152. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson1


  • Next Steps on Israeli Desalting

Ambassador Bunker is reading into the problem.2 But as you know, he has a quick job to do on India/Pak arms, and he has hopes for a couple of weeks’ long overdue leave. We have worked out a tentative schedule with him that I think should be satisfactory.

To nail this down, I recommend you approve the following:

Timetable. Bunker would spend 2–3 weeks beginning 29 August digging in and organizing whatever further study he needs to have done. Then he would go off for about 3 weeks while staff work moves ahead. Returning mid-October, he would wrap up his preliminary work and present his recommendations to you in early November. If it looks appropriate then, he could have a get-acquainted session with his Israeli counterpart before he gets deeply involved in the American summit in early December.3
Announcement. If you approve this general approach, I would vote to delay our announcement until mid-September when Bunker has collected his thoughts. We will know better then how he plans to proceed, and I should think that would still be early enough to meet our domestic needs. Meanwhile, I could quietly pass word to the Israelis of this timetable.4
Terms of reference. If you are ready to put Bunker in business, I suggest you approve the attached terms of reference (checked with State).5 Briefly these instruct him to:
  • —Take till early November to review all available economic data (perhaps with the help of a good economist or other specialist) to find out whether further study is needed. A clear picture of Israel’s water position in the 1970’s is needed to determine how much concessional or grant financing or continuing subsidy would be involved if we went ahead. Don Hornig argues rightly that we should not pile one study on another, and the Israelis will not stand still for that either. But my [Page 276] understanding is that we still do not have an economic picture of Israel in the 1970’s which gives us a clear picture of what water prices will be acceptable then.
  • —Recommend what further study may be needed after he has completed these preliminary reviews. If he feels we need no more study, he should recommend a USG position. If he thinks we should go ahead with the project, he should recommend a way to finance it. He should also recommend the timing and content of his first approach to the Israelis.
  • —Look especially closely at the problem of requiring the Israelis to accept IAEA safeguards on this, Dimona and all future reactors. Our current position is to make this our price for going ahead with a nuclear plant. We know the Israelis will not accept this condition readily, if at all. But we would stick with our position rather than prompting the bureaucracy to begin thinking about fallback positions already. However, our coordinator will have to know this problem inside out to argue our case with the Israelis. Moreover, we must be realistic about Israeli resistance on this point and will have to know whether there are other good ways to achieve our objective.6

This is quite consistent with the earlier approach worked out with Don Hornig’s and Charles Schultze’s staff, and we have checked it with both Bunker and Hare.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, Desalting Projects, Vol. I. Secret.
  2. See Document 151.
  3. The “approve” option was checked.
  4. The “approve” option was checked.
  5. Not attached. A copy is in the Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Special Committee Files, Desalination.
  6. The “Approve terms of reference” option was checked.