156. Telegram From the Embassy in Lebanon to the Department of State 1

1029. In conversation this morning, Foreign Minister Lahoud said “speaking personally” that while Eric Johnston would always be welcome, there was no possibility at present of any useful discussion for decision on “Johnston Plan,” if unmodified (Embtel 932).2 I informed the Foreign Minister that Secretary General Ammoun had said that Lebanon would be willing to take part in new discussions on Jordan Valley plan if Syria were willing (Embtel 1013).3 Lahoud again said he was speaking personally and not as Foreign Minister, but that it was his opinion no government of any of Arab states involved could accept “Johnston Plan” in its present form at present time and remain in office. If GOL approved plan in present heated state of opinion, Lebanese Parliament would reject it and toss government out of office. As an engineer he agreed that really sound [Page 287] plan was Johnston Plan utilizing Lake Tiberias for necessary storage, but that latter element would mean cooperating, dealing, with Israel, and public opinion Lebanon and other states was not only not ready, but entirely hostile to such relationship at present. Personally, he urged consideration be given to “Arab Plan,” which called for separate development of Yarmuk without Jordan storage. This would cost somewhat more money and would irrigate a million dunims less land but this extra cost would be offset by fact that this plan could be agreed upon promptly and irrigation Jordanian land could begin at reasonably early date. It would also, he argued, prevent possibility of war because if interested Arab states made this separate development they could raise no objection to Israel’s draining off her part of Jordan waters. Later, Lahoud argued, when political tension dissipated, separate plans could be modified and combined into latest Johnston Plan using Tiberias for storage. This would involve greater expense but in his opinion it would be worth it.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 684A.85322/3–356. Confidential. Received at 9:50 a.m., March 4. Repeated to Amman, Cairo, Damascus, Tel Aviv, London, Paris, Ankara, Baghdad, Jidda, and Jerusalem.
  2. In telegram 932 from Beirut, February 14, Emmerson had reported that Lebanese Foreign Minister Lahoud, in the course of a conversation the previous day, had “stated categorically his opinion no Arab Government could now support JVP and remain in office.” (Ibid., 684A.85322/2–1456)
  3. Not printed. (Ibid., 684A.85322/3–156)