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John F. Kennedy Administration: Telegram Regarding Rejection of Johnson Plan for Refugees

(November 21, 1962)

This is a telegram from the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel reporting a discussion with Golda Meir in reference to the Johnson Plan and the refugee problem.

Mrs. Meir's arguments differed hardly at all from those she has used previously and which were repeatedly stressed by Ambassador Harman during recent series five talks between Talbot and Ambassador Harman: (1) Johnson Plan or anything derived from it has been rejected by Israel and cannot be basis for further useful conversation. (2) Israel will not cooperate in any process unless there has been prior agreement with Arabs that 90% of refugees will be resettled. (3) Israel will not cooperate in any operation involving expression of refugee preference. (4) If Israel is pressed on any of these points against its will, it will return to its position of pre-1951; i.e, that there can be no discussion of refugee problem except in context an over-all peace settlement. (5) Israel must pursue direct negotiations resolution "as its only secret weapon" in GA, and could only desist from having this brought to a vote if Johnson Plan is totally out of picture and there is specific Israel-US agreement on a common opposition to possible Arab resolutions and other tactical concerns and there is no citation of Paragraph 11. (6) The remaining time very short and we must get down to such tactical considerations on urgent basis. (7) Mrs. Meir said she would also like see President Kennedy to put to him Israel point of view on refugee problem.

Secretary commented Israel's position seems to add up to no progress and this is something USG cannot accept. Any return to Israel's position of decade ago that refugees could only be discussed in general context of peace would necessarily be very serious and would cause re-examination of broader aspects our relationship. Israel's view of precise nature its assurance re direct negotiations resolution contains at least one element that is new to Department (insistence Johnson Plan be dropped). Mrs. Meir's request for meeting with President will be conveyed. Meanwhile USG will give close study to Israel's stated position.


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