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Lyndon Johnson Administration: Introductory Letter to Israeli PM Eshkol

(January 2, 1964)

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

The visit to Israel of my good friend, Sargent Shriver, Director of the Peace Corps, provides an occasion for me to renew the frank and friendly exchange between our two governments.1

I am of course familiar with the correspondence between President Kennedy and yourself as well as former Prime Minister Ben-Gurion. I too value greatly the close and candid relationship that exists between our two governments. This must continue, so I look forward to establishing the same high degree of mutual understanding as existed during the administrations of our predecessors.

Among the major problems which we will have to consider in the near future is that of the Jordan waters, on which we stand behind you in your right of withdrawal in accordance with the Unified Plan.2 Also high on our agenda is the assurance of Israel's future security, in ways which will stabilize rather than upset the situation in the area. We are much concerned, too, with finding a satisfactory way to settle the refugee problem, as a prerequisite to Arab-Israeli peace. You may be sure that we are giving these questions our earnest attention and hope to exchange views fully and frankly with your government on the best means of handling them. I hope to write you again soon in response to your letter of November 43 on Israel's security problems.

Meanwhile, I want to assure you that I stand fully by President Kennedy's public declaration on May 8, 1963,4 that we are determined to defend the security of all states in the Near East, as well as our other public and private assurances of support for the safety of Israel. There will be no change in the policy of the United States Government on this issue.

I hope I may look forward to the pleasure of meeting you sometime in the not too distant future to talk things over face to face.5



Lyndon B. Johnson


1Shriver delivered the President's letter to Prime Minister Eshkol on January 7. Their conversation is summarized in telegram 751 from Tel Aviv, January 8. (Ibid.) A January 29 memorandum from Robert W. Komer of the NSC Staff refers to an invitation conveyed by Shriver to Eshkol to visit Washington. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Israel).

2The Unified Plan, or Johnston Plan, developed in 1953-1955 negotiations with the riparian states of the Jordan River Basin conducted by Presidential emissary Eric Johnston, had never received formal acceptance. For information about the Plan and U.S. policy concerning it, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, vol. XVII, Document 8, and vol. XVIII, Documents 352 and 355.

3For information concerning Eshkol's November 4 letter to Kennedy, see ibid., Document 356.

4For text of the statement that President Kennedy made during a press conference on May 8, 1963, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, p. 373.

5Eshkol replied in a letter of January 22 that he looked forward to meeting Johnson, that he valued Johnson's statement on the U.S.-Israel relationship, that he hoped for an early reply to his November 4 letter, and that he was encouraged by Johnson's assurance of U.S. support of Israel's withdrawal of Jordan waters in accordance with the Unified Plan. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Special Head of State Correspondence File, Israel).

Sources: Public Papers of the President