25. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel0
176. Eyes only for Feldman from Rusk. Embtel 180.1 We reasonably satisfied with course your initial talk with Ben-Gurion, Meir and Kollek particularly Prime Minister’s helpful comment re arms limitation (Para 3 Reftel). Re Johnson Plan, you appear close to success. We concerned however at Ben-Gurion’s evident attempt place conditions on his acquiescence and put us in position of seeking prior commitments from Nasser. This would be inconsistent with the Johnson Plan and unacceptable to us. We hope your further conversations with Mrs. Meir will have succeeded in removing these tentative aspects of Israel’s acquiescence, enabling you at the conclusion of your August 20 talks to advise Cairo to pursue alternative one.
Re two points on which Ben-Gurion appeared hesitant you may wish add the following to arguments you have undoubtedly used with Israelis: [Page 67]
- Seeking Nasser’s prior agreement resettle those refugees who the Administrator directs should be resettled in the UAR would be contrary to basic approach of Johnson Plan which is to begin a procedure in which it is hoped the parties will cooperate in good faith but without prior specific commitment. Ben-Gurion will realize there is no prior agreement being sought from Israel that it will repatriate those who opt for repatriation. It is asked only to examine such repatriation applications in good faith. The proviso that the Administrator shall from time to time report on the degree of cooperation received from states in implementing preferences would focus international attention on UAR lack of cooperation and resettlement if this occurred.
Since your departure, Johnson has refined his letter of transmittal which you will recall was in draft when you left. Revised text now contains following paragraph which we believe will meet the Prime Minister’s concern, since it would enable operations under the Plan to be brought to halt if UAR were found to be conducting propaganda designed pressure refugees into choosing repatriation.
”One of the problems that gave me the most concern was that of how to formulate proposals that would enable the refugees to indicate their preferences freely, uninfluenced by external pressures. Unless they can do this, and have reason to believe that they can do it, the plan will not work. This is what underlies the emphasis on the confidential nature of the questionnaire and subsequent consultation with the refugees. Neither this nor any other safeguard will be adequate taken by itself. If the refugees are really to make the uninfluenced decision envisaged by paragraph 11, the governments concerned must exercise great restraint and counsel others to show similar restraint.”
If despite the existence of this safeguarding paragraph you still feel we should talk more specifically to this point in forthcoming review with Nasser we would be willing so instruct Cairo. This would not, of course, be with object obtaining commitment from Nasser for relay to Israelis, contrary to essential approach of plan, but would be designed emphasize our conviction implementation of plan would require all parties exercise restraints. Avoidance incitive propaganda is one of most important of these.
I hardly need stress that it would be most unfortunate if Israelis were to end up with the Hawks and strengthened security assurances while being responsible for derailing the Johnson Plan before it could even be given a good try.