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The Johnston Mission: President Eisenhower Announces Johnston Mission

(October 16, 1953)

On 16 October 1953, President Eisenhower announced the appointment of Mr. Eric Johnston as his special representative with the rank of Ambassador to undertake discussions with Israel and the Arab States on a comprehensive plan for the development of the Jordan Valley. The announcement reads as follows:

The Government of the United States believes that the interests of world peace call for every possible effort to create conditions of greater calm and stability in the Near East.

The Administration has continuously undertaken to relieve tensions in this sensitive and important area of the free world Last spring, the Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, made a first-hand survey of the area.

In furtherance of this policy, I am now sending Eric Johnston to the Near East as my personal representative with the rank of Ambassador to explore with the Governments of the countries of that region certain steps which might be expected to contribute to an improvement of the general situation in the region. In so doing, I have assured Mr. Johnston that he will have my full support and enjoy the widest possible latitude in dealing with all questions relevant to his mission. One of the major causes of disquiet in the Near East is the fact that some hundreds of thousands of Arab refugees are living without adequate means of support in the Arab States. The material wants of these people have been cared for through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. The Congress of the United States, over a period of four years, has appropriated a total of $153,513,000 to aid these refugees. It has been evident from the start, however, that every effort must be made by the countries concerned, with the help of the international community, to find a means of giving these unfortunate people an opportunity to regain personal self-sufficiency.

One of the major purposes of Mr. Johnston's mission will be to undertake discussions with certain of the Arab States and Israel, looking to the mutual development of the water resources of the Jordan River Valley on a regional basis for the benefit of all the people of the area.

In his conversations in the region, Mr. Johnston will make known the concern felt by the Government of the United States over the continuation of Near Eastern tensions and express our willingness to assist in every practicable way in reducing the areas of controversy. He will indicate the importance which the United States Government attaches to a regional approach to the development of natural resources. Such an approach holds a promise of extensive economic improvement in the countries concerned through the development of much needed irrigation and hydroelectric power and through the creation of an economic base on the land for a substantial proportion of the Arab refugees.

It is my conviction that acceptance of a comprehensive plan for the development of the Jordan Valley would contribute greatly to stability in the Near East and to general economic progress of the region. I have asked Mr. Johnston to explain this position to States concerned, seek their cooperation, and help them through whatever means he finds advisable.

Mr. Johnston left the United States on 14 October, following conversations with me, the Secretary of State, the Director of the Foreign Operations Administration, and other officials.

Sources: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs