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John F. Kennedy Administration: Memorandum on Special Political Committee Debate on Refugees

(December 5, 1962)

This is a memorandum of conversation at a Talbot-Harman meeting to inform Ambassador Harman of U.S. action in the Special Political Committee debate.

Ambassador Harman of Israel
Phillips Talbot, Assistant Secretary for New Eastern and South Asian Affairs

I told Ambassador Harman that the United States Government would proceed in the Special Political Committee debate on Arab refugees along the lines of the understanding that he and we had discussed. I said that we would follow our interpretation of these points, recognizing that in the event of a difference in interpretation Israel and the United States would have to consult to resolve the difference. He asked the significance of my second statement. I said that we had expressed our understanding of each point and would adhere to that. For example we had made clear our feeling of the importance of having a two year commitment that Israel would not support a direct negotiations resolution, and while understanding Israel's reluctance to commit its future position at this time, we would expect to be closely consulted if at any moment Israel should decide to support a direct negotiations resolution. On the question of resuming talks about an Arab refugee settlement at the General Assembly session, we interpret the understanding to be that we will enter these talks without preconditions and without Israeli refusal to discuss elements that seem significant to us. The Ambassador replied that he was glad to hear of our agreement to this package and that of course we already knew the Israeli position on these subjects, such as a preference poll, which he had repeatedly brought to our attention.

The Ambassador asked if this meant that the agreement was now in effect between our two governments. I replied that it did. He then asked if he could take it that there was no change in our opposition to the Arab-sponsored resolutions for reconstitution of the PCC and a property custodian. I replied that there was no change in our position. Finally, he said he assumed that this meant our delegations would be in close touch with each other. I said I assumed that the U.S. delegation would be consulting closely with all other delegations involved in this issue.

In a separate telephone conversation, having negotiated this item in our first talk, I told the Ambassador that we had been informed that Israeli representatives had told another government that Israel and the United States had made an agreement providing that the U.S. would not recommend the Johnson Plan in the United Nations, that in exchange Israel would not criticize the Plan in the General Assembly, that Israel and the U.S. would jointly discuss the refugee problem after the General Assembly, and that Israel would not put the direct negotiations resolution to a vote. I said that we were disappointed to learn this, because we believed that our talks were private. I also reminded him that we had spoken to him only a few weeks ago about an Israeli representative informing another government of private talks between Israel and the U.S. He said he had not heard of this incident and did not know what may have happened, but he would pass my comment along.

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