EmbOff hear Israel's detailed calculations, and we ourselves looking into this urgently. We agree there some, perhaps considerable, inflation in refugee rosters, and for that reason have strongly encouraged their rectification. But fundamental to present discussion, and to any progress, remains question of upper limit Israel will agree it can safely take back in context of solution in which remainder will be resettled.

4. Re Jewish refugees, these have not been covered by UN resolutions. FYI: Fortunately PriMin did not attempt make this stick as a condition; should he do so, you should firmly reject it.

5. We pleased receive PriMin's reiterated assurances compensation will not be an obstacle.

6. "Family Reunion": Since Yahil not PriMin referred to this and you very effectively rebutted, it would probably be unwise enhance status of this concept in current talks by further reference at your initiative. However, if Israelis again raise it, you should say we could not regard scheme limited to family reunion concept as practicable and viable.


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