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John F. Kennedy Administration: Johnson's Meeting With Arab and Israeli Leaders

(April 18, 1962)

This telegram relays the specifics of Johnson's recent meetings with both Arab and Israeli leaders, and, what he believed, to be a somewhat negative outcome regarding his suggestions about resolving the refugee issue.

Following message relayed at request Dr. Johnson:

"For Talbot and Cleveland.

Johnson saw Meir two hours Sunday, three hours Tuesday morning and at his request 45 minutes Tuesday afternoon. Moe, Rafael, Arad present all three sessions, Yahil and Rosenne at first two.

Johnson presented 'some ideas' based essentially upon his Working Paper Five./2/Specifically he (1) spoke of seeking expression of refugee preference with safeguards envisaged that paper, and (2) asked under what conditions Government of Israel would agree to repatriation of a share of perhaps 20,000 as a beginning of movement.

On latter, reply was in essence Israel must have as minimum simultaneous public assurance satisfactory to her that Arab governments are prepared to live in peace even if not to sign peace treaty. An evidence of such intention would be six months moratorium on anti-Israeli propaganda. Israel stands on FonMin's Knesset and UN [garble] statements that Israel has never said 'not one refugee.' While burden of lengthy and repetitive argument was in essence: no place for them, why should they wish to come, and especially, given present Arab government attitudes as Israel reads them, even Israel's share of 20,000 a security risk. Apparently unpersuaded by Johnson argument that some million discontented refugees a greater security risk.

At the third meeting Johnson (1) expressed disappointment, (2) regretted essentially negative character of response, and (3) declined to assent to Meir request expressed in second session not to mention 'poll' of refugees on other side. FonMin did not again allude to last point. She said she failed to understand Johnson's disappointment. She and colleagues were manifestly determined, despite Johnson's reiterated denials, to interpret his approach as threat to Israel's security, and complained of unequal pressures on peace-seeking Israel. Also characterized his suggestions as 'mechanical' solution ignoring political fundamentals.

Given character Israel reaction Johnson did not develop brief allusion to compensation made in the first talk.

At conclusion he asked serious consideration his 'suggestions' before he returned, probably 5-6 or 10-11 May (he plans not to be in Israel on Independence Day 9 May despite cordial invitation). He did not seek interview this visit with PriMin who is on vacation but was assured without asking that Ben-Gurion wanted to see him next month.

Despite evident absence of meeting of minds conversations were generally cordial in tone.

Johnson left Jerusalem by car Wednesday planning spend evening in a kibbutz, night at Tiberias, and arrive Beirut 19 April at noon."


/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 325.84/4-1862. Confidential; Priority. Received at 11:05 a.m. on April 19 and repeated to USUN, Tel Aviv, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, and London.

/2/Dated April 2; see Supplement, the compilation on the Arab-Israeli dispute. See also Document 237.

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