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John F. Kennedy Administration: Telegram on Johnson's Efforts in Lebanon

(April 27, 1962)

This telegram relates Johnson's difficulties in getting to the heart of refugee problem when meeting with certain Lebanese delegate.

From Johnson. For Talbot and Cleveland. Johnson found problem of effective communication with Lebanon officials/2/somewhat greater than with Israelis. This due partly to language difficulties but more to evident unwillingness of Ministers to discuss in depth ways that might suggest departure from Arab League Riyadh resolution/3/ before being specifically informed that Johnson had obtained "L'Accord d'Israel sur l'execution integrale de cette decision". Also partly due to fact that Takla's schedule only permitted one talk with him (at which Ammoun and Moe were present). Prime Minister meeting alone with Johnson and Moe was heavily lawyer-like and even less willing to examine possibilities for progress than Foreign Minister. While appearing to understand what Johnson meant when he spoke of Israel concern about Arab hostility, both men insisted paragraph 11/4/ is unconditional and Israeli argument therefore irrelevant.

In opening remarks Johnson had good opportunity to make clear his understanding and appreciation of the special problem of Lebanon and his awareness of the need to take account thereof in any practical scheme that might be developed.

Johnson unable to get across to his full satisfaction outline of ideas embodied in his Working Paper Five though he did seem to convey notion of beginning with small number (about 20,000). Perhaps most encouraging note was that Takla remarked at one point that if 5,000 of such an initial 20,000 wished to return they must be entitled to do so.

Both Prime Minister and Foreign Minister rejected any idea of refugee commitment to "live in peace with their neighbors" prior to return, saying refugee conduct would depend after return on Israel treatment of Arabs in country.

Takla stressed Lebanon's peaceful intent and did not appear to assume Israel must be destroyed but Prime Minister used arguments which would appear logically to lead to such a result, such as "95% of the land belongs to the Arabs".

Moe in private talk with Ammoun was able to communicate considerably more effectively, and this should prove helpful preparation for further talk with Takla agreed for return visit after Amman before returning to Israel.


/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 325.84/4-2762. Confidential. Repeated to Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Tel Aviv, USUN, and Aleppo.

/2/Johnson was in Beirut April 19-24. The Embassy in Beirut conveyed a summary report on the visit in telegram 1025 from Beirut, April 24. (Ibid., 325.84/4-2462)

/3/The Arab League Council met in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 31-April 4. Telegram 1025 from Beirut described the essence of the Council's resolution as being that everything depended upon Israeli willingness to accept repatriation. (Ibid.)

/4/Reference is to paragraph 11 of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.

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