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John F. Kennedy Administration: Talk With Israeli PM Golda Meir

(December 22, 1962)

This is a memorandum from Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to President Kennedy transmitting briefing papers for the President's talk with Golda Meir and recommending a tougher line during the discussion.

Here are the papers bearing on Golda Meir talk at 10 a.m. on 27 December. This talk could be critical in setting the future tone of US-Israeli (and to a great extent Arab-Israeli) relations, which will pose recurrent knotty problems throughout your Administration.

Therefore, I'm sending the papers down early in the hope that you can look at them beforehand. As State's powerful memo (Tab A) brings out, our policy to date toward Israel has been one of all give and no get. We need in our own interest to bring more balance into this relationship, and now (just after the 1962 elections and the Hawk offer) is the time when we can exert the maximum leverage on Israel at minimum political cost.

There will be some cost, however, and the key point on which you must base your decision is whether there is sufficient to be gained from pressuring the Israelis to justify even this. For example, there are so many ways in which a refugee initiative could come unstuck even if we gained Israeli acquiescence in a modified Johnson-type approach that I'd still give it only a 50/50 chance of success at best.

Nonetheless, I see two strong arguments for a tougher line toward Israel. First, movement toward Arab-Israeli settlement would be so much to our interest (and Israel's) as to justify the effort. Second, even such movement will be interspersed with yet further flare-ups in which our restraining influence will depend largely upon both Arabs and Israelis regarding us as tough as well as fair-minded. Only if we can convince the Israelis we mean business will we be able to restrain them when necessary; only this in turn will give us the necessary leverage to do the same with the Arabs (at Tab B is a longish memo developing this argument in detail).

State may have too big a menu for you to take up with Golda. The meeting would be a success if you got across that in return for our aid we expect: (1) greater reciprocity on Israel's part; (2) Israeli collaboration in a refugee effort involving some repatriation, and standing some chance of Arab acceptance; and (3) greater Israeli cooperation with UN peacekeeping machinery.

At Mac Bundy's urging, Phil Talbot and I will come down to Palm Beach for the talk. I hope you could spare a half hour Wednesday afternoon so Phil and I could join Mike Feldman in airing these issues in advance.

R.W. Komer

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