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John F. Kennedy Administration: Feldman Discusses Johnson Plan With Golda Meir

(August 21, 1962)

This telegram is from the President's Deputy Special Counsel Feldman after a meeting with Foreign Minister Golda Meir discussing the Johnson Plan and the direct negotiation resolution at the UN. It was exclusively sent for President Kennedy, Secretary of State Rusk and Grant.

Had six-hour meeting with Foreign Minister today. Meir was skeptical about acceptance of plan by Arabs and insistent upon some evidence of their good faith. She claimed that otherwise the plan would simply be an opportunity for the Arabs to claim, when the plan failed, that the Israelis did not wish to implement the preferences of the refugees.

Meir suggested that a motion be made in the General Assembly to implement the plan and if there was no objection it could go forward. I pointed out that this was contrary to the basic assumptions by Johnson that the only way to begin the process of elimination of the refugee problem was by doing it without seeking the commitment of anyone. She then asked for a report on any conversations we might have with the Arabs before acquiescing herself. I pointed out that even if the Arabs objected they might acquiesce when the plan began operating. Finally she requested more time for discussion with other political parties. I pointed out that I was not asking for a commitment but only for the willingness of the Prime Minister to let the plan begin. She said the Prime Minister left this morning and she could not give me a definitive reply. However, she gave me a letter from the Prime Minister to the President which is a six page letter largely devoted to a discussion of the impracticability of the plan.

Mrs. Meir urged very strongly that presentation of the plan to the PCC be deferred for at least a month. By that time the Prime Minister will be back and she will be in the US where she can again discuss its implications with us and with Dr. Johnson. In the meantime she suggested that we take up the plan with the Arab Governments and see for ourselves the reaction it received. It would be embarrassing to the US, she said, to offer a proposal, establish an administrator in Government House, and find that the Arab States would maintain their propaganda so that Israel could not accept refugees and the whole project would have to be abandoned.

In the middle of this discussion she told me she had just received concrete evidence that Egyptians have guided missiles which they had purchased from West German sources at a cost of 250,000,000 pounds sterling. This, she said, indicated their real intentions. Under the circumstances I recommend that we defer a final decision on the Johnson plan until I return Thursday night.

2. I did make progress on the direct negotiations resolution. Although Israel will continue to seek support for the resolution, she will not present it at this session of the United Nations if the US will oppose all resolutions presented at this session dealing with this subject matter except the one calling for simple extension of UNRWA. She expressed the hope that the mandate for UNRWA be extended for only one year and that a committee of experts be appointed to survey the progress and report back. I am advising Cairo to proceed with second alternative. However, if you feel my discussion with Foreign Minister is sufficient basis for proceeding with first alternative I have no objection. I do strongly advise that we not commit ourselves to support of the Johnson plan until we get Arab reaction and that Nasser be informed that it is a part of the plan's intention that no attempt be made to influence refugee votes.


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