No. 686
The Secretary of State to the Chairman of the Advisory Board for International Development (Johnston)

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My Dear Mr. Johnston: With reference to the President’s letter of October 7, 19531 appointing you his Personal Representative with the personal rank of Ambassador, I am setting forth below the objectives and broad terms of reference of your mission.

You are entrusted with a twofold task:

To secure agreement of the states of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel to the division and use of the waters of the Jordan River Basin;
To secure agreement from Jordan and Israel on plans that may be prepared for the internationalization of Jerusalem, if it is [Page 1349] subsequently decided by the Department that this subject should be discussed.

With respect to your first task, you should endeavor to obtain acceptance, to the maximum extent feasible, of the report entitled “The Unified Development of the Water Resources of the Jordan Valley Region,” prepared at the request of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees under the direction of the Tennessee Valley Authority. This report establishes a broad plan for the effective and efficient use of the water resources of the Jordan Valley without considering political factors or attempting to set the system proposed into the national boundaries now prevailing. The Department has full confidence in the engineering conclusions reached in this study.

In making such adjustments as may prove necessary or desirable, you should bear in mind the importance of facilitating the settlement through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees of a maximum number of refugees in the shortest possible time and also the wish of the United States to assist in the economic development of Israel and the Arab states.

The settlement reached should fall within the following framework:

The division of the water of the Jordan River Basin between Israel, Jordan and Syria should conform as closely as possible to the recommendations of the TVA report. As a minimum Jordan should receive a substantially greater volume than she would obtain from the unilateral development of the Yarmuk alone. Israel should renounce all rights to divert for irrigation more than a specified volume of water from the Jordan River and its tributaries.
Armistice line adjustments should be effected so that physical control over the main reservoir (Lake Tiberias), the outlets from Lake Tiberias, and the diversion canal from the Yarmuk is not exercised exclusively by Israel. This will probably require Israel to relinquish control of all or of a substanial part of the area bounded by the Jordan River, the Yarmuk River, Lake Tiberias and the proposed Yarmuk diversion canal.
The present demilitarized zones in the Jordan Valley should be eliminated.
The problem of development of the Litani River should not be considered in the present context. If raised by Israel, you should state that it is not linked to the plan. If absolutely necessary, you may add that in appropriate circumstances the United States would be willing to explore in the future with Lebanon the possibilities of developing the Litani for the benefit of the area as a whole.
If you consider this useful, you may state that the United States is prepared to propose the establishment of a United Nations Water Commission or Commissioner to assure that the waters [Page 1350] are distributed in accordance with the technical agreements reached.

Within the above terms of reference you are accorded full latitude to advocate variations in the TVA plan, in order to obtain acceptance by the states concerned.

With regard to Jerusalem, you should be guided in general by the paper entitled “Status of Jerusalem and the Holy Places,”2 which has been made available to you. The objective of the United States is to obtain the agreement of Israel and Jordan to a plan for the functional internationalization of Jerusalem which will also prove acceptable to the Catholic countries, and command the necessary majority in the General Assembly. Within this concept you are accorded full authority to support any reasonable variations in a plan which the Department would furnish you if this issue becomes the subject of negotiations. You should not suggest changes in the present armistice lines since this is not an essential of the plan, and is likely to invite endless complications. If desired by both Israel and Jordan, the United States would welcome rectifications, such as the elimination of the Mount Scopus enclave, which would contribute to stability and reduction of friction.

The timing of discussions of Jerusalem must be carefully coordinated with current efforts to ascertain the positions that interested countries may adopt in the General Assembly. It will probably be desirable to limit any discussions on this subject, in the Near East, to Jordan and Israel, unless the matter is raised by another state.

In the execution of your mission you will receive the full backing of this Government. You are specifically authorized to make clear to the states concerned that the future level of United States economic aid, contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, and military assistance, is contingent upon the attitudes they adopt towards your mission. The United States will consider the positions taken by the different states as indicative of their intentions toward liquidation of the refugee problem and toward practical steps, as distinct from theoretical expressions of intent, to achieve a peaceful adjustment of the Near East situation. You may assert that the Executive Branch would feel obliged to report in future hearings before the Congress the progress of your mission, and that any modification of special economic aid, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees contribution, and military assistance plans of the United States Government, will undoubtedly be affected by the cooperation received in this instance. In any discussions which relate [Page 1351] to the problem of assistance beyond FY 1954, you will of course bear in mind the annual appropriation nature of the Mutual Security Program, and will make it clear to foreign government officials that any plans for future aid are contingent on Congressional action. At the time of your mission, negotiations will be in progress with states in the area regarding current economic assistance from fiscal 1954 funds. This fact should assist you materially.

It is doubtful whether the proposal will attract the Syrians if approached as an economic problem alone, and, unless Syria is assured of United States cooperation in the military as well as the economic field, your negotiations in Syria might be without result. While we are not able at this time to offer military assistance to Syria in terms of a concrete figure, a request from the Syrians for military assistance is one which lies within our present legislative authority to meet. If a reasonable program of military assistance to Syria is required to make your negotiations successful, we have no doubt that the funds will be found to carry it out, although these funds will be very limited for an initial program. Military assistance to Syria would be conditional on Syrian assurances that the arms would be used to meet the prime objectives of the U.S. Government—to improve internal stability and to provide for ultimate defense against aggression—and not used to wage aggressive warfare against Syria’s neighbors.

The issue of compensation to the Arab refugees is likely to complicate your task, but discussion of this subject may prove unavoidable. If the matter is raised, your are authorized to state that the United States has encouraged Israel’s acceptance of the principle of compensation, and that the United States advocates action to pay compensation as soon as a method of payment can be determined which will not seriously dislocate the economies of the states concerned. You may add that the United States is prepared to consider financial measures to help meet the burden of compensation. The funds of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees spent on development projects can partly meet the need for compensation.

You are accorded complete freedom in adopting the tactics and procedures which you judge most efficacious. I assume, however, that you will wish to avail yourself of the knowledge and area experience of our representatives in Washington and in the field. I am asking the Assistant Secretaries for the Bureau of Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs and of the Bureau of United Nations Affairs to cooperate with you in working out the details of the maximum and minimum United States positions on the various issues and to provide you any further assistance and advice which you may require. I am requesting the President to address letters [Page 1352] to the heads of states which you will visit advising them of your assignment and I have instructed our missions in the field to cooperate fully with you.

You should keep the Department informed, through the facilities of our Embassies and Consulates, of the progress of your work. All suggestions which you may forward with respect to support for your mission will receive immediate attention and every effort will be made to comply. Close liaison with the Department is especially necessary since the General Assembly is now in session and issues affecting Israel-Arab relations will be debated.

I have asked the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs to facilitate administrative arrangements, and to provide any staff assistance you may require. A plane will be put at your disposal.

In conclusion, and I wish to assure you of my deep personal interest in the two problems of refugees and Jerusalem, which you are endeavoring to solve. I appreciate the public-spirited manner in which you have undertaken this difficult and delicate assignment, and I wish you all success.

Sincerely yours,

John Foster Dulles


Major Points of Negotiation

With Israel

An agreement with the Arabs on water division and acceptance by the Arabs of the principle of refugee resettlement will have broad, long-term effects on Israel’s relations with her neighbors, and will constitute achievement by Israel of major political desiderata.
Israel must bear a portion of the burden for settlement of the Arab refugees; in this case by sharing available water and by minor territorial adjustments. The most practical, quickest plan for permanent settlement of a large number is that suggested. This will greatly reduce the harassment caused by infiltration of refugees from temporary camps along Israel’s borders.
Israel has a responsibility to permit the repatriation of a substantial number of Arab refugees, either directly into her territory or indirectly by transferring to her Arab neighbors certain areas which could be used for refugee resettlement. (The latter alternative would be morally and economically the equivalent of repatriation.) Acceptance of Arab refugees by Israel would permit the utilization [Page 1353] of UNRWA funds in her territory for development purposes.
Israel will obtain immediate, important development assistance in the form of irrigation works financed from United States aid funds. She will have available water in appreciable quantities free from Arab obstructionist tactics. In the long run she could not expect to divert to her own use all the waters of the Jordan and Yarmuk Rivers to which she has physical access.

With the Arabs

The proposals will provide for the settlement of a larger number of refugees in a shorter time than any alternative. The Arabs cannot escape responsibility to their fellow Arabs by failing to cooperate fully in projects designed to resettle refugees.
The development work will materially assist the indigenous population, and will permanently strengthen Jordan and Syria.
The Arabs will obtain water which, in the absence of an agreement, Israel may preempt.
The rectification of the Armistice lines and elimination of the demilitarized zones contemplated will reduce friction, assure the Arabs of access to and use of more water for irrigation than they can otherwise expect, and give them access to Lake Tiberias.
In addition to agricultural assistance, Syria and Jordan will obtain electric power developed from the Yarmuk waters.
  1. President Eisenhower’s letter to Eric Johnston of Oct. 7 reads as follows:

    “It gives me pleasure to appoint you as my Personal Representative with the personal rank of Ambassador for the purpose of undertaking a mission to resolve certain problems affecting the Near East. I have asked the Secetary of State to provide you with the necessary terms of reference.

    “I assure you of my personal interest in the tasks you are about to undertake and of my appreciation of your willingness to accept this difficult and delicate assignment which, in my opinion, is of primary importance to the United States.” (Eisenhower Library, White House central files, Confidential file)

  2. Not further identified.