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David Ben-Gurion: Disagrees With U.S. Position On Refugees

(June 2, 1961)

This telegram discusses a meeting held with Ben-Gurion concerning "repatriation" of the Arab refugees residing in the Gaza Strip.

3238. Palestine refugees. Stevenson talked with Ben Gurion June 1. Stevenson made emphatic representation that US feels Israel should accept repatriation of Arab refugees and feels it unrealistic expect Arabs accept resettlement as only solution. He further enlarged on possibility of practical phased program, with balanced repatriation, resettlement and compensation, which would not endanger Israel's security.

Ben Gurion expressed equally emphatic disagreement and said that with repatriation Nasser will send his army into Israel behind refugees; refugees would repatriate only with support of Egyptian army. He further expressed view Arabs will not accept three points of emigration, repatriation and resettlement. He also rejected view that once psychological barrier represented by acceptance, i.e. principle of repatriation, broken, it would not take place in large numbers, and resettlement in Arab and non-Arab lands would follow.

He added Jordan and Lebanon ready live in peace with Israel now, but Egypt called the turn in ME and Nasser ambitions win all of Arab world could only be accomplished by destroying Israel.

Ben Gurion repeated familiar position that only by peace settlement can repatriation and resettlement be achieved.

He added prospects for peace would be increased if Kennedy and Khrushchev would guarantee all of ME boundaries, and that ultimately peace will follow if Israel continues its effective work in non-Arab countries. Egypt will have make peace to maintain its position in such countries.

Teddy Kollek pointed out repatriation problem now centered in 250,000 refugees in Gaza Strip who had no other hope. He added Ben Gurion more open minded than on arrival (presume he meant willingness cooperate with PCC).

Ambassador Comay asked Stevenson for opportunity discuss possibilities of repatriation and resettlement further on Stevenson's return from LA. Stevenson had feeling he and Kollek, at least, were impressed with difficulties in Congress and changing attitude in this country./2/

/2/On June 13, USUN reported that, in a recent conversation, Israeli diplomat Arad had told U.S. officials that Israel had noted the marked difference between what President Kennedy had said to Ben Gurion about the Palestinian refugees and what Ambassador Stevenson had said. The U.S. officials responded that the two conversations were complementary and reflected an identical policy. If Secretary Rusk had been able to meet with Ben Gurion, he would have repeated the same points made by Stevenson. Arad maintained that Ben Gurion had agreed with the President to seek a solution based on "repatriation, compensation, and resettlement," but Stevenson had gone beyond this and said that Israel should now make a public declaration accepting the principle of repatriation. (Telegram 3312 from USUN; ibid., 884.411/6-1361)


Source: Department of State, Central Files, 884.411/6-261. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution.

Sources: The United States Department of State