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John F. Kennedy Administration: Kennedy Prepped on Dimona, Soviet Declaration for Ben-Gurion Visit

(May 29, 1961)

In advance of meeting with Ben-Gurion, President Kennedy is advised to pressure Israel on visits to Dimona and to discuss a U.S.-Soviet declaration on the Mideast.

Specific answers to your questions of May 29 (Ben Gurion)

1. We have an agreement with Ben Gurion not to announce the visit of the scientists to the Israeli reactor without his approval. Talbot would be very pleased if you could get him to release us from this commitment, at least far enough for us to inform Arab leaders that you have made this successful investigation, when you next write them. It would be even better if he would allow the scientists to make their own public statement, and of course best of all would be if he would now authorize a visit by neutral scientist. Moreover, we want to press upon him our hope that visits of this kind may be conducted, because while the reactor is clean as a whistle today, it could be turned in a dirty direction at any time.

2. At the last count, Nasser was said to have about 36 MIGs, but this is not a hard figure and if we get better dope it will be sent on tomorrow.

3. I attach an important message from Diefenbaker and a memorandum of comment from the Department of State about Ben Gurion's visit./2/ As you will see, Ben Gurion would like to have a joint US-USSR declaration guaranteeing the territorial integrity and independence of all Mid-Eastern states. Diefenbaker thinks it is not a bad idea. State strongly disapproves of our getting into it. It seems to them certain that both the Arabs and the Soviet Union would exploit any initiative of this sort, and they particularly hope that you will not give Ben Gurion any encouragement upon which he might float the rumor that the U.S. is friendly to this proposal. Attached is a possible answer to Diefenbaker/3/ which you might give to Talbot in New York for transmission if you approve of if. He will be there for your meeting with Ben Gurion.

McG. B./4/

/1/Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, McGeorge Bundy's Memoranda to the President, 5/29/61-5/31/61. Top Secret.

/2/On May 28, President Kennedy had received a message from Canadian Prime Minister Diefenbaker, who had held talks with Ben Gurion in Canada prior to Ben Gurion's visit to the United States. (Department of State, Central Files, 033.84A42/5-2861)

/3/Not further identified. In a May 29 memorandum from Battle to Bundy, the Department of State advised that it would be unwise to pursue such a statement at that time and forwarded a suggested text for a brief note of appreciation from Kennedy to Diefenbaker. (Ibid., 611.80/5-2961) See Supplement, the compilation on Israel.

/4/Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.

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