311. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the NSC Special Committee (Bundy) to President Johnson 1


  • Special Committee Meeting at 6:30 today, Cabinet Room

The items of Middle East business for today are as follows. There is no urgent need of decision, and while I think it would be a help to us to get your preliminary reaction to some of the choices, none of these matters is so urgent as to require decision—or even your presence if you are too busy.

1. Emergency relief policy

Michelmore, the Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency, has reported to the UN that he has an immediate need for a lot more money. He hasn’t said how much, but magnitude is not the real problem. We have about $5 million of AID contingency money that could move in this direction if need be, and this would certainly be a reasonable start.

The real problem is to make sure that we do not get sucked in to one more large-scale dole with no prospect of solution in the Middle East. If we get back into the business of paying most of the UNRWA bill, we create an almost automatic dampener to incentives for settlement by either Israel or the Arabs. I have therefore asked State to give intensive study to the question of ways and means of tying any possible new emergency relief to conditions or processes that would somehow constitute a pressure for “justice for the refugees.” Nick Katzenbach will lead a discussion of these possibilities this evening.

2. Selective military shipments to our friends in the area

The noises from places as far apart as Morocco and Lebanon suggest that we should be coming to a decision on limited arms shipments to moderate Arabs. From your point of view, this will be a good thing to have done before we have to climb into bed with the Israelis again. From another point of view, the longer we can wait, the better. From still another standpoint, there may be a special virtue in cautious military hand-holding with really decent Arabs (like the strong Lebanese general who seems to have kept the Lebanon out of the war).

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3. The Egyptians and the French

We will be talking a little about the astonishing Egyptian demarche in Paris2 and about de Gaulle’s outrageous statement.3 My own instinct is to let the Egyptian position ripen before we get too excited about it, since our wheat remains the ace of trumps. At the same time, it might be helpful to begin to let the word get around unofficially of the regret which we and the Israelis share that de Gaulle’s violently one-sided statement has damaged his usefulness as a mediator.

4. The special problem of Jordan

We have always been Hussein’s best friend and hand-holder and there is a tactical question now whether there will be important things to say to him pretty soon. If there were any sign of a magnanimous peace between him and the Israelis, we should encourage it. One way of moving quietly in this direction with no obvious initiative on our side would be to encourage Hussein in the thought he has expressed that he might wish to come to the United Nations. If he did that his speech would be quite likely to make a favorable impression on the American public (especially if Macomber talked to him beforehand), and it would be natural for you to receive him in Washington as the head of Government and give him some good advice. Since this last one engages you directly, it is obvious that nothing will be done until you have had a chance to consider the case and give orders.

McG. B.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Special Committee Files, Minutes and Notes. No classification marking. A handwritten “L” on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. Reference is to a document given to Ambassador Bohlen by Winston Guest, who said he had received it from a friend with excellent Arab contacts. It stated that the Egyptian authorities were ready to make great political concessions if serious economic aid, especially U.S. wheat, could be offered to them very rapidly. Telegram 20454 from Paris, June 21, transmitted the text of the document, which had reportedly been given to the French Government on June 20 by the Egyptian Embassy. Rostow forwarded a copy of telegram 20454 to the President on June 21, with a note saying that according to Clark Clifford, the source was extremely knowledgeable in Arab affairs. (Ibid., Country File, Middle East Crisis, Vol. VII) A June 21 memorandum from INR Deputy Director George C. Denney, Jr., to Acting Secretary Katzenbach recommended that he regard the document with skepticism. (Ibid.)
  3. A statement issued by the French Government on June 21 suggested that the war in Vietnam had contributed to the hostilities in the Middle East and stated that “France condemns the opening of hostilities by Israel.” The text is printed in American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 542–543.