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John F. Kennedy Administration: Feldman Comments on U.S policy Toward Israel

(August 10, 1962)

This is a memorandum from the President's Deputy Special Counsel Myer Feldman to President Kennedy commenting on U.S. policy toward Israel and the Johnson Plan.

In your papers for the week end are two memoranda from the State Department dealing with Near East problems. One memorandum discusses Dr. Joseph Johnson's proposals on the Palestine refugee problem. The other reviews United States policy toward Israel. We have a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, August 14. The essential questions to be resolved are as follows:

1. Whether we should support the Johnson proposal which has only a slim possibility of acceptance by either the Arabs or the Israelis. The proposal is consistent with your discussions with Prime Minister Ben-Gurion and our frequently announced position to the Arab States. It calls for giving the refugees the choice between repatriation to Israel, resettlement in some other country, or compensation for loss of property. The Israelis must object on the grounds that, one, there are no numerical limitations; two, they have already effected an exchange of population by taking in 500,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries; and, three, that they have already taken in 50,000 Arab refugees. The Arabs will object because they take the stubborn position that all refugees should return to Israel. This plan would cost the United States about $30 million a year--if we are lucky.

2. The plan calls for letters to Nasser and Ben-Gurion. Since the most violent opposition and the most difficult problem is presented by Ben-Gurion both Mr. Johnson and the State Department now recommend that I carry that letter and discuss it personally with Ben-Gurion. We might consider having a personal emissary also discuss this with Nasser.

3. The only chance the plan has for success is to accompany it with notice to Ben-Gurion that we will guarantee the security of Israel and provide Hawk missiles. It is suggested that we give Nasser an opportunity to agree to an arms limitation before making the final decision to provide Israel with Hawks. I agree that this is desirable in terms of its possible long-run impact but it is highly unlikely that Nasser would agree to any such limitation. We should not, in the meantime, defer for too long our offer to Ben-Gurion, for I should like to be in the position of notifying him that we will provide Hawks at the time we request his acquiescence in the Johnson plan.

4. A problem is presented as to how soon we can make Hawks available. The Department of Defense has scheduled them through mid-1966. Obviously, an offer to provide Hawks in 1966 would be worse than no offer at all. I recommend that we make them available to Israel in one way or another no later than mid-1964. This means that the training of crews and technicians will have to begin in 1963.

5. Still unresolved is the issue of sovereignty over Lake Tiberias. The memorandum from the State Department includes a proposal which will not make the Israelis happy. I recommend that we simply continue negotiating over the form of words to be used until we can get some acceptance of the language.

Myer Feldman

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