167. Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council’s Special Committee on the Middle East Crisis (Bundy) to President Johnson1


  • Israeli Desalting Project and Middle East Water

With all the talk about water projects in connection with a Middle East settlement, I think it would be wise to get Ellsworth Bunker’s successor to work.2 We would not announce this now, but it will take some time to read him in.

Under present circumstances, we think it would be wise if and when an announcement is to be made to tab him as your negotiator on water throughout the Middle East. We don’t at this stage know for sure what more that might involve than completing the Israeli negotiations if you decide to go ahead. However, it would be bad politically for us right now to move ahead with a big project in Israel alone, and there may be a time when a combined Israeli-Jordanian or Israeli-Egyptian water project of some kind could be a dramatic and constructive contribution to a political settlement.

Now that Bob Woodward is in business heading State’s Water for Peace Office, we would envision him as being “Mr. Inside”—pulling together our planning effort both in and out of government. Ellsworth’s successor could serve mainly as “Mr. Outside”— your negotiator ready to talk to Arabs and Israelis alike whenever they have a good scheme.

Therefore, we are asking your approval to begin reading your new man in now on the Israeli project and the broader Mid-East context. Both Don Hornig and Bob Woodward see this as a reasonable way to proceed.

You were considering Jack Valenti when we put this on the shelf before the war. Is he still your choice, and should we begin briefing him?

McGeorge Bundy 3




[Page 299]

Begin briefing him?



  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Special Committee Files, Desalination. Secret. Sent through Rostow.
  2. Bunker was appointed Ambassador to Vietnam on April 5.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  4. None of the options is checked.