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John F. Kennedy Administration: Editorial Note on Conclusions From Johnson Missions

(November 15, 1961)

This editorial note was sent to U.N. delegates, and relays Joseph Johnson's findings after his visit to the Middle East, in which he states that although there is evidence of hostilities on both sides, he also believes both sides are willing to work towards resolving the Arab refugee problem.

On November 15, 1961, in New York, PCC Special Representative Joseph Johnson submitted his draft report for comment to the U.N. Delegations of Israel and the concerned Arab states. The first two sections of the draft report dealt with Johnson's terms of reference and described conversations held during his September visit to the Middle East and subsequently in New York. A third section entitled "findings and conclusions" indicated that the mission had been limited to the exploration of possibilities for progress on the refugee problem; noted that despite appearances of intransigence and bellicosity, statesmen on both sides wanted peace and expressed a willingness, with much reservation and skepticism, to consider a step-by-step process for progress; and concluded that although there was no prospect for an early resolution of the Palestinian refugee question, careful consideration should be given to the appointment of a Special Representative to serve until the autumn of 1962 to determine whether progress could be made through a step-by-step approach. Circular telegram 970, November 20, contains a summary description of the draft report. (Department of State, Central Files, 325.84/11-2061)

On November 20 and 21, Johnson met with a committee composed of representatives from the United Arab Republic, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan to receive their comments on his draft report. The Arab comments were highly unfavorable, particularly in regard to the historical section, which the Arabs claimed had a strong Israeli bias. After reflection, Johnson decided to alter his report by substantially reducing the historical section. (Telegram 1712 from USUN, November 20; ibid., 321.1/11-2061) Israel then launched a vigorous high-level effort to force Johnson to return to the original text, but he refused. (Circular telegram 1004, November 25; ibid., 325.84/11-2561) Although PCC members Turkey and France objected to the alteration, the U.S. Representative noted that the changes did not affect the report's conclusions. (Telegram 1759 from USUN, November 22; ibid., 325.84/11-2261)

On November 24, the PCC transmitted the report to the U.N. Secretariat under cover of a letter stating that PCC members wished to avoid passing judgment on the report's historical sections but warmly endorsed the report's conclusions. For text of the transmittal letter and Johnson's report, see Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixteenth Session, Annexes, volume I, Agenda Item 25, U.N. document A/4921 and Add.1. For additional documentation on this subject, see Supplement, the compilation on the Arab-Israeli dispute.

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