256. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Israel 1

494. UNRWA. In view of developments on UNRWA item in UNGA 2 and especially in light of GOI attitude toward them as expressed by Amb Comay (USUN 2590)3 and Bitan (Embtel 608),4 Ambassador should seek appointment with Mrs. Meir to convey message along following lines:

Dept regrets GOI is unable to go along with UNRWA res which we have worked out over past six weeks, especially GOI’s feeling that US failed to “stand pat” on our original resolution. This connection we believe we made clear from beginning that we considered our text non-negotiable as to substance, but as Amb Goldberg told Comay Nov 5 “this did not mean we would not consider any proposed changes in wording if they did not affect substance.” (USUN 1831)5 We adhered loyally to our commitment to Israel to oppose all amendments as long as it tactically possible to do so and to keep Israel closely advised of our moves. Willingness to consult closely was not fully reciprocated by Israel and resulted in additional tactical disadvantage for us as we approached vote in Committee.
Every step of way we have kept Israel’s interest clearly in mind; this is borne out in strong effort to block PLO; in forthright statement in Committee; in effort we have made to assure that Committee approved res was cut back so much it bears little resemblance to original. We have worked long and hard to obtain this result.

Our judgment of tactical situation is different from that of GOI. It is composed following elements: (a) majority dels do not feel strongly about amendments; (b) there is among many dels real measure of humanitarian concern about refugees which influences their position; (c) many of Israel’s usual friends (notably Italy) were weak-kneed; (d) Arab amendments were approved in Committee; (e) even if two-thirds not available for all amendments, two-thirds was there for many of them, including some dangerous ones.

Our vote count tended to bear this out clearly, and we had no evidence to support Israeli contention that there no need for compromise if we used our full influence (this connection you will recall Amb Comay declined invitation to compare vote counts). Clear choice was between accepting a few non-substantive changes or running risk of res with number of really troublesome amendments.

Given these tactical difficulties, we believe US del has conducted negotiations skillfully and emerged with very satisfactory result. In summary, del managed to (a) get Arabs to drop four or five references to para 11; (b) knock out para approving Nine Points with all its serious political implications; (c) eliminate call on PCC to report directly to GA; (d) change “without prejudice to refugee rights …” to vaguer “without prejudice to para 11.” Only additional element was acceptance of time limits on PCC report (which overdue anyway).
As for resolution’s effect on problem, we do not believe it makes any essential change in situation. No new element has been added; some real and potentially dangerous factors have been successfully beaten back: recognition of PLO 6 (Mrs. Meir expressed pleasure of outcome this question in Tel Aviv’s 453),7 GA sponsorship of Nine Points, most of Arab amendments on para 11 and “rights,” and property custodian res, etc.
With or without this res, Arabs will continue to push refugee issue in GA and we must anticipate increasing difficulties. As Amb Goldberg said “UNRWA question must be taken at UN in light of [Page 525]situation developing here” and “many positions including some of our own being eroded and elements of support shifting.”
We fully understand Israel’s disappointment that it not possible to make some progress toward eroding para 11, and we regret some concessions (in language but not in substance) had to be made to Arab viewpoint.
But these tactical considerations aside, the main point is: we have over years given fullest possible support to Israeli position on refugee and other Arab-Israel issues. Our position remains the same. We will continue to try to find solution which fully protects Israel’s sovereignty and security, and we will oppose proposals which endanger its welfare and interests.
Finally as Ambassador Goldberg told Comay we will prepare statement for GA to effect we do not regard res as departure in substance or principle from our position.8

Dept will make similar presentation to Israeli Embassy.9

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, REF 3 UNRWA. Confidential. Drafted by Campbell; cleared by Symmes and in draft by UNP Director Elizabeth Ann Brown and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs David H. Popper; and approved by Davies. Repeated to Amman, Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, and USUN.
  2. A U.S. draft resolution introduced in the Special Political Committee on November 9 called on all governments to make the most generous effort possible to meet UNRWA’s anticipated needs, directed the Commissioner General to take necessary measures, including rectification of the relief rolls, to assure the most equitable distribution of relief based on need, called on the UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine to continue its efforts for the implementation of paragraph 11 of Resolution 194, and extended UNRWA’s mandate until June 30, 1969. (UN document A/SPC/L.113) On November 17, the Special Political Committee approved three amendments introduced by Pakistan and Somalia (UN document A/SPC/L.114) by a vote of 43 to 39, with 23 abstentions, and approved the draft resolution as amended by a vote of 47 to 31 with 17 abstentions. The United States and Israel voted against the amendments and against the draft resolution as amended.
  3. Telegram 2590 from USUN, December 8, reported that U.S. and Arab representatives had agreed on the text of a draft resolution, which they would try to get Nigeria to sponsor, but that Israeli Representative Comay opposed it. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, REF 3 UNRWA) Telegram 1403 to USUN, December 4, instructed the U.S. Delegation to try to reach agreement on the basis of the Committee-approved draft resolution with some modifications. (Ibid.)
  4. Telegram 608 from Tel Aviv, December 9, reported that Bitan said Israel would vote against the resolution. (Ibid.)
  5. Dated November 5. (Ibid.)
  6. The Special Political Committee on October 20 adopted a resolution proposed by Costa Rica and El Salvador authorizing the persons constituting the delegation of the “Palestine Liberation Organization” to speak in the Committee, without such authorization implying recognition of the PLO. (UN document A/SPC/L.112 and Rev. 1)
  7. Dated October 29. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, UN 3 GA)
  8. On December 15, the General Assembly adopted a draft resolution proposed by Nigeria as Resolution 2052 (XX). The vote was 91, including the United States, to 1 (Israel) with 7 abstentions. The resolution included the main points of the original U.S. draft resolution, with some, but not all, of the modifications made by the Special Political Committee. A statement made at that time by a U.S. representative is summarized in U.S. Participation in the UN: A Report by the President to the Congress for the Year 1965, p. 80.
  9. Telegram 497 to Tel Aviv, December 10, summarized Davies’ conversation with Evron that day. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, REF 3 UNRWA) Telegram 612 from Tel Aviv, December 12, reported Barbour’s conversation with Meir. (Ibid.)