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John F. Kennedy Administration: Johnson's Future Mission

(March 14, 1962)

This memorandum concerns Joseph Johnson's meeting with other international government bodies, their persepectives concerning the next steps for the PCC, and an outline of future issues in relation to the refugee problem.

PCC Refugee Initiative

Dr. Joseph E. Johnson, Special Representative, Palestine Conciliation Commission
Mr. Sherrington Moe, Senior Advisor to the Special Representative
USUN--Mr. Robert Blake
IO/UNP--Mr. Stephen Palmer
NEA/NE--William R. Crawford, Jr.

1. Dr. Johnson's Recent Trip to Europe; Contacts with Jewish Leaders:

Dr. Johnson said he had discussed with appropriate officials in the British and French Foreign Ministries his general ideas about "the second round" (Sir Roger Stevens and Stewart Crawford in London, Sauvagnargues and Vincenot in Paris). None of these officials were optimistic, but there was some feeling that perhaps limited movement to break the present stalemate is a possibility. All were interested and proffered cooperation. One impression gained in Paris is that Foreign Ministry officials are much less keen on close relations with Israel than are officials in other sections of the French Government. One French official remarked that the threat to terminate UNRWA is the only lever which will mean anything to the Arabs. Dr. Johnson said he had pleasant but not particularly fruitful meetings with Ambassador Spinelli and officials of the UNHCR and ICEM in Geneva.

Dr. Johnson said, following his return from Europe, USUN had been helpful in arranging meetings for him with Mr. Label Katz, President, B'nai B'rith, Rabbi Irving Miller, President of the Conference of Presidents, and Dr. Nahum Goldmann. All had agreed to be helpful in arranging extra-official contacts in Israel. All had interesting comments to make regarding probable future immigration. Although these estimates were arrived at separately, they are virtually identical. From sources other than the Soviet Union (Rumania, Hungary, Morocco, and Algeria), Israel can expect a maximum of 250,000 immigrants in the next few years. Barring the rise of another Stalin, no more than 500,000 of Russia's Jewish population of approximately three million would consider leaving even if they were allowed to do so. It is a fact that most younger Jews in the Soviet Union are assimilated. From these calculations, it appears that the maximum possible immigration into Israel over the next decade is 750,000 persons. Dr. Johnson said the three Jewish leaders had pointed to the impossibility of Israel's placing any voluntary restrictions on immigration. All had agreed, however, that Israel's continued harping on the expectation of extensive immigration is unhelpful.

Dr. Johnson said he has assured Goldmann, Katz, and Miller that he is going to Israel to explore the significance of Mrs. Meir's statement that "we do not preclude some repatriation under suitable circumstances". He is very much aware of the considerations of sovereignty and security which affect the thinking of Israel's leaders. He had assured the Jewish leaders that as a U.N. official he could not seek to infringe on these.

2. Israel's Concerns:

It was noted that Israel's U.N. delegate Comay had addressed a letter to PCC Chairman Eldem on March 13 terming the PCC's March 2 announcement of Dr. Johnson's reappointment "unsatisfactory". This was paralleled by an approach to Assistant Secretary Talbot by Ambassador Harman. It was agreed that these representations were "for the record" and the Israelis have little real grounds for complaint since the text of the PCC's proposed announcement was forwarded to Comay on February 28 and he acquiesced in its wording. Dr. Johnson said he intended to talk to Ambassador Comay to "mollify" him for Jerusalem's benefit.

It was also noted that the Israelis had made parallel approaches to Assistant Secretary Talbot in Washington and Mr. Moe in New York regarding the dangers of the Special Representative's talking to self-proclaimed refugee leaders. In reply to the Israelis' representations, both Mr. Talbot and Mr. Moe had pointed out the distinction between "consultation with governments" in the Special Representative's official capacity and what might be termed "information-gathering without prejudice".

3. Terms of Reference:

Dr. Johnson said he does not require a new, specific letter giving terms of reference for the "second round". It is obvious that his terms of reference, in fact, are contained in the PCC's August 1961 letter to governments (which presumably remains in effect because the PCC's March 2 action was to "reappoint" him as Special Representative) and Resolution 1725./2/ Dr. Johnson thinks it desirable, however, to have in hand a two or three line summary of these two elements in case he is asked regarding his terms of reference during the "second round". Mr. Moe was asked to draft such a summary.

/2/See footnote 2, Document 153.

4. Basic Approach to the "Second Round":

Dr. Johnson was asked regarding the present state of his own thinking as to the nature of proposals he might make to governments. Dr. Johnson pointed out that two differing approaches had been suggested in Working Papers I and III,/3/ respectively. Working Paper I envisages the Special Representative's obtaining a commitment as to the parties' agreement in principle to cooperate in moving a specified, limited number of refugees (perhaps ten or twenty thousand) in a one year period. The commitment would include an agreed system for determining refugee preferences. Working Paper III looks to a system of open-ended registration. Commitments from governments would not be necessary as the PCC would undertake only to do its best to obtain government cooperation in implementing refugee preferences. Mr. Crawford pointed out the several tentative conclusions which evolved in discussion of the Working Papers within the Department. In brief, these seem to point to the desirability of dealing with a fixed, small number in the initial period. There appear disadvantages to any sort of open-ended registration or census. (Respective views on this very fundamental question were discussed at length. In the end, Dr. Johnson said his own thinking is close to that of the Department and he, therefore, leans to the type of limited-movement-in-a-limited-period approach outlined in Working Paper I. There are, however, some elements of value in Working Paper III. Mr. Moe was asked by Dr. Johnson to prepare a synthesis of the best elements of I and III, in one page outline, for consideration by Dr. Johnson and the Department.) It was further agreed that any approach, to succeed, must be (a) simple, (b) in strict accord with the principles of Paragraph 11, (c) based on obtaining Arab government acquiescence rather than active cooperation, and (d) designed to minimize political vulnerability from the point of view of the several governments concerned.

/3/Copies of Working Papers II, III, and V are in Department of State, NEA/IAI Files: Lot 70 D 229, Ref 1 General Pol.

5. Repatriation "and" versus Repatriation "or" (Compensation):

There was detailed discussion of the long-standing U.S. Government position that, insofar as U.N. "responsibility" is concerned, Paragraph 11 is predicated on the provision of compensation only to those refugees who choose resettlement. The Working Papers had revealed that the staff of the PCC Secretariat and Mr. Moe held that the U.N. itself should ensure the payment of (property) compensation to repatriated refugees. When Department officers noted, inter alia, the unlikelihood of Israel's accepting this thesis, Mr. Moe commented that if Israel refused, more pressure would develop against it for its intransigence. Dr. Johnson, however, tentatively concurred with the Department's view that the option should lie between guaranteed compensation (where applicable) if the refugee chose resettlement, or repatriation with no U.N. commitment on compensation. The idea of granting compensation for moveable property was discouraged by the Department officers on the grounds that claims would be virtually impossible to adjudicate and that some sort of per capita "rehabilitation" or "reintegration" allowance would obviate the need for such compensation./4/

/4/After the formal meeting Mr. Palmer suggested to Mr. Moe that, quite apart from the legal aspects and negotiating history of the "and-or" question, the "or" concept should prevail from the viewpoint of political realism. If the refugees were promised compensation with repatriation, would any even opt for resettlement? In order to obtain a reasonable proportion between those opting for repatriation and those opting for resettlement (and Israel would agree to no scheme in which repatriation would predominate), the experiences of the first phase operation would have to be such as to convince the refugees that resettlement was preferable to repatriation. [Footnote in the source text.]

6. Giving the Refugees a New Start:

Department officers noted that there is tentative agreement on the Working Papers' premise that there must be some financial arrangement to give the refugees a new start in whatever area they move. Here, important questions are: (a) what is an equitable amount per refugee (a figure of $2,400 per family of four was tentatively mentioned), (b) what portion, if any, should be paid to the refugees and what to the receiving government, and (c) what voice, if any, should the U.N. have in approving releases from funds turned over to governments?

7. U.S. Financial Assistance:

Department officers noted that this problem had been carefully but not definitively considered in several working group meetings in the Department. As a matter of history, the U.S. has expressed willingness to give generous support to programs that offer prospect of real progress on aspects of the Arab-Israel problem. The willingness to seek legislative authority for such support continues today. The Department is anxious that Dr. Johnson have in hand the tools he requires to make his mission effective. The assurance of adequate financial support for projects that might be agreed upon is obviously of great importance. As far as a United States Government assurance is concerned, two types of approach might be envisaged, for use singly or in combination: (a) an executive statement of willingness, in principle, to assist, but in an unspecified amount, and (b) a specific commitment to more limited support in a given period. Before either can be undertaken, an indication of what Dr. Johnson desires is required. Relevant to this problem is the United States Government holding of Israel currency. Dr. Johnson agreed to provide the Department with a statement of his specific requirements.

Department officers noted the consensus of the working group that during the "second round" it might be desirable for Dr. Johnson to refer to financial considerations only in general terms.

8. Definition of "Refugee":

Several ways of defining a refugee, for the purposes of Paragraph 11, were discussed. Dr. Johnson agreed that his staff would turn its attention to this problem to formulate a working definition for discussion with the Department.

9. Recording of Refugee Preferences:

Several aspects of the functioning of U.N. centers to record refugee preferences were discussed. Among these were the possibility of using only one or two centers that could move successively from one country to another, thus reducing administrative problems; the related use of a "sub-quota" within the ceiling established for Year One and proportional to the percentage in each country of the total refugee population; the need to inform the refugees of the facts (of life in Israel), but to do this insofar as possible by providing straight answers to questions rather than volunteering information in a way that would subject the PCC to accusations of trying to influence refugee choice.

10. Resettlement:

It was acknowledged that there must be some assurance of Arab willingness to receive those refugees who opt for resettlement. It appears unlikely that Arab leaders can be induced to make new declarations to this effect soon, but they might assent to the Special Representative's announcing their continued adherence to previous expressions of willingness in the U.N. General Assembly.

11. Resettlement Outside the Area:

Department officers explained the fears expressed in the Department's working group regarding too early an appeal for refugee resettlement opportunities outside the Near East. It seems desirable that no move be made by the PCC in this direction until at least preliminary accord has been reached with the Arabs and Israelis. After preliminary accord has been reached, Dr. Johnson could make an international appeal to governments to help out. Again hypothetically, the U.S. could respond to this appeal by an appropriate executive announcement of intent to seek authority from Congress for a special refugee quota.

12. A Following U.N. Presence:

It was agreed in general that U.N. assistance to the refugees whose options are implemented should continue for a limited period after these refugees move. How the U.N. could most effectively extend such aid was not determined.

13. The Wedge Cycle:

Department officers agreed that there is much of value in the repatriation-resettlement cycle theory proposed by Dr. Wedge as a means for breaking down the psychological barrier to solution of this problem which exists in the refugees' minds. Department officers commented that the Department's working group sees no advantage, however, to Dr. Wedge's suggestion regarding the possibility of prior consultation with the Soviets or Yugoslavs.

14. PCC and UNRWA:

Department officers noted that, while UNRWA may be in a position to provide limited, unpublicized advice and assistance in the operation of a plan for refugee movement, it is advisable to keep the PCC's initiative and the UNRWA structure formally separate at least during early phases.

15. Israel Immigration:

Dr. Johnson said one of the obstacles to Arab cooperation in an effort to solve the refugee problem is the real fear of continued large-scale immigration into Israel and, consequently, of an Israel move to expand. It was agreed that the philosophy of unrestricted Jewish immigration is so fundamental to the State of Israel that it is not realistic to expect that the Israel Government would ever agree to restrict this. Perhaps, however, there might be less public emphasis by Israel on unrestricted immigration. Additionally, the Special Representative can perhaps informally convey to Arab leaders the best current estimates of probable future immigration to Israel.

16. Israel Laws on Expropriation and Restitution:

At Dr. Johnson's request Department officers agreed to prepare a brief summary of information available in the Department's files regarding Israel's laws on expropriation and restitution. This is relevant to the means of redress that would be available to refugees being repatriated to Israel who find their property destroyed or expropriated.

17. Mr. Strong's Meeting with Jewish Leaders:

Mr. Crawford reviewed the substance of Mr. Strong's March 5 meeting with Jewish leaders. He also informed Dr. Johnson of the current (inactive) status of the Congressional resolutions introduced by Representatives Farbstein and Ryan.

18. Further Meetings:

It was agreed to hold one further meeting in New York on March 26. Mr. Crawford said the Department hopes Dr. Johnson can visit Washington shortly before his departure for a final review with appropriate senior officials, presumably Assistant Secretaries Talbot and Cleveland. Saying that he would welcome such a final meeting, Dr. Johnson suggested it be tentatively scheduled for late Friday afternoon, March 30.

Note: From the discussions of March 14, Department officers gained the impression that, to a very large extent, the Working Papers presented to the Department had been developed by Mr. Moe and other members of the PCC staff without regular, close coordination with Dr. Johnson. Dr. Johnson acknowledged, for example, that he had not yet had an opportunity to give careful study to Working Paper III. On several issues, Dr. Johnson's thinking seemed much closer to that of the Department's working group than to the members of his staff, with whom, in a few instances, he took fairly sharp exception. Department officers felt (and Dr. Johnson later so indicated privately to USUN) that Dr. Johnson's thinking about negotiating approaches and tactics in the "second round" is still quite fluid and that he was most appreciative of the Department's study of the Working Papers.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 325.84/3-1462. Confidential; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Crawford and Palmer on March 23.

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