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Lyndon Johnson Administration: First Guidance On U.S. Policy Toward the PLO

(March 30, 1965)

This document may be the earliest U.S. government reference to the PLO. In it Rusk advises government officials not to recognize the PLO, but at the same time not to ignore it. He feels ignoring the group could do more harm than good. He feels that by working with the PLO, the United States can try and change some of the views of the Arabs on destroying Israel.

199. Circular Airgram From the Department of State to Certain Posts/1/

SUBJECT: Guidance on U.S. Contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization

Recent press accounts indicate that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) plans shortly to have offices in all Arab countries except Saudi Arabia. Offices are also to be opened in Great Britain, India, Indonesia and the United States. An office has been opened in Pakistan. As officers in these countries will probably be exposed increasingly to contacts with the PLO and its officials, the Department wishes to set forth guidelines for these contacts.

There are of course fundamental differences between the PLO's views of the Palestine problem and our own. We are as a matter of national policy committed to support the continued existence of Israel; PLO officials repeatedly have declared it is that organization's aim to see the state of Israel destroyed. We are committed to a peaceful solution of the whole complex of Palestine issues; the PLO's declared policies increasingly indicate it sees no alternative to solving these problems than by force of arms. Because of our role in Israel's creation and our support of Israel, PLO statements are almost invariably hostile to the United States. We have made no public statements regarding the PLO. We do not recognize it as the sole or even as an official representative of the Palestine people. It is the USG's view that it has no official status whatever.

In spite of the chasm between the PLO and ourselves, we do not wish to cut ourselves off entirely and irrevocably from its members and officials as individuals. We believe that productive relations can be established between PLO members and USG officers. We do not believe that we should undertake any kind of broad-scale campaign to establish such relations, but neither should we ignore opportunities as might present themselves. Such relations we believe are another way of demonstrating to the Palestinians and other Arabs our continuing friendship for the Palestinian people. There is of course the possibility of acquiring useful intelligence. And finally the maintenance of these contacts would be a useful hedge against some unforeseen and fundamental change in the Palestine problem and our relation to it.

Accordingly the Department wishes to caution the posts that they should take no action that might be construed as official recognition of the PLO. They may acknowledge mail from individuals in the PLO but should not enter into substantive correspondence with them as PLO officials. Officers should not call at PLO offices or encourage PLO calls at embassies or consulates. If PLO officials wish to call at USG offices they should be received at a subordinate level. Officers should not attend official PLO functions. There is no objection, however, to US officers' attendance of small, informal functions given by PLO officers or ones at which the latter are present, even as guests of honor.

Officers may where appropriate maintain unostentatious personal contact with PLO officials. They may attend official host country functions at which PLO officials are present, though not ones at which they are guests of honor.

For its part, the Department intends to receive any PLO callers at the level of Office Director or below. It is intended that any contacts by Department officers with PLO officials outside the Department be kept at a subordinate level and be unostentatious and informal.

The Department welcomes continuing reporting on the PLO and individuals connected with it.


/1/Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 3 PAL ENTITY. Confidential; Air Pouch. Drafted by Stackhouse on March 12; cleared by Davies and Director of the Office of South Asian Affairs Turner C. Cameron, Jr., and in draft by Deputy Director of the Office of Northern African Affairs James J. Blake and Stephen J. Campbell; and approved by Talbot. Sent to Aden, Aleppo, Alexandria, Algiers, Amman, Baghdad, Baida, Basra, Beirut, Benghazi, Cairo, Casablanca, Constantine, Damascus, Djakarta, Jerusalem, Jidda, Khartoum, Kuwait, London, New Delhi, Oran, Paris, Port Said, Rabat, Taiz, Tripoli, Tunis, USUN, and Karachi.

Sources: U.S. Department of State