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John F. Kennedy Administration: Israel's Response to U.S. Proposals Regarding Refugee Debate at UN

(December 4, 1962)

This is a memorandum from the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, Talbot, to Secretary of State Rusk addressing the Israeli response to U.S. proposals regarding the refugee debate in the U.N. General Assembly.

As you know, Harlan Cleveland, Mike Feldman and I met Israeli Ambassador Harman on December 4 to hear Israel's reaction to our proposals. On two uncertain points, I telephoned Ambassador Harman after reporting orally to you. The following sets forth the Israeli replies on the points sought by the U.S.:

1. Israel will not introduce or support a direct negotiation resolution for the next two years:

The resolution will be introduced. It will not be pressed to a vote. Israel is confident of control. Israel cannot commit itself regarding next year. However, it would undertake to be in close touch with us. (In my subsequent telephone conversation, I tried out the formula that "Israel will not put the resolution forward next year unless the U.S. and Israel find this mutually advantageous." In response, Harman said he "would not like to make a blanket commitment for next year in view of the uncertainties of the situation.")

2. Israel will be free to maintain its present private rejection of the Johnson Plan, but will not attack it publicly, including in GA debate:

Israel has no desire to mention the proposals or any element of them. "If the development of debate is such as to make this tenable, this is Israel's position."

3. Israel will resume discussions with the U.S. shortly after the GA to consider how progress can be made on the refugee question with an acceptable mixture of repatriation and resettlement. This will include consideration of any ideas Israel has, of the twelve principles developed in the Harman-Talbot talks, and of possible ways to resolve the refugee question bilaterally, i.e., Jordan:

"Within the framework of U.S.-Israel agreement on this package, and the clarification sought by Israel, Israel accepts this suggestion and is ready for discussions on the refugee question. The U.S. is well aware of Israel's attitude toward the preference poll and Paragraph 11. It would be our assumption that these would not be the basis of discussion. What the Prime Minister told President Kennedy stands, and this would be the basis. Any agreement between the U.S. and Israel would also have to be the basis of agreement with the Arabs." (In the later telephone conversation I said "we foresee these talks as being without preconditions. Particularly, we understand that there would not be certain topics excluded from discussions." Harman replied that he would like to be confident of U.S. understanding that "Israel has rejected these devices and has the attitude it does regarding Paragraph 11.")

4. Israel will commit itself to continue to avoid actions along the border, and to support effective use and improvement of UN instrumentalities in the area:

"The U.S. has expressed satisfaction at Israel's cooperation on the border. What Prime Minister Ben Gurion wrote to President Kennedy on June 24 stands, and is the basis of Israel's approach. (See attached copy of Ben Gurion's letter.)/3/ The Prime Minister's letter is a clear indication of the spirit in which Israel shall approach this."

In the meeting with Harman we made clear that, depending on the consideration of Israel's response by the highest levels of this government, we would be prepared to do the following. Harman sought the "clarifications" indicated.

1. We would urge Johnson to submit as non-substantive a report as possible to the PCC.

2. We would support a PCC report that does not endorse the Johnson Plan. (Harman sought clarification that the report would not endorse or refer to the Johnson Plan or Johnson elements. He also sought to persuade us that the Johnson report regardless of its nature, should not be transmitted by the PCC or made public. We replied that, if the report takes the form we hope, it will not matter whether it is or is not conveyed by the PCC.)

3. We would sponsor a GA resolution commending the PCC for its work carried out pursuant to Paragraph 11; direct the PCC to continue its endeavors; and extend UNRWA for one year. (Harman sought to persuade us that there should be no mention of Paragraph 11. We said we consider the citation of Paragraph 11 unavoidable. We will try to keep the citation in its present innocuous form (i.e., unrelated to the mention of future PCC activity), but cannot guarantee this since consultation regarding our draft will necessarily be a multilateral process.

4. We would also maintain our past position against recognition of a Palestine entity, reconstitution of the PCC, and the Arab custodian proposal.

By way of further clarification Harman sought assurance that U.S. statements in debate would not refer to the Johnson Plan or elements thereof. We said our statements would necessarily be "derivative" from what had gone before.

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