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John F. Kennedy Administration: Memorandum on New Strategy for Johnson Plan

(September 22, 1962)

This memorandum suggests steps to try to keep the Johnson Plan alive.


Next Steps on Preserving the Johnson Plan

We believe the following to be appropriate next steps.

1. You speak with the President saying it is in Israeli and United States interest to keep the plan alive. We are too deeply engaged simply to drop it, and the consequences would be bad if we did so. The Israelis have not shut the door to negotiating with the United States Government, though they do not want to talk seriously with Johnson. In fact, one of them has urged two United States officials to get into negotiations with Israel to see how we can meet Israel's concerns. Our estimate is that if the Israelis find they cannot scare us out of the plan and cannot get us to take the blame for scuttling it, their fallback position is to get from us in writing the guarantees given orally by Mike plus a precise upper limit on repatriation. Through their conversations they have dwelt on the absence of anything in writing protecting their sovereignty, their security and against a flood of refugees.

2. You request the President to agree to your effort to get us into a negotiating situation and to your telephoning Harman asking him to tell Mrs. Meir that Israel is acting precipitately, that they should keep their shirts on, that he will be talking with her on Wednesday,/2/ and that it should be possible to find a way to handle the problem. A suggested talking paper for a call to Harman is at Tab A./3/

3. You then inform Mike Feldman you have the President's agreement to your effort to get into a negotiating position with Israel and advise him nothing should be said to give the Israelis the impression we have backed out on the plan.

4. You buck up Joe Johnson at lunch Sunday but not try to see Mrs. Meir before your regular appointment Wednesday.


A. That you follow the above course.

B. That you authorize us to inform the French and the Turks that we are working to keep the door open and we request them to do likewise.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 325.84/9-2262. Confidential; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Strong and cleared by Cleveland, who added the handwritten note: "Adlai Stevenson has also seen and approved." Secretary Rusk initialed the memorandum.

/2/September 26. See Document 57.

/3/Attached but not printed. The "Suggested Telephone Statement by the Secretary to Ambassador Harman" indicates that the call would be in response to Harman's call of September 21 to Talbot (see Document 50). In it, Rusk would reaffirm U.S. support for the Johnson Plan, ask Israel to re-examine the proposals and consider the consequences of a hasty rejection, and propose discussing the subject at the forthcoming meeting between himself and Meir on September 26.

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