145. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Between Charles E. Johnson of the National Security Council Staff and the Director of the Office of International Scientific Affairs (Pollack)1

Mr. Johnson called Mr. Pollack to compare notes re debriefing on Eban conversations with Secretary Rusk and President Johnson.

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Mr. Johnson said Mr. Komer attended the meeting (with the President) and that there was considerable discussion regarding desalting.2 With regard to the proposed project the President has expressed following wishes:

He does not want to be associated with an “uneconomic project.”
There are to be no operating subsidies.
Before he appoints man to the 2-man negotiating team proposed by Eshkol, he would like to see terms of reference.3

With regard to the latter point, Charles Johnson understands President wishes that paper to be drafted give him a picture of perimeters of U.S. negotiating position—money in sight, etc. Johnson also received impression from Komer that President thought he should have by end of next week draft of terms of reference which spells out figures that have been going around.

C. Johnson disagreed with Komer thought that the Desalting Committee might pull together necessary paper. C. Johnson believes Committee not too flexible but believes that Mr. Pollack is right man to work along with Mr. Alexis Johnson and Ambassador Hare; that Mr. Pollack, Bell, Ramey and Holum could probably do piece of paper. C. Johnson also mentioned to Komer project appears to be in neighborhood of $2 million.

C. Johnson reported that Bell was quite opposed to the project; that if we did loan money it should be at full interest rate rather than subsidized rate. Bell evidently wonders whether it is something from which we will get enough politically to justify paying the price involved.

From Komer, C. Johnson gained impression that President wishes to keep this matter going a year or so. There appears to be no reason to head for a particular target date for completion of negotiations—but project should not appear to be inactive.

Before Mr. Pollack could complete a question on McNamara, Mr. Johnson interrupted to say that Komer neglected to mention anything on this. Mr. Pollack commented that the Bell-McNamara view not necessarily the President’s.4

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Mr. Johnson mentioned one question which was not resolved—whether the conveyance and inter-structure (?) would require additional construction capital or would be part of the plant project. Does one take 7 off cost of water at plant? There was some discussion as to whether sinking fund, private financing through revenue bonds, etc.

Mr. Pollack reported his understanding that President not yet ready to appoint anyone to 2-man committee, although it is Mr. Pollack’s view that it would be most helpful to have collaboration of such a person in drawing up terms of reference. C. Johnson inquired whether Mr. Alexis Johnson could be of help—perhaps drawing him in on assumption he will be negotiating individual and on informal basis.

Mr. Johnson asked Mr. Pollack if he would take on and Mr. Pollack agreed to do so.

In closing, Johnson indicated Komer interested in MWD. Mr. Pollack said we hoped to know about that by end of the month.

  1. Source: Department of State, SCI Files: Lot 68 D 383. No classification marking.
  2. The meeting was held on February 9 at the White House. Documentation on the meeting is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, volume XVIII.
  3. In a telephone conversation with Pollack the following day, Komer said that he regarded “the appointment of the 2 man committee as a time-buying device (possibly 6 months to a year) before a decision needs to be made.” (Memorandum of telephone conversation between Pollack and Komer, February 17; Department of State, SCI Files: Lot 68 D 383)
  4. A February 12 memorandum for the record noted: “On desalting, Bell and McNamara suggested that we should not help the Israelis on any plant that was uneconomic. We should help out with loans at the normal rate for the investment required, but there should be no subsidies.” (Ibid.)