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John F. Kennedy Administration: Feldman Discusses Missiles, Peace With Israeli Officials

(August 19, 1962)

This telegram is from the President's Deputy Special Counsel Feldman after a meeting with Israeli officials, including David Ben-Gurion, to discuss Hawk missiles and the Johnson Plan. It was sent exclusively for President Kennedy, Rusk and Grant.

Have concluded 3-1/2 hour meeting with Prime Minister, Golda Meir, and Kollek. I began by informing them that the President had determined that the Hawk missile should be made available to Israel but cautioned them that this was a long lead time [garble--and] would have to be worked out in later conversations through other channels. The Prime Minister asked about terms of payment and I informed him that this would also have to be determined in follow-up discussions.

I also referred to the fact that Great Britain might make a competitive offer of the Bloodhound and emphasized that we recognized Israel's need for a ground-to-air missile system in the absence of arms limitations but were not deciding for them whether they should seek United States or British systems.

I also informed Ben-Gurion that we would inform Nasser of the decision in the hope that we could prevent escalation of weapons in the Near East. Ben-Gurion replied that he would gladly agree to no missiles at all if Nasser would agree to arms limitations and controls. In fact, he said he would like to exclude weapons of every kind from the area.

2. I then proceeded to discuss the Johnson Plan, reminding the Prime Minister that he agreed that the solution to the refugee problem would be worth a try. The initial reaction of the Prime Minister and his Foreign Minister was negative. Ben-Gurion insisted no area would dare to accept anything except repatriation. After extended discussions of the elements in the plan militating against repatriation and particularly of the authority of Israel to determine when repatriation was in such large numbers as to threaten her security the Prime Minister said he would acquiesce in the plan if

(1) Nasser agreed to re-settle those refugees who the administrator directed should be re-settled in the UAR, and

(2) Nasser agreed not to direct propaganda to the refugees urging repatriation but permitted them to express their preference without danger of being considered a traitor.

In deciding what numbers of refugees would threaten Israel's security the only time a number was mentioned was when I said it had been estimated that under the Johnson Plan not more than one refugee in ten would seek repatriation.

3. We discussed briefly the proposed resolution by African nations calling for direct negotiations between Israel and the Arab states. The Prime Minister agreed to consult with the US before taking any further steps but plainly indicated he felt such a resolution should be offered to the UN.

Have not advised Cairo whether to pursue alternative 1 or alternative 2. If it is felt the first alternative can be amended to include a request to Nasser not to engage in a propaganda campaign I would recommend pursuing that course.

I will see Mrs. Meir tomorrow afternoon. Have you any further suggestions?


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