Carter News Conferences & Interviews: Middle East/Israel
JANUARY 6, 1978
THE MIDDLE EAST
Q. Mr. President, I am intrigued that you—I don't want to belabor the Middle East episode, but it certainly did overshadow the trip in many ways; developments kept going—you say that—Sadat said that you have an identity of views, and you say that you don't seem to have any differences. Does that put you—and Sadat has differences with Begin—so where does that put you with Begin?
THE PRESIDENT. I lead the news reports after my statement at Aswan, and Begin expressed approval of what I said. There is a fairly good agreement between Begin and Sadat on matters concerning the definition of peace.
Sadat told me that when he met in April with me in Washington and I outlined the three basic principles, one was complete peace between Egypt and Israel—open borders, diplomatic recognition, ambassadorial exchange, free trade, tourist and student and cultural exchanges. And he told me it would never happen in his lifetime, which he did—he told me that in April.
He told me the other morning in Aswan that he was completely wrong, that not only was he well accepted in Israel but he was a hero when he came back to Egypt, that when the Israeli negotiators came to Cairo, that they were embraced and the Egyptians wept. And he said to me, "My people were far ahead of me, and what you proposed in April that I thought was never possible has already proven to be possible." That's one aspect.
The withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank, with minor exceptions on the western boundary, is a principle that we espoused back in February or March publicly. And I think this is still an acceptable approach to the Arabs, although publicly I wouldn't expect them to espouse it now because it violates, in effect, the statements in Rabat. They are able and, obviously, willing to speak for themselves. But this is something we've been very clear on.
The other question, the resolution of the Palestinian problem, I think, can be resolved with an interim solution for a joint administration. I don't want to be definitive about it, but possibilities including Israel, Jordan, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Palestinians, perhaps the United Nations for a period of time, specifically outlined ahead of time, and then the right of the Palestinians to decide their own future between whether they should continue that kind of administration or affiliate with Jordan—those are the kinds of principles that we have described very clearly and in writing, beginning 13 months ago.
So, the details are going to be a problem. But on those expressions of principle, I don't know of any differences that separate me and Sadat.
Q. Do you call that self-determination?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, yes, I don't think it's—I have never thought and do not think that it's advisable for us, for the Middle Eastern countries, or for the world to have an independent Palestinian nation located between Israel and Jordan. I think they would be a target of subversion. I think there would be a concentrated influence, perhaps, exerted there by some of the more radical other leaders of the world. And I think that that Palestinian entity or homeland ought to be tied in at the least in a very strong federation or confederation with Jordan.
But now I want to say that's our preference. And if Israel and Jordan and the Palestinians and Egypt should work out something different, we would not object. But that's our position. And we made it very clear from the very beginning of my administration to the Israelis and the Arabs that that's our preference.
Q. Mr. President, can you be more specific—maybe you don't want to be-on what you mean when you say Palestinians have the right to participate in their own self-determination?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't really want to spell out in any more detail what the procedure ought to be. Dayan and Kamel 2 will be meeting in Jerusalem on the 15th of January. Cy Vance will be there. We'll offer our good offices.
My own preference is that the Israelis and Egyptians negotiate that interim procedure with a final referendum themselves. We'll try to find some compromise between them. I think if we can evolve an acceptable set of principles, then it would be much easier for King Hussein and, perhaps later on, the Syrians to join in the discussions. I did not try to convince Hussein to participate now.
I feel and he feels also that Sadat is adequately representing the Arab position. And I think Sadat, in an almost unique way, not only has the trust of his own people and the rest of the world but also, to a substantial degree, the trust of the Israeli citizens.
So, all of us feel for now until Sadat specifically requests it, that Hussein should stay out of the direct negotiations. The Shah will be supportive, the Saudis were very encouraging about the future, and Hussein and we agree completely.
And so, I think that the present posture is a good one. But exactly how the vote should be handled or when or what the options might be offered to the Palestinians, I don't want to say. I don't know.
Q. Can I also ask you, do you think that as a result of your visit there, that Sadat's position with the hardline critics of the Arab world has been improved and that he's strengthened his hand as a result of this?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I don't think I would be violating any confidence to say that all the Arab leaders with whom I met said they support Sadat unequivocally. Now, the feeling of Syria is something that I can't assess. I didn't happen to talk to Asad lately, but the feeling of Iraq and Libya and the more radical Arabs is obvious. They don't want peace to prevail. They don't want a settlement to be reached. They don't want the Geneva conference to be concluded. And many of them still have as a unique purpose the destruction of Israel.
I don't think that Asad or King Hussein or Sadat or the Saudis—the ones with whom I've talked—I don't think any of them feel that way. I think they all are perfectly willing to accept Israel now as a permanent entity in the Middle East, living in peace.
JANUARY 12, 1978
THE MIDDLE EAST
Q. When you were in Egypt meeting with President Sadat, President Sadat emerged from that meeting saying that your views and his on the Middle East were essentially identical. Does that mean that you think the Israelis should withdraw from all 20 settlements they have in the Sinai plus their West Bank settlements before there can be peace in the Middle East?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, it's not for me to decide the specifics of an ultimate settlement, either between Israel and Egypt, or Israel and Jordan, or Israel and the other nations involved or the Palestinians.
I think that it's accurate that President Sadat and I see the Middle East question almost identically. I've not been involved and don't intend to get involved in the military settlement that's now being negotiated in Cairo. The position of our Government is now and has been that Israeli settlements on occupied territory are illegal and that they contravene the Geneva conference decisions that were made.
The U.N. Resolution 242 is the basis for the ultimate decision. All the nations involved have espoused 242, and 338 later on, which set up the Geneva conference with ourselves and the Soviets as chairmen. We have in that language that says Israel will withdraw from occupied territories.
Combined with that requirement, though, is that Israel will have secure borders, including a realization of security from the attitude of her neighbors. So, this is an extremely complicated subject, as you well know. I can't say that on every specific instance that President Sadat and I will agree on details. We didn't discuss those details.
And I think that it's best for us just to add our good offices when we can, support both men as they go to the negotiating table. Secretary Vance will be in Jerusalem with the foreign ministers of the two countries involved, and our position on the settlements has not changed.
JANUARY 13, 1978
THE MIDDLE EAST
Q. Mr. President, I gather there's some concern at the State Department over the course of Middle East negotiations, specifically a feeling that President Sadat's initiative has not really been matched so far by Israel and specifically a feeling that Israeli action over the settlements has not been helpful.
Do you feel that the Israeli response so far has been satisfactory, or do you simply feel that it would be impolitic for you to exert the influence that, I guess, some people at the State Department are urging you to do?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't know of any urging that has originated in the State Department to which I have not responded to their satisfaction. Cy Vance and I, you know, are constantly working together, along with the Vice President and Dr. Brzezinski and all of the staff that work under all of us, to make sure that our approach to the Middle East is carefully considered.
We have a limited role to play. We are there to be constructive and to respond to their requests and to be active when there's a dormant situation in the Middle East; to be much more reticent when we think progress is being made without us.
It was an unpleasant thing for me for 9 months or more to be the intermediary between nations who wouldn't even speak to each other, who wouldn't communicate directly with each other almost with a religious fervor. And now, to see Sadat and Begin and their representatives negotiating directly is a very major step forward and a very gratifying thing for me to observe.
I think Sadat's initiative has been bold and courageous. I think it's too early to say whether or not the Israeli response is adequate. That's for Sadat to judge. The major bone of contention right now, of course, is the highly publicized Israeli position on settlements, which we have always considered to be illegal.
And I just can't imagine Prime Minister Begin and the Israeli Government having the basic peace negotiations broken down because of an argument about settlements. It may very well be that in the West Bank or the Sinai that there could be some mutual agreements between Jordan, Egypt, Israel, that some of those Israeli settlers could stay on there. But that would be tied in very intimately with whether or not United Nations forces were the peacekeeping forces or whether the responsibility was Jordan's or the Palestinians' or Egypt's.
I think the details of those things are matters that I ought not to address publicly. I do discuss them without constraint with both Begin and Sadat, and we are very forceful in letting Prime Minister Begin and the Arab leaders know when we disagree with their position.
I've been very careful to do one thing, and that is that whenever we have an American position to put forward as a compromise or as a basis for discussions earlier this year, to put it in writing and show exactly the same document to Sadat, to Hussein, to Begin, and also to Asad, just so there's no doubt about where we stand and what we are proposing. And then, if Begin disagrees with item number four, we tell Sadat—with Begin's permission, of course—this is something that Begin disagrees with, and seek his response. That was a tedious and, I say, unpleasant responsibility. But now we are there to cooperate with them.
The last thing I want to say is that our effectiveness in a time of stalemate or dispute is exactly compatible or commensurate with the trust that they have in me. If I should ever do anything to make either the Prime Minister or President Sadat or King Hussein or Asad feel that we weren't acting in good faith, that I was lying to them or misleading them or shading the truth, our effectiveness would be completely destroyed.
I don't think we've ever done that yet. It means, sometimes, that our Nation is taking the blame from both sides when we put forward a position that was not instantly acceptable. But I'm pleased with the progress made so far.
JANUARY 30, 1978
THE MIDDLE EAST
Q. Mr. President, on the Middle East, do you have a clear idea now from Prime Minister Begin as to whether or not he will authorize new settlements in the West Bank and in the Sinai, and do you believe that Israel over a period of time ought to phase out those settlements in return for real peace?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I've covered this many times. Our position on settlements in the occupied territory has been that they are illegal, that they are an obstacle to peace. When Prime Minister Begin was over here and when Foreign Minister Dayan was here, this question arose. And my understanding of their commitment was that no new settlements would be authorized by the government, that any increase in settlers would be an expansion of existing settlements as much as possible within the aegis of the military.
The Geneva conference agreement is that civilians should not go in to settle permanently in occupied territories. I think the Israeli Government has not authorized the Shilo settlement other than as an archeological exploration project. And I've not yet heard from Prime Minister Begin directly, but I have had information that this is a policy of the Israeli Government, that this is not an authorized settlement.
Q. Mr. President, do you have an overall view of the final borders you would like to see for Israel? Do you expect Israel to return to the 1967 borders in all aspects, especially in East Jerusalem?
THE PRESIDENT. No. I don't have a map or a plan that ought to be the final border delineation between Israel and her neighbors. I have always operated and made my statements under the framework and within the constraints of United Nations Resolution 242, which calls for Israel to withdraw from occupied territories.
Israel interprets this language differently, of course, from the Arab neighbors. The Arab neighbors say that Israel ought to withdraw from all occupied territories. Israel says that there's some flexibility there and that the thrust of U.N. Resolution 242 is an exchange, in effect, for portions of the occupied territory for guaranteed peace.
The three elements that I've pursued is, one, a delineation of final borders; secondly, a feeling or conviction on the part of the Israelis that their security was preserved, which would involve both their own military strength, the delineation of the borders, and the attitude now and in the future of their neighbors.
The second question, of course, is the definition of real peace. What does peace mean? Does it simply mean a cessation of hostility or belligerency, or does it mean open borders, trade, tourism, diplomatic exchange, the location of ambassadors, and so forth?
I've taken the more definitive definition as my own preference. And the other thing, of course, is to deal in all its aspects with the Palestinian question.
But I have never tried to put forward in my own mind or to any of the Mideastern leaders a map in saying this is where the lines should be drawn.
FEBRUARY 17, 1978
MIDDLE EAST ARMS SALES
Q. Do you think that Congress will go along with your decision to send sophisticated fighter jets to the Middle East? And can you give us your rationale for including, for the first time in these sales, Egypt and Saudi Arabia along with Israel?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I think Congress will go along with the proposal to sell a limited number of airplanes in the Middle East. F-15 planes are already being delivered to Israel, and in the new proposal Israel will receive additional F-15's and F-16's, very advanced fighter planes.
We have for a long time sold military equipment to Saudi Arabia, one of our closest allies, staunchest friends, and economic partners. This is the first time we've sold F-15's to Saudi Arabia, but they have other advanced equipment.
The first planes will be delivered to Saudi Arabia not this year or next year, but in 1981 or 1982. The planes that we have agreed to sell to Egypt are the F5E's, not nearly so advanced a weapon as the F-15's or F-16's. But as you know, a few years ago, Egypt, which is now one of our staunchest friends and allies, severed their close relationship with the Soviet Union and, in effect, became an ally of ours. And I don't believe that there's any danger of this relatively short-range, not advanced fighter causing any disruption in the peace between Egypt and Israel.
So for those reasons, I am advocating to the Congress that they approve these sales, and I believe the Congress will agree.
Q. Mr. President, given the tension that already existed over the Israeli settlement policy, do you have any second thoughts about the timing of your announcement to sell warplanes to Egypt, or was the timing of that announcement and our public statements about the Israeli settlement policy a message to the Israelis to become more flexible in the current negotiations?
THE PRESIDENT. The two were not interrelated in my decisionmaking process. When I was in Saudi Arabia early in January, I told them that shortly after the Congress reconvened I would send up a recommendation for military sales to the Middle East.
Every time I've ever met with Prime Minister Begin, both in the public sessions, that is, with staff members, and also in my private sessions with just him and me present, this has been the first item that he's brought up: "Please expedite the approval of the sales of military planes to Israel."
I think that the timing is proper. We're not trying to shortcircuit the allotted time for the Congress. As a matter of fact, we will not begin the process until after the Congress reconvenes, the Senate reconvenes. So there will be a full 50 days for the Congress to consider the matter. Twenty days after this coming Monday, I'll send up the official papers.
So, I don't think it's a bad time to send it up. I recognized ahead of time that there would be some controversy about it. And we did give it second and third thoughts before I made a decision about the composition of the package and the date for submitting it.
FEBRUARY 18, 1978
MIDDLE EAST ARMS SALES
Q. I am Cass Spanos from Stevens High School in Claremont, New Hampshire. Mr. Carter, President Sadat of Egypt has shown a great deal of courage in initiating peace overtures in Israel. Do you think you have done anything to negate or to disrupt these negotiations by agreeing to send fighter planes to Egypt? And further, do you feel that by taking this action the Israelis will be pressured into making more concessions with Egypt?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't. I have met already with Prime Minister Begin, personally, on two occasions, and he will be coming to our country next month on the 14th and 15th and 16th to meet with me again.
Every time I've ever met with him, either privately or within a small group, his first request has been to go ahead and approve or recommend to the Congress approval of the sale of very advanced fighter planes, the F-16's and F-15's, our best planes of all, to Israel.
The previous administration and I have promised our long-time friends and allies, the Saudi Arabians, to sell 60 F-15's to them. The Egyptian request was much more modest—to sell them the F-5E's, which is not a very advanced fighter plane. It's of fairly short range. And to be perfectly frank, in a combat situation, they would not be a match for the F-15's.
I thought it was proper and advisable and hope the Congress will approve the sale that I have advocated to the Israelis, the Saudi Arabians, and the Egyptians. It will not upset the balance of strength in the Middle East. I would say that the Israeli Air Force will still be the dominant and the most efficient and effective air force there by far.
One reason that I wanted to honor President Sadat's request is that a few years ago, Egypt was closely allied with the Soviet Union and was completely dependent upon Russia to give them their military weapons. Since then, Egypt has moved toward us, and now Sadat and I have the closest possible personal relationship, and Egypt is one of our own closest possible friends. So, we cannot leave Egypt defenseless.
I don't think there's any likelihood at all of a war between Egypt and Israel. They're well on the way toward peace. But Egypt is still threatened by some of their neighbors. Libya has heavy shipments of arms coming in from the Soviet Union; Ethiopia, the same; Iraq, the same; Syria, the same; Algeria, the same. And Egypt has got to be able to defend themselves. The weapons that they did buy, years back, from the Soviet Union are now becoming obsolete.
And so I think this is a well-balanced package. It does contribute to a greater sense of security in the Middle East among our own friends and neighbors, and I think it also does not upset the balance of military power in the Middle East. I might close by saying this: I pledge myself each year while I'm in office to cut down on the volume of sales that we make to nations of this kind. And we will reduce our sales.
MARCH 2, 1978
THE MIDDLE EAST
Q. Later this month you'll be meeting with Prime Minister Menahem Begin from Israel. Dick Ryan of the Detroit News asks: What do you hope to achieve during your meetings with the Prime Minister?
THE PRESIDENT. This will be my third meeting with Prime Minister Begin since he's been the leader of Israel. In addition, I communicate with him fairly frequently by personal letter, by diplomatic message, and on occasion by telephone. And both our own Secretary of State and other officials and his secretary of state and other officials come here frequently. Defense Minister Weizman will be here shortly to consult with me and with the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, and others.
We are looking for some common ground on which the Egyptians, the Israelis, the Jordanians, the residents of the West Bank and other areas can agree.
This is a difficult and sensitive question. As you know, the Gaza Strip has had an affiliation in the past with Egypt, the West Bank with Jordan, both now occupied by Israel. And we hope to search out at the top level of government some resolution of the differences on specifics relating to the Sinai and also on a statement of principles relating to the occupied territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, hoping at that time that Egypt and the Jordanians and the Palestinian Arabs who live in the West Bank, Gaza Strip would be satisfied to conclude perhaps some agreements and to proceed with further negotiations leading to an ultimate resolution of the issue, based on United Nations Resolution 242.
One of the crucial elements of any progress in the Middle East is a cleaving to the commitment that U.N. 242 is a basis for continued negotiations and a solution. The abandonment of that would put us back many months or years. So, this is what I hope to accomplish with Prime Minister Begin, to frankly discuss with him my previous agreements and discussions with President Sadat, to encourage direct negotiations to be resumed, and to search out common ground, based on advice given to me by Secretary of State Vance and also by Mr. Atherton, on the latest possible language changes that might be necessary to let Egypt and Israel agree. So, this is what I hope to accomplish, and I believe the personal discussions will be good.
I would much prefer that the personal discussions be carried on between Sadat and Begin. But in the absence of that possibility at this moment, we hope to restore it and act as an intermediary.
MARCH 9, 1978
MIDDLE EAST ARMS SALES
Q. Mr. President, you have spoken many times of the commitment that the United States has for the security of Israel. In 1975, in September, the Sinai II agreement said specifically that the United States would promise to give advanced aircraft, such as the F-16, at an unspecified time and number, to Israel.
Now, why is that promise of the United States now made part of a package deal? In other words, why is it tied to approval for aircraft to other countries, Egypt and Saudi Arabia?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, we are honoring completely the commitments made to Israel in the fall of 1975 concerning an adherence on our part to the adequate defense capabilities of Israel, including advanced aircraft like the F—15 and the F-16.
Some orders of this kind have already been placed, accepted, and deliveries are in prospect. Some planes have already been delivered. And the proposal that I've made to Congress on the arms sales package is compatible with that commitment.
In the fall of 1975, commitments were also made to the Saudi Arabians, to provide them with advanced aircraft, to replace their present Lightning planes which are becoming obsolete.
Later, in the Ford administration in 1976, in the fall, a commitment was made to them to send Defense Department officials to Saudi Arabia, to give them some assessment of the characteristics of the F 15's and F-16's, with a commitment then made that they would have their choice between the 16's and the 15's.
When Crown Prince Fahd came to our country last spring, I repeated this commitment, that had been made by my own predecessors in the White House, and so the sale of F-15's to Saudi Arabia is consistent with the commitment also made in the fall of 1975 and repeatedly reconfirmed.
The sale of the F-5E's—a much less capable airplane, by the way—to the Egyptians is, I think, a very legitimate proposal, because Egyptians in effect have severed their supply of weapons that used to come from the Soviet Union and have cast their lot with us, which is a very favorable development in the Middle East, one of the most profound developments of all.
I have no apology at all to make for this proposal. It maintains the military balance that exists in the Middle East. I can say without any doubt that the superior capabilities of the Israeli Air Force, compared to their neighbors, is maintained, and at the same time, it reconfirms our own relationship with the moderate Arab leaders and nations for the future to ensure that peace can be and will be maintained in the Middle East.
Q. Mr. Carter, on the same subject, we've seen reports in recent days from the Middle East, from both Cairo and Jerusalem, that in effect President Sadat's initiative has come to an end, that it has come aground. We also see reports from Jerusalem that ministers in the Israeli Government have decided that there is no deal to be made at this time. Could you give us your assessment of where this stands and where you think it's going to go?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, as is the case in the White House and in the Congress, and in the United States, there is a difference in Israel, a very heated debate in prospect and already in progress about what should be done to bring about peace in the Middle East. There are, obviously, differences also between nations, between Egypt and Israel, between Israel and their other neighbors.
So, I would say that in comparison to the situation a year ago, the prospects for comprehensive peace in the Middle East are quite good. We would hope that there could be an immediate resolution of all the differences. That's not immediately in prospect.
Prime Minister Begin will be coming to visit with me this coming week. I know him very well. I've met with him twice before. He is a very strong advocate, a very dedicated advocate of the position of the Israeli Government. He's a forceful and outspoken person. And I'm sure after our meeting, we will at least understand each I other better.
I hope we can move another step toward peace. I had an equivalent opportunity this year to meet and to have long discussions with President Sadat.
So, I would say that there's been a great deal of progress made. Just looking at the changes from the viewpoint of the Israelis, we have now the major Arab nation who has recognized Israel's right to exist, right to exist in peace, right to exist permanently, has offered the full definition of peace which I described earlier. They have been meeting directly and personally, Begin and Sadat and their representatives, which was not in prospect at all a year ago.
There are still differences between them—relatively minor differences in the Sinai, more major, strategic kinds of differences involving the Palestinian question and the implementation of U.N. 242. So we've got a long way to go.
It's a difficult question that's been one of the most challenging, I guess, in the last 30 years for the world, to bring about peace in the Middle East. But I'm not discouraged about it. We're going to stick with it. And even though it takes a lot of time and much abuse and much debate and many differences expressed by all public officials, I intend to stay with it. And I believe the American people are deeply committed to two things: One is the security of Israel under any circumstances, and secondly, the achievement of comprehensive peace.
Q. Mr. President, Mark Siegel, one of your aides, quit today, and you accepted his resignation with regret. He cited as his reason, differences with your Middle East policy.
His resignation, to many, symbolizes the split in the American Jewish community over the internal debate that's going on over our Middle East policy. And with Begin coming, I wonder if you could tell us what differences there are between the two of us, what your position will be on these differences, and a comment on the report that you're going to pressure him to make significant concessions?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't have any intention to pressure Prime Minister Begin. I don't have any desire to do it and couldn't if I wanted to. He's a very strong and independent person representing a strong and independent nation. Our role has been that of an intermediary. And one of the most pleasant respites that I have had since I've been in office was the brief time when Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat were negotiating directly and I was out of the role of carrying messages back and forth.
This is, however, a situation that has now deteriorated to some degree since President Sadat went to Jerusalem. Both the military and the political talks are now interrupted—we hope temporarily.
One of the things I will be doing is to repeat to Prime Minister Begin personally the request and the negotiating positions of President Sadat. And we've tried to do this through our ambassadors and through our negotiator, Mr. Atherton 1 in the Mideast, and I think perhaps I can do it perhaps a little more effectively.
1 Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs.
But the differences that exist between them are well known. In the Sinai, as I said, they are relatively easy to resolve-the Jewish settlements, the placement of Egyptian forces in the Sinai, and some continuation of Israeli control over some airfields or aerodromes, and the rapidity with which Israel would withdraw from the Sinai itself.
In the West Bank, Gaza Strip, this involves implementation of U.N. Resolution 242 and some resolution of the Palestinian question. We do not and never have favored an independent Palestinian nation, but within that bound of constraint, how to give the Palestinians who live in the West Bank, Gaza Strip some voice in the determination of their own future, is an issue still unresolved.
That outlines very briefly the situation that we're presently in.
MARCH 30, 1978
THE MIDDLE EAST
Q. Mr. President, in recent days, you've seen the use of American military supplies to invade a country and to cause untold suffering to hundreds of thousands. Some say this is the violation of U.S. law. In view of the facts that you have before you, is it a violation; and two, has it caused you to reassess your warplane package for the Middle East?
THE PRESIDENT. Are you referring to the Lebanon question?
THE PRESIDENT. As you know, when the terrorist attacks in Israel precipitated the countermove by Israel into Lebanon, which has been a haven for the Palestinian terrorists, the United States took the initiative in the United Nations—I might say, without the approval of Israel—to initiate United Nations action there to expedite the removal of Israeli forces from Lebanon.
We have obviously attempted to comply with the law, and this is a matter that we are still addressing. The other part of your question?
Q. Has it caused you to reassess your package of warplanes for the Middle East, and how do you say you have attempted to comply with the law?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, we're attempting to terminate as rapidly as possible the military presence of Israel in southern Lebanon through United Nations action. I believe this is the proper way to do it, rather than unilateral action on our part, which would probably be unsuccessful in any case to get Israel to withdraw. The presence of United Nations forces, the French, the Swedes, and others, I believe, is the preferable way, and it marshals the opinion of the entire world, through the United Nations, against the Israeli presence being retained in Lebanon.
This has not caused me to reassess the American position on the sale of warplanes and other equipment to the Middle East. This is a very well balanced package. It emphasizes our interest in military security of the Middle East. It does not change at all the fact that Israel still retains a predominant air capability and military capability. There is no threat to their security. But it also lets the nations involved and the world know that our friendship, our partnership, our sharing of military equipment with the moderate Arab nations is an important permanent factor of our foreign policy.
PRIME MINISTER MENAHEM BEGIN
Q. Mr. President, have you or any other top U.S. officials—Dr. Brzezinski, for instance—suggested that Prime Minister Begin may not be the Fight man to head that government in the present circumstances? And apart from what may or may not have been said, do you now think the Begin government can make the hard decisions necessary to move the peace process forward?
THE PRESIDENT. I can say unequivocally that no one in any position of responsibility in the United States administration has ever insinuated that Prime Minister Begin is not qualified to be Prime Minister or that he should be replaced. This report, the origin of which I do not know, is completely false.
I think that Prime Minister Begin and his government are able to negotiate in an adequately flexible way to reach an agreement with Egypt, later Jordan and other of the neighboring countries. This is our hope and this is also our belief. We have not given up on the possibility of a negotiated peace settlement in the Middle East.
Under the Begin government, with him as Prime Minister, recently arrangements have been made between Israel and Egypt for Ezer Weizman to go to Egypt again, which will be a continuation of the probing for a compatibility. I think it is obvious now that with the issues so sharply drawn, that key differences remain that must be addressed on the side of Israel. The things that are of deepest concern is Israel's refusal to acknowledge that United Nations Resolution 242 applies clearly to the West Bank, their unwillingness to grant to the West Bank Palestinians, the Palestinian Arabs, a right to participate in the determination of their own future by voting at the end of a 5-year period, and so forth, for the kind of affiliation they would have with Israel or Jordan or under a joint administration. And this is a problem for which I have no clear solution yet. But I believe that the Begin government is completely capable of negotiating an agreement with Egypt.
APRIL 7, 1978
ISRAEL'S DEFENSE CAPABILITY
Q. Mr. President, I wondered if it is your impression that Israel has nuclear weapons, and if so, how does this affect your judgment of the capacity of Israel to defend itself in a difficult time?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, our policy is to accept the statement of the Israelis concerning their nuclear weapon capability. I don't have any independent information beyond that.
My own belief is that Israel is completely capable of defending themselves with conventional weapons alone, against any foreseeable attack now or in the years to come. We have participated with the Israelis in developing their defense capability. They are a proud and deeply committed nation. They have been willing, even eager, to sacrifice when necessary to guarantee their own security, not only economically but with the lives of their own people.
And because of that spirit that Israel has and a long-time commitment to putting security as a top priority of their nation, even when they didn't have adequate support from the rest of the world, my belief is that now and in the foreseeable future they will be strong enough to defend themselves.
APRIL 25, 1978
MIDDLE EAST ARMS SALES
Q. Mr. President, are you going to heed the calls of the congressional leadership of your own party and delay the formal submission of the package sale of warplanes to the Congress or break it up in any way?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I've not been asked by the leadership in the Congress to delay. I have had one Senator who came to see me about holding off on this proposal. Secretary Vance and I have been in close communication, both with one another and with leaders in the Congress, for a number of weeks concerning the arms sales package that will be presented to the Congress very shortly. This package will be presented in individual, component parts to the Congress. It's the only legal way to do it.
The Congress will act on those major sales proposals individually to Israel, to Egypt, and to Saudi Arabia. Each one is important. Each one completes a commitment that has been made by either me, or, even in the case of the Saudis and Israel, our predecessors for these sales.
I look upon them as a package, and if the Congress should accept a portion and reject another, then my intent is to withdraw the sales proposal altogether. But the Congress will not receive nor act on these proposals as a package. They have to act, according to the law, on individual items.
These proposals are in the national interest. I think it's important to our country to meet our commitments. The one that's perhaps the most controversial is the sale of F-15's to the Saudi Arabians. This was a promise that was made to the Saudi Arabians in September of 1975, to let them have a choice of F-16's or F-15's. They want these weapons for defensive purposes.
I recommitted this Nation to provide these planes both last year and again this year. And my deep belief is that, since in the Middle East our preeminent consideration is the long-range and permanent security and peacefulness for the people of Israel, that to treat the moderate Arabs with fairness and with friendship and to strengthen their commitment to us in return is in the best interests of our own country and of Israel.
We are negotiating or discussing these matters with the Congress. But there will be no delay of the sales proposal beyond the point where it can be completed by the time the Congress goes into recess-maybe 2 or 3 days, no longer than that.
Q. Mr. President, just to follow up on the Middle East thing, I would like to pursue it just a little bit more maybe from a slightly different angle. The Israeli Foreign Minister, Mr. Dayan, has suggested that Israel might be willing to give up its own fighter planes in your package if the sales were stopped to Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Now, in the light of your own professed interest in cutting back on foreign arms sales, would you consider withdrawing the entire package to prevent a new escalation of the arms race in the Middle East?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I would not. As I said earlier, the process through which we sell arms—and this sales proposal would be completed 5 years in the future, by—I think the last deliveries would be 1983—is initiated by a request from governments, foreign governments, that we permit the sale of arms to them. As I said earlier, we committed ourselves to help Saudi Arabia with arms sales to protect themselves in September of 1975.
At the same time, approximately, in the fall of '75, our Government committed to help Israel with their proposal by making arms sales available to them. Obviously, if any nation withdrew its request for arms sales, that would change the entire procedure.
I have never heard of Foreign Minister Dayan's statement that they did not need the weapons or would withdraw their request for weapons until today. Mr. Dayan is on the way to our country. He will be meeting shortly with the Secretary of State and others, and I think only after very close consultations with them can we determine whether or not Israel desires to go ahead with the arms sales commitment that I've made to them.
But I do not intend to withdraw the arms sales proposals after they are submitted to the Congress, and I do not intend to delay.
Q. If Mr. Dayan did in fact tell you that Israel would withdraw its request, would you then be willing to pull back the whole package?
THE PRESIDENT. I can't imagine that happening, and I would rather not answer a hypothetical question of that kind.
Q. Mr. President, your spokesmen have said that there will be written assurances from Saudi Arabia and Egypt that they will not use the warplanes against Israel in any future conflict. And further, various administration spokesmen have pointed out that the Saudi Arabian Government will be dependent on the U.S. for technical support for these planes, and this support could always be cut off in the event that a future conflict would start and that the Saudis desired to use the weapons against Israel.
Is it your understanding that both types of assurances will be in effect?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, we would not sell the planes to the Saudi Arabians if we thought that the desire was to use them against Israel. I'm completely convinced that the Saudis want their airplanes to be used to protect their own country.
The Saudis have informed officials in our Government that they do not desire to deploy them at Tabuk, which is the airfield nearest to Israel, and I know for a fact that the configuration of the weapons on the F-15 that the Saudis have offered is primarily a defensive configuration. And for those reasons I feel sure that the problems that you described are adequately addressed in the proposals that I've made to the Congress and in the statements that the Saudis have already made.
MIDDLE EAST PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
Q. You mentioned that Mr. Dayan is coming. I just wonder, sir, do you have any reason at all to feel optimistic that the negotiations between Israel and Egypt can somehow be brought off dead center?
I know Mr. Atherton's been in Cairo, and you've had consultations. What is the outlook now?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I have reason to be optimistic, but I can't predict success anytime soon. This has been going on for 30 years.
I think compared to a year ago, for instance, remarkable progress has been made. After the visit of President Sadat to Jerusalem, there was a remarkable sense of excessive hope or euphoria that swept the world, that peace was imminent. Since then, I've met extensively with President Sadat and with Prime Minister Begin and also with the Foreign Ministers of the two countries involved. And there's still hope that we can move toward a peaceful settlement.
I think if there were not hope, that Foreign Minister Dayan would not be coming to Washington to meet with our own officials to explore further avenues for progress.
As you know, since Prime Minister Begin was here, Ezer Weizman, who is the Defense Minister of Israel, has been to Egypt twice (once) 1 to meet with President Sadat. So, discussions are going on and explorations are continuing.
1 Printed in the transcript.
And I am firmly convinced that both the Israelis and the Egyptians want peace. They both are concerned about the terms of peace. After years of hatred and even active combat, there's still an element of distrust about the future intentions of each other.
But I am hopeful that we can continue to make progress. My commitment is deep and irreversible. As long as I'm in the White House as President, I will continue to pursue, without any slacking of my interests or commitment, the avenue toward peace.
And I anticipate that now and in the future there will be temporary periods of discouragement and withdrawal of the negotiating parties. So, I think every evidence that I have both publicly and privately known is that both sides want peace and the progress toward peace is steady.
APRIL 28, 1978
MIDDLE EAST ARMS SALES
Q. Mr. President, Anthony Sampson, in "Arms Bazaar," quotes Kenneth Galbraith as saying that, in effect, the United States caused the India-Pakistan war by selling arms to Pakistan. In fact, they sold to both sides. It created an imbalance in that area, and that's what led to the war. Now, changing the balance in the Middle East, will it not likewise inevitably cause another war? Isn't it a repetition of a road to disaster if you lump these sales together, to sell both to the Arab countries and to Israel?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, as you know, our arms policy in the Mideast has been to sell moderate supplies of arms to all of our close allies there and to give an extra attention to the 'needs of Israel, pretty much as defined by Israel.
I think it's obvious that the Israeli military strength is overwhelming in the air. We have longstanding commitments made to the Saudi Arabians, dating back to September of 1975, by President Ford and Secretary Kissinger. I reconfirmed that commitment, because our Nation's word of honor is at stake, early in my own administration when the Saudi leaders visited here.
This arms sales package, as such, is not a package as far as the Congress is concerned. These proposals will be submitted to Congress individually. Each one, separately, will be assessed by Congress in the best interests of our own country and that of our allies.
My own belief is that the Saudis have made their choice of weapons and the appurtenances or armaments on the F-15 on a basis of defense. The 1:-16 is more of an offensive weapon, and the Saudis have not ordered air-to-ground armaments that would be used in an offensive mode. They've also indicated to us that they do not intend to station the planes at Tabuk, which is a base close to Israel, but will be stationing these planes near Iraq and South Yemen as a defensive mechanism.
Just to close, this is a proposal that, in my opinion, is best for Israel. I think it would be a serious mistake for us to sever the friendly relationships and the mutual trust and confidence that's crucial, that presently does exist between ourselves and the moderate Arab leaders. I think our being the ones to sell these weapons to the Saudis—which will not be delivered completely until 1983—is advantageous as compared to the Saudis' completely unrestricted ability to buy the same type of weapons and same quantity of weapons from the French or, perhaps even later, from the Soviets. And their peaceful intentions are well recognized and trusted by me.
As you know, the sale of the F-5's to Egypt is not something that's even opposed by the Israelis, so far as I know. I was with Prime Minister Begin—in this room and over privately in the Mansion at the White House and in my little back office for several hours—for 2 full days this year, and Prime Minister Begin never mentioned to me one time any concern that he might have about the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia or Egypt.
So, I think that this is a well-balanced proposal. Each sale was made on its own merits. I think that it is moderate in quantity. The weapons for Saudi Arabia and Egypt are acknowledged to be defensive in nature, and I think this provides us with the kind of relationship and influence in the moderate Arab world which is conducive to peace for Israel.
Q. I was with Prime Minister Begin, Mr. President, after he left you, and it is of greatest concern to him. In fact, it is to every Israeli leader, going back to Rabin and Peres and all of them. It's of tremendous concern to them, because by the time these weapons are delivered in 1981 or '82, you may not have the present rulers in Saudi Arabia because of the conditions that are going on over there right now. You might be delivering it to a pro-Communist government.
THE PRESIDENT. I can't dispute what you say about Begin's importunities or concerns to you. But I'm telling you that for 9 days he had my undivided attention, and he never mentioned it.
Now, the second point that you make is that we will provide, as is the case in all of our major arms sales, a servicing in spare parts for these weapons over a long contractual period. And this gives us a great knowledge of the pilots who fly the planes, the security measures that accrue to prevent violation of our own secrecy, the point of stationing of these planes, any modification in their armaments, the transfer of the F-15's from a basically defensive plane to one of offensive nature.
This relationship that we will have with the Saudi Arabians will help to prevent any shift in their attitude toward an offensive design against Israel. I think that this is good insurance that ought to be maintained.
MAY 4, 1978
MIDDLE EAST ARMS SALES
Q. Are you willing to compromise on the number of warplanes you propose to sell to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel in order to achieve congressional approval of those sales? And the second part of my question is, do you see the same linkage between Saudi Arabian support of the American dollar and oil prices that Sheik Yamani did last week when he looked at the sale?
THE PRESIDENT. I think Sheik Yamani has recently denied saying what was reported from him about a close interconnection between continued involvement with the American dollar and friendship between Saudi Arabia and the United States and the sale of warplanes to Saudi Arabia. I think he's denied that.
I think the proposals that we have made to Congress—to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel for warplanes—ought not to be changed at all, and I hope and expect that the Congress will approve this proposal as we submitted it.
Obviously, there will be a lot of hard work to be done in the Congress. We'll be presenting testimony to the House committee on the 8th and 9th of May—and we've also testified yesterday for 6 or 7 hours in the Senate committee. I think we will win tills proposal because it's right, it's good for our country, very badly needed.
One of the most crucial elements of a permanent maintenance of peace in the Middle East and the security of Israel is for us to have a relationship with the moderate Arab nations, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where they depend upon us to keep our word and where there is a clear recognition of the friendship and mutual trust between our countries.
We have provided these planes for Saudi Arabia, not to attack Israel; they are a defensive type of airplanes. And the Saudis have ordered configuration or appurtenances on the planes, fittings on the planes that are defensive in nature. So, they are designed and needed to defend Saudi Arabia. I see no reason to change any of those proposals.
MAY 5, 1978
MIDDLE EAST PEACE NEGOTIATIONS, ARMS SALES
Q. Mr. President, thank you for this opportunity. My name is Dennis Redford. I would like to know why we are involving ourselves in the sale of arms to Sadat and Begin on the one hand, and at the same time, not only advocating peaceful settlement but taking the posture of peacemaker in an active role with their negotiations? Aren't these positions realistically, diametrically opposed? Isn't this hard to justify morally?
THE PRESIDENT. No. And I'll explain why. There have been disputes in the Middle East for 30 years, even centuries, even before the time of Christ. And I think part of the involvement of American people in shaping my own decisions and the policy of our Government are very well illustrated by the Middle Eastern question. If you think back 12 months or 15 months, we've made a great deal of progress.
Never before have Arab leaders and Jewish leaders been willing to communicate directly with one another. I think the reason that Sadat went to Jerusalem and was received by Begin and Begin went to Ismailia in Egypt and was received by Sadat is because we helped in a limited way, I admit, to convince Begin and Sadat that both of those leaders genuinely wanted peace.
There's no doubt in my mind that Sadat wants peace perhaps as much as anybody in the world, and there's no doubt in my mind that Begin wants peace just as deeply.
One surprise that struck Begin and Sadat, they both told me that—in fact, Begin just a few days ago—one surprise was they underestimated their own people. When Sadat went into the streets of Jerusalem, the expression on the faces of public officials, women, children, every citizen along the street, was one of hope and welcome, even love for an Arab leader who in the past had been involved in war and the most intense hatred against the Israelis, against the Jews.
The same experience was witnessed when the negotiators went into Cairo. They couldn't walk down the street without being surrounded by Arab Egyptians who tried to give them gifts, some of them who were there—Ezer Weizman 1 told me that people would come out of their jewelry stores and try to put in their hands very expensive rings and diamonds, just as a gift from the Egyptian people for trying' to strive for peace.
1 Israeli defense minister.
So, the essence of what we've tried to do is to capitalize on the genuine desire of the Arabs and Israelis to find peace, and a great deal of progress has been made. The first time I talked to Sadat in the seclusion of the upstairs bedroom area of the White House, he said, "What do you want, Mr. President, me to do?"
And I said, "I want you first of all to recognize that Israel has a right to exist, to exist permanently and to exist in peace. Secondly, I want you to reach out your hand and talk directly with the leaders of Israel, not through us as an intermediary. And third, I want you to recognize that there can be genuine peace between the Egyptians and Israelis, open borders, trade, tourist exchange, student exchange, diplomatic recognition."
He said, "Mr. President, that will never happen in my lifetime." Less than a year later, Sadat adopted all those requests of mine and laid them on the table. The Israelis responded accordingly. Begin has now put forward some good ideas.
Now, it comes to the arms question. Our interest in the Mideast is not as a distant observer. It's not just as a postman to carry messages back and forth between the Israelis and the Egyptians and others. Most of the time the messages are not received well, as you know, because each side wants more than the other one is willing to offer. We're not just a disinterested person or party.
We have an intense, serious, national interest in Middle Eastern peace, first of all, because of our total commitment that will never be shaken, that Israel shall be free, protected, secure, and peaceful. That overrides everything else.
The second, though, is my realization that the best way to do that is to also have the friendship and the trust and the partnership of the moderate Arab leaders, leaders like Sadat, a peaceful man, leaders like the Saudi Arabians, who have been staunch friends and allies of ours-there's no other government that I can think of that's been more helpful to me as President than those from Saudi Arabia.
We don't want them to turn against each other. We don't want them to turn against Israel. We don't want them to turn to even other European countries or to the Soviet Union for their own security.
The Saudis, for instance, in the most controversial part of the arms package, have requested 60 F-15 airplanes to be delivered between now and 1983. It's a very modest request.
When President Ford was in office, Secretary Kissinger promised the Saudi Arabians, with the full knowledge of the Defense Department, many leaders in the Congress, "We will give you whichever you want, F 16's" which are primarily offensive planes— "or the F 15"—which is the finest defensive fighter plane in the world.
I reaffirmed this commitment when I first became President, and again in January when I went to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Khalid and the leaders. I said, "We will make this delivery." They chose the F-15, the defensive fighter. They did not ever ask us to put bombracks or offensive weapons on the F-15.
I think it's much better for us to keep that sense in Saudi Arabia that we are their friends, they- can trust us when we make a commitment or a promise on the part of the President and the Congress, it will be honored. And I believe that it's best for Israel, for us to have this good, firm, solid, mutually trustful, friendly relationship with the moderate Arab leaders.
So, I believe that this proposal that I have made to Congress is minimal. I hope and believe the Congress will honor my recommendation. It will never be in any way a derogation of Israeli superiority in the air. They'll still be superior in every sense of the word. There's no threat to them.
The Saudis do not want to station these planes close to Israel. They want to put them up near Iraq and South Yemen, where the major threat against Saudi Arabia might come.
So, the totality of it is that we will go ahead with this proposal. It's good for us, it's good for Israel, it's good for peace in the Middle East. It helps us to keep a good trade relationship with those countries involved. It reinforces the commitment of Egypt and Saudi Arabia to look to us for their future prosperity and security. And in the whole process we will keep my honor—my commitment to the American people, that year by year, completely contrary to what we've done in the past, we're going to cut down each year the quantity of arms we sell overseas. I'm committed to doing this, and I'm going to do it.
MAY 26, 1978
U.S. RELATIONS WITH ISRAEL
SENATOR BERMAN. My question relates to the concerns of the Jewish community in relation to the State of Israel. Many of us who have Jewish constituents and are Jewish in this body have great apprehension that there's been a deviation from the classic position of the United States of a special relationship and a total commitment to the security of Israel. We have heard of this apprehension from our own constituents, and I appreciate your office has indicated that an aide would be willing to meet with the Jewish legislators after your meeting, but I don't think that's necessary because I think this is much more meaningful, and I appreciate this opportunity.
I think the Jewish community is going to be looking for deeds, but I would ask you this morning to please comment on what type of message we can bring back to these people that are fearful of this deviation, to reassure them of the total commitment of your administration to the security of Israel.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, sir. This is one of those difficult questions that I mentioned earlier.
The special relationship between the United States and Israel still stands. Our total commitment to Israel's security and our hope for peace is still preeminent among all the other considerations that our Nation has in the Middle East.
I have spent more time on the Middle Eastern question since I've been in the White House than any other subject, not just in analysis within our own group and with the Members of the Congress, who are deeply interested about what our country's position ought to be, but having long, detailed, sometimes private conversations with all the leaders of nations participating in the potential or existing negotiations in the Middle East.
Israel has dominant air capability in the Middle East, and that dominance will even increase as a result of the recent approved arms sales.
I don't know anyone in the world that I am more convinced wants peace than Anwar Sadat. When I met with him for the first time early last year, he said to me, "Mr. President, what is it that I can do to break the deadlock that has existed for years and years between us and Israel?" I said, "First of all, you can negotiate directly with the leaders of Israel, not through us as intermediaries." He said, "I don't believe that's possible, Mr. President."
I said, "You can break down the barriers that have existed between Egyptians and Israelis and the hatred that evolves from constant radio broadcasts and propaganda efforts." He said, "I believe I can do that."
I said, "You can put forward a proposal where in the future the borders between Israel and Egypt will be open for trade, tourism, student exchange, cultural exchange, even diplomatic recognition." And he said, "That will never come in my lifetime."
That was about a year ago. And there has been a dramatic change since then. Most of it took place, as you know, during the November-December era, when Begin received Sadat with open arms, and vice versa. And both those leaders have told me they were shocked at the warmth of the reception of Israeli negotiators when they arrived in Egypt, and of Sadat and his negotiators when they arrived in Jerusalem. I think this proves that the people in Egypt and Israel genuinely want peace.
Since then I've met with both leaders extensively, and I'm convinced that if we sever our relationship with the moderate Arab nations, with Egypt—by far the dominant nation as far as the Arab world goes—with the Saudi Arabians who are not part of the negotiating process, but who have a very good moderating influence-with King Hussein, and just isolate ourselves with a bilateral relationship with Israel, it would almost prevent any further, future progress on peace.
So, our commitment is to continue, in spite of constant discouragement, in spite of political costs, to move toward a resolution of the issue.
I think when Sadat went to Jerusalem, that Begin responded with a very good proposal, which was a step in the right direction, a basis for good negotiations-how to withdraw from the Sinai, how to have some negotiations about home rule, so-called, for the West Bank, Gaza Strip area.
We are not trying to impose a settlement, but we'll still have active negotiations going on, getting a message from the Israelis, delivering it to the Egyptians-they're always disappointed—getting a message from Sadat, delivering it back to the Israelis—they're always disappointed. We're kind of an unappreciated postman going back and forth between leaders who tried to open a door at the end of last year and have now seen the door closed again.
I believe that the confidence that Egypt now has that we are concerned about their security, not against Israel—the F-5E's are no match for the Israeli Air Force-but against their other neighbors, who are on the continent of Africa, I think, is a very sound insurance policy that in the future Sadat will trust me enough and trust our Nation enough to continue to negotiate in good faith, even when the Syrians, the Iraqis, the Libyans, and others are castigating him for keeping the peace doors open.
And I believe that Israel can rest assured that there will never be any deviation in our own country, of our total commitment to giving them adequate provisions to defend themselves.
Prime Minister Begin, I think, shares what I've just said to you, and I don't believe that Sadat would disagree with a word of it. But there need be no concern among the Israeli people nor among Jews in this country that our Nation has changed or turned away from Israel. It was a difficult vote, but I think it was an honoring of past commitments. And if we have violated our Nation's word of honor to provide that modest amount of military capability to those two Arab countries, I think we would have driven them away from us permanently and driven permanently away any prospect for peace in the Middle East, which we pray for and which I'm determined to pursue until the last day I'm in the White House.
I believe we still have a good chance for Success.
JUNE 26, 1978
THE MIDDLE EAST
Q. Mr. President, could you give us your current assessment of Middle East peace prospects at this time, when Israel and Egypt are again apparently at an impasse?
THE PRESIDENT. My experience in dealing with the Mideast peace proposals leads me not to be surprised when we have temporary setbacks or rejections from one side or the other.
I thought the Israeli Cabinet response to our two basic questions was very disappointing. And I notice that this weekend the Israeli Cabinet rejected an Egyptian proposal that has not even yet been made. It's not in final form, I understand. It certainly has not been presented to us to present to the Israelis. It's already been rejected.
Our commitment to pursuing a comprehensive and effective peace agreement in the Middle East is constant and very dedicated. We will not back off on this. After we receive the Egyptian proposal when it's put in final form, we will be sure to relay it to the Israelis, as the Egyptians will request, and then both proposals, the Israeli proposal, the Egyptian proposal, will be on the table.
At that time it might be appropriate, if the Israelis and Egyptians agree, for a meeting between their Foreign Ministers, perhaps, and our own Secretary of State. I would hope that at that point we could make real progress toward searching out the common ground on which they might stand and alleviating the differences that still remain. But I can't predict the rate of progress. It obviously will require good faith and some flexibility on both sides.
JUNE 30, 1978
THE MIDDLE EAST
Q. Going back to the Middle East, Mr. President, for a second, I know we're most anxious not to even suggest an American solution, but what do you think the prospects are over time that those parties can somehow work out something that we can stay well clear of, except to endorse?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, let me first say that I'm convinced that Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat genuinely want peace. I don't think there's any doubt about it. Ever since Israel became a nation, it's never had 1 day free of war or the threat of war, and this is a terrible burden for a people to bear. Sadat also sees a continuing economic and political military problem for his own nation if the threat of war is there. So, that's the foundation for my belief that peace is possible.
As I said in my news conference, we've been disappointed in the last few days at the response of the Israeli Government to the questions that we asked them. And I believe that to the extent possible, it's better to let the negotiations be directly between Israel and her individual neighbors.
We have not been able so far to get Begin and Sadat to continue their discussions. There have been some periodic discussions at the Foreign Minister level and the Defense Minister level.
I believe the next step in the process, probably following the Vice President's visit, will be the promulgation, or at least the delivery to Israel of the Egyptian peace proposal. I don't know what's in it. I don't have any way to know yet. It's still in the formative stage, but I think it won't be delayed. We will receive that from Egypt, I understand, and then we will deliver it to the Israelis. Whether it's made public will be up to the Israel and Egypt Governments' desires.
My guess is that it'll be a step in the right direction but inadequate,* in which case my own inclination would be to try to bring those two nations together, at least at the Foreign Minister level, to search out the compatibility and the incompatibility of the two proposals. We may or may not participate in that conference. If called upon to do so by both governments, we would.
* By this term, the President wishes to make it clear that he means that the entire Egyptian proposal is unlikely to be totally acceptable to the Israeli Government. [Printed in the transcript.]
Following that, I think that my responsibility would be to analyze those differences and compatibilities and see if we can put forward, as we have for years, some compromise proposals which the two governments would then consider.
If all of this should ultimately fail, then, of course, the United Nations has a role to play in the Middle East and has for a long time. And as you know, the Geneva conference is the basic framework for peace as a result of the United Nations resolution, and that's always a fallback position if we fail as an intermediary or a mediator.
So, I can't give you a prediction of success, but I'm determined, as long as I'm in the White House as President, not ever to give up the hope of realizing the desire of the people involved in the Middle East.
SEPTEMBER 23, 1978
ISRAELI OCCUPIED TERRITORIES
Q. Good afternoon, Mr. President. My name is James Hawkins. I'm from New Sewickley Township here in Beaver County. I wish to welcome you here to western Pennsylvania.
There are approximately 100,000 orthodox Christians here in the Pittsburgh area, Mr. President. Many of us have been very concerned with the treatment which our brothers and sisters, the orthodox Christians in occupied Palestine, have received for the last 30 years at the hands of the Zionist invaders, who have stolen the land and evicted them from their homeland.
We want to know why your administration has not had the courage to stand up to Menahem Begin and to the American Jewish community by simply cutting off all foreign aid to the Israelis until they give back all territories stolen from the orthodox Christians and others in occupied Palestine?
THE PRESIDENT. I thank you for your very objective and unbiased question. And I'll try to answer it as best I can. [Laughter]
I don't think that in addressing this particular problem of the Palestinians, nor in addressing all the broader interests in the Mideast, that my administration or I have been timid or cowardly. We have raised, as you know, for the first time in any administration, the basic problems of the Palestinians who live in the region as you described, without regard to the religious affiliation of the people involved.
Palestinian Jews, Arabs, and Christians in my opinion should have a maximum opportunity for a change, to escape the military occupation rule and to have their own government within which they can manage their own affairs, religious affairs and affairs concerning education, police, highways, and the normal administration of their lives.
One of the remarkable results of Camp David is that everything that I have just described to you has been accomplished. And the Israelis, under their spokesman, Prime Minister Begin, have agreed to this. As soon as the negotiations can be completed, hopefully within just 2 or 3 months, there will be a self-government set up in the Palestinian area with full autonomy. The Israeli military government will be withdrawn for the first time in many years, and the people will have a chance to administer their own affairs, including the right to worship.
I believe that you would agree that this is a major step forward, the first time it has been accomplished.
Now, of course, the fact remains that many issues still remain to be resolved. And in the absence of a willingness of the Palestinians themselves to negotiate further and in the absence of a willingness, for instance, for King Hussein to negotiate further—because some of these disputes involve Jordan; many of the inhabitants of the West Bank, for instance, are Jordanian citizens—the progress we can make will be limited.
But President Sadat has committed himself to me in writing, a letter released yesterday, that in the absence of cooperation or participation by, for instance, King Hussein, he himself will continue the negotiations, not just on the Sinai relating to Egypt-Israel but also will continue the negotiations concerning the West Bank and Gaza Strip area.
We've addressed as best we could, also, the problems of the refugees and also the displaced persons who left that area as a result of different events that have occurred in the last 30 years.
So, I believe we are making great strides toward realizing the hopes that you have just outlined, to terminate military rule and to give people a chance to worship as they please. And I'm proud to report that to you and believe that we can do even more in the future when all the negotiating parties are willing to sit down and take advantage of the wonderful door that has now been opened because of the Camp David agreement.
PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANIZATION
Q. Hello, Mr. President. My name is Dan Chamvitz, and I live in Hopewell Township.
My sister happens to live in Israel. The PLO has set off bombs within 100-yards of where she works and where she lives. So, I would like to know how the United States could let the PLO, an organization which has openly killed hundreds of people, open an office and .distribute propaganda in Washington, D.C.?
THE PRESIDENT. We have in our country a constitutional right to freedom of speech, one of the deepest commitments of the American people. There are a lot of organizations in our country which are obnoxious to some of us, what they stand for, what they believe in. And it's a difficult thing for a public official not to use this kind of issue to demagog and to stamp out an unpopular group, no matter how small it might be.
There is obviously no threat to our Nation's security. There is obviously no threat to the well-being of people who live in Israel if the PLO has this small information office. My own guess is that they will learn more about our country by being here and what we stand for than we'll learn from them.
There are many groups like this that cause us concern. The Ku Klux Klan, for instance, the Communist Party, the Nazis—you know, it would be nice for us if they would just go away. But it's part of our system of government to let them have a fight to speak. And I believe that as long as the American people are educated and knowledgeable about the threat of these organizations, that that's the best way to stamp them out.
I might add one other thing: I have a commitment to the people of Israel not to negotiate with nor to have private meetings with the PLO until after that organization recognizes Israel's fight to exist and espouses United Nations Resolution 242, with which I know you are thoroughly familiar. So, I think we're making good progress in the Mideast.
You need not fear the little office in Washington. I believe we can handle the PLO, not by stamping them out, but by the American people.
SEPTEMBER 28, 1978
CAMP DAVID AGREEMENTS
The first is by the Israeli Knesset, their parliament, late last night, when they voted overwhelmingly by more than a 4-to-1 margin for peace in the Middle East, including the removal of the Israeli settlers from the Sinai, which is Egyptian territory.
This is a continuation of the courageous action that has already been demonstrated by Prime Minister Begin, who led the parliament debate, gave his full weight to this peace move, and by President Sadat who cooperated at Camp David in making it possible.
Since the Knesset vote, I have talked to Prime Minister Begin; also, just a few minutes ago, since lunch, to President Sadat. Both of them agree that there are no remaining obstacles to proceeding as rapidly as possible to conclude a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.
I'm very proud of this action on their part. We will cooperate again as full partners in the negotiations to conclude the final terms of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.
ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS; PRESIDENTIAL TRIP TO MIDDLE EAST
Q. Mr. President, what will you do to make Prime Minister Begin comply with your understanding that Israel must eventually withdraw from the West Bank and, further, to build no settlements there during the 5 years of negotiation? And will you consider a Christmas trip. to the Middle East for the signing of the peace treaty?
THE PRESIDENT. There's nothing that I can make Prime Minister Begin do. He's an independent leader of an autonomous and independent nation, and I can only use persuasion and depend upon the mutual trust that exists between me and him.
There were 20 or 30 very crucial issues that were obstacles at the beginning of the Camp David negotiations. This was one of them. And I would guess that it was after midnight Saturday, less than 24 hours after the final agreement was signed, that we reached these agreements.
There are two elements of the dispute. One is at what time will the agreement not to build any more settlements be concluded. Prime Minister Begin's interpretation is that this is to be maintained, the prohibition against new settlements, during the negotiations concerning the Sinai with Egypt. My very clear understanding is that it related to the negotiation for conclusion in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, of the establishment of a self-government.
The other question concerns whether or not Israel would initiate new settlements after this negotiating period was concluded and the self-government was established. I think the best answer to that is that this is an honest difference of opinion.
The best answer I can give is to quote from a statement by Foreign Minister Dayan, who was with us at that midnight meeting, and this is a statement he made at the Ben Gurion Airport on the 19th of September, when he arrived in Israel. "Let us not delude ourselves"-I'm quoting him—"I have no doubt that when we enter into deliberations with the other three parties concerning what is to happen in the area in the 5 years of transition"—that's the West Bank, Gaza Strip—"this question will come up and will be discussed and agreement will have to be reached on this subject."
So, the degree of participation of the residents of the West Bank has still got to be determined. But it's an honest difference of opinion. It would certainly be no obstacle to the progress towards peace.
But I can't say that we've resolved it yet. There's no personal animosity between myself and Prime Minister Begin. I certainly do not allege any improper action on his part. It's just an honest difference of opinion, which I think will be resolved.
AIRBASES IN THE NEGEV
Q. May I follow up? If Prime Minister Begin persists, would you consider cancelling the U.S. agreement to build airbases in the Negev for Israel?
THE PRESIDENT. No. The letter to Israel concerning the two airports to be put in the Negev—I have already directed that that letter be sent to Israel. It's not being sent from me to Prime Minister Begin; it's being sent from Defense Secretary Harold Brown to Defense Minister Weizman.
We have not agreed to build the airbases. We've agreed to consult with the Israelis and participate in the cost of those rebuilt airbases, to the degree that we negotiate in the future. We will certainly participate in the cost, the degree to be determined in the future.
EGYPTIAN-ISRAELI PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
Q. Mr. President, you said in your opening statement that both President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin said there are no remaining obstacles to concluding the Sinai treaty. Have they set a date yet for starting these talks? And how long would you estimate that it would take to go through the formalities that still remain?
THE PRESIDENT. I would hope that we could commence the talks within 2 weeks, but no specific date has been set. Both Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat today, when I talked to them on the phone, on their own initiative said that they were expecting us to be full partners, as I was at Camp David, and they could see no obstacle to the peace talks beginning without delay.
I think it will take 2 weeks to prepare for the talks. There are some official responsibilities that President Sadat has in his own country that will take place and be concluded within 2 weeks. But that would be the approximate time frame. I'm not trying to be presumptuous, because no date has been set.
Q. If I could follow that up, Prime Minister Begin is supposed to be sending a letter dealing with the Israeli position on the West Bank. Has that letter been received yet? And would any delay on that letter perhaps hold up these talks on the Sinai?
THE PRESIDENT. Prime Minister Begin has sent me a letter expressing his position, and I've also sent him a letter expressing my position. Now I think the next step would be for me and him, in good faith and in a friendly, cooperative attitude, to try to work out the differences between us.
Q. Will you make those letters available?
THE PRESIDENT. I'll think it over. I can't answer because I would really—it suits me okay for the letters to be made available, but I can't unilaterally release the letter that I sent to him or received from him without his approval.
My own inclination is to let all the correspondence be made public that relates to the Mideast settlements. We've done that so far, even when we had differences of opinion. But I would have to get his permission before we could release the letters.
Q. Mr. President, can you tell us a little more, sir, about the nature of your participation in this next round of talks? You mentioned full partnership. Will you be personally involved with that, or will Secretary Vance be?
THE PRESIDENT. I would guess that I would not be personally involved, except in a case where the leaders of the other two nations were involved. If there was a dispute about a particular drawing of a line, or a phased withdrawal, or something of that kind that could not be resolved at the Foreign Minister or delegate level, then I would get involved if necessary.
I wouldn't want to see the talks break down because of any timidity on my part. I consider it to be one of the most important responsibilities that I have. I would guess, though, that the negotiations will be carried on at a fairly high level, below the President and Prime Minister level.
I understand from Prime Minister Begin that the leader of his delegation will be Foreign Minister Dayan. I don't know yet who will head the Egyptian delegation, and I've not yet decided on the American delegation leader. But it'll be at a fairly high level.
And the principles for settling the Sinai disagreements have all been resolved. Now the details, which I don't think are going to be highly controversial, are the only things remaining to be resolved. The exact decision of whether a particular road intersection or a hilltop would be at the first withdrawal line, those are the kind of things that would be settled. And I believe we have a good relationship between the two leaders that wouldn't cause a deterioration in the negotiations.
FRANK CORMIER [Associated Press]. Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. I enjoyed it.
OCTOBER 10, 1978
EGYPTIAN-ISRAELI PEACE NEGOTIATIONS; ISRAELI OCCUPIED LANDS
Q. Mr. President, are the separate peace talks that open on Thursday between Israel and Egypt linked in any way to negotiations on other Arab lands under Israeli occupation? And have you ever answered King Hussein's questions concerning the clarification on the sovereignty issues?
THE PRESIDENT. The two discussions on the Sinai, which relates to Egypt and Israel only, on the one hand, and the West Bank, Gaza Strip discussions on the other are not legally interconnected. But I think throughout the Camp David talks and in the minds of myself, Prime Minister Begin, and President Sadat, they are interrelated. We have been trying to induce the Jordanians, and to some lesser degree, so far, the Palestinians who live on the West Bank, Gaza Strip area to participate in the talks.
We hope that they will both participate, along with the Egyptians and the Israelis. There's no doubt in my mind that while the negotiating teams are in Washington, we will discuss both the Sinai questions leading to an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty and also the questions concerning the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
I have not yet responded to the questions that King Hussein sent to me. I saw him on one of the television programs reading the questions. They're in the process of being assessed by the State Department, and I presume when they get to me—
Q. They were given to you privately, were they not?
THE PRESIDENT. No, they were not. I've not yet received them personally. But I do know basically what's in them. It's important that this be done expeditiously, and I will not delay it, but it'll be several days.
EGYPTIAN-ISRAELI PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
Q. Mr. President, to follow up Helen's [Helen Thomas, United Press International] opening question on the Middle East, you said there was no doubt that the subject of the West Bank would come up in the talks as well as that of Sinai. One of the Egyptian delegates has indicated that the Egyptians might be unwilling to sign a peace treaty without evidence of Israeli flexibility on the future question of settlements on the West Bank. Have the Israelis given any indication yet—for example, have they yet responded in this question of the exchange of letters and come around to the U.S. position on the future settlements in the West Bank?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't believe that your opinion accurately expresses what President Sadat has told me. I don't think he would let any single element of the West Bank, Gaza Strip settlement prevent a conclusion of a treaty between Egypt and Israel.
And I think the Israelis have been very forthcoming, in my experience with them at Camp David over long days of negotiation, concerning the West Bank and Gaza Strip. I think they're acting in good faith to set up an autonomous governing entity in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, to withdraw their military government very expeditiously. And I think the settlements issue still remains open, but it's subject to a negotiation.
And last time I had a press conference, I read the statement that Foreign Minister Dayan made in Israel—which I think is adequate—combined with a cessation of settlement activity altogether, between now and the time the self-government is set up.
The role of our Government—our position has always been that the settlements in occupied territory are illegal and are an obstacle to peace. I've not changed my opinion. But to summarize, I don't believe that this one issue, if unresolved expeditiously, would prevent the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.
OCTOBER 13, 1978
ARAB RESPONSE TO CAMP DAVID AGREEMENTS
Q. I'm with the Baltimore Jewish Times, and I was wondering how you felt about Saudi Arabia's lack of cooperation in the peace talks, especially in light of the arms sales and the leverage you should have gained through them.
THE PRESIDENT. I have not been disappointed with the Saudi Arabians' response to the peace talks. We obviously would like for everyone in the world to endorse the Camp David agreements without any caveats at all. But none of the Saudi Arabian leaders, nor has King Hussein, condemned the talks or rejected them or closed the door for future support and encouragement.
There are three elements that any Arab leader cannot, in good conscience, endorse or avoid. One is the matter of sovereignty over the West Bank, Gaza Strip. And of course, when I say "Arab leaders," I'm including President Sadat. The other one is the question of eastern Jerusalem and the control of the Moslem holy places by Moslems. And the third one is the resolution of the Palestinian question.
We always use the phrase "in all its aspects." And I think that this concern by the Saudis has been expressed in very moderate terms. They have been complimentary about the progress that might evolve from the Camp David talks, and I have not detected any attitude on their part, even surreptitiously, to influence others to condemn the talks or to work against them.
I have just completed today my own response to King Hussein's questions. And after my response has gone through the State Department and NSC, just so they can see what I've decided, that response will be submitted to King Hussein. And I would guess that a copy of my answers to his questions would go to the Saudi Arabians. But we've not given up hope in getting further participation.
I might add one other thing, that is, that a conclusion of an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, I think, will remove a lot of the opposition to the Camp David agreements that is presently predicated on preventing such a peace treaty. I think there's a lot of posturing going on by people who do not want to see a treaty between Israel and Egypt. Once that treaty is concluded, I hope that some of the opposition might dissipate. That's just a hope; I can't predict it yet.
NOVEMBER 9, 1978
THE MIDDLE EAST
Q. Mr. President, question on the Middle East. Do you agree with President Sadat's view that the two agreements, the one on the West Bank and the agreement now being negotiated for peace between Israel and Egypt, have to be linked in some way?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, there's never been any doubt in my mind, nor President Sadat's, nor Prime Minister Begin's, that one of the premises for the Camp David negotiations was a comprehensive peace settlement that includes not just an isolated peace treaty between Israel and Egypt but includes a continuation of a solution for the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and ultimately for the Golan Heights as well. There is some difference of opinion between the two leaders about how specifically it should be expressed in the Sinai treaty.
I personally favor the presently negotiated language, which in the preamble does say that both nations commit themselves to carry out the comprehensive peace agreement as was agreed at Camp David. This is a matter for negotiation between the two leaders.
I have heard President (Prime Minister) 1 Begin say in my presence that he did not desire a separate peace treaty with Egypt. And, of course, this is also the opinion and strongly felt view of President Sadat.
We've been negotiating on the Mideast peace agreement for months. I have personally put hundreds of hours into it. We have reached, on more than one occasion so far, agreement on the text between the negotiators themselves. When they refer the text back to the leaders at home in Egypt and Israel, sometimes the work that has been done is partially undone. But I think that the present language as approved by the negotiators is adequate, and our presumption is to adhere to that language as our preference. But I would like to point out that we are not trying to impose our will on the leaders themselves or on those nations, and we hope that they will rapidly reach a conclusion.
There's no doubt in my mind that this kind of difference in language and how a linkage is actually expressed is a matter for negotiation. It does not violate the commitments made at Camp David, no matter what the decision might be as reached jointly by Egypt and Israel.
NOVEMBER 13, 1978
MR. MOVERS. What about the Middle East, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. I have put hundreds of hours in both preparation and direct negotiation with the leaders in the Middle East, particularly Egypt and Israel. And Secretary Vance, even to the extent of abandoning some of his other responsibilities in foreign affairs, has tried to bring about a successful conclusion of the peace treaty negotiations. There, again, we don't have any authority over anyone else. We can't use pressure to make the Israelis and Egyptians come to a peaceful settlement of the disputes that have divided them.
The Camp David framework, which was almost miraculous in its conclusion-it seems more miraculous in retrospect than it did at the time—is a sound basis for peace between Egypt and Israel. There's no doubt that both nations would be highly benefited by peace.
MR. MOYERS. But yet the talks seem to be at an impasse as of tonight.
THE PRESIDENT. The present disagreements, compared to the benefits to be derived, are relatively insignificant. The benefits are so overwhelming, in comparison with the differences, that I hope that the Egyptians and Israelis will move toward peace.
MR. MOYERS. What's holding it up tonight?
THE PRESIDENT. At Camp David it was a framework, it was an outline that had a lot of substance to it, but it required negotiation of details and specifics. And there is no way that you could have a peace treaty with all of the ends tied down and all of the detailed agreements reached, the map drawn, the lines delineated, time schedules agreed, without going far beyond what the Camp David outline required.
And so, both sides have demanded from the others additional assurances far above and beyond what Camp David said specifically. This is inherent in the process. And I think in some cases, in many cases, the two governments have reached agreement fairly well.
Now I don't know what's going to happen. We hope that they will continue to work in reaching agreement, to understand one another, to balance the consequences of failure against the benefits to be derived from the success, and be flexible on both sides.
These are ancient arguments, historical distrust not easy to overcome. And the frustrating part about it is that we are involved in the negotiations, but we can't make Israel accept the Egyptians' demands, nor vice versa. We have to try to tone down those demands and use our influence. I don't know what will happen about it. We just pray that agreements will be reached.
MR. MOYERS. Are you asking both sides to make further concessions?
THE PRESIDENT. Oh, yes—every day and night. We ask both sides to please be constructive, to please not freeze your position, to please to continue to negotiate, to please yield on this proposal, to adopt this compromise. These have been and are our efforts on a constant basis.
It would be horrible, I think, if we failed to reach a peaceful agreement between Israel and Egypt—
MR. MOYERS. What would happen?
THE PRESIDENT. and then see our children, our grandchildren, future generations look back and say these little tiny technicalities, phrases, phrasing of ideas, legalisms, which at that time seemed to be paramount in the eyes of the Egyptian and the Israeli agreements, have absolutely no historical significance. And that's basically what the problems are.
MR. MOYERS. Are you saying that the impasse as of today is because of technicalities and not major principles?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, compared to the principles that have already been resolved and the overall scope of things, the disagreements now, relatively, are insignificant.
MR. MOYERS. Egypt wants to tie the present negotiations, I understand, to some future resolution of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Israel is resisting that. Who's being more stubborn?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wouldn't want to start saying who's being more stubborn. I think there's adequate stubbornness to be allotted to both sides.
MR. MOYERS. You mentioned grandchildren, and I heard you say after Camp David that at one critical moment that was resolved because of somebody thinking about grandchildren. Would you tell me about that?
THE PRESIDENT. It might be a mistake to attach too much importance to it, but during the last few hours of negotiations at Camp David, when it looked like everything was going to break down then, Prime Minister Begin sent me over some photographs of me and him and President Sadat and wanted me to autograph them. And the issue at that time was Jerusalem, which was an almost insurmountable obstacle that we later resolved by not including it at all in the framework. And instead of just putting my signature on it, which President Sadat had done, I sent my secretary, Susan Clough, over and got the names from one of his aides of all his grandchildren.
So, I personally autographed it to his granddaughters and grandsons and signed my name, and I carried it over to him in one of the most tense moments and I handed it to him. And he started to talk to me about the breakdown of the negotiations and he looked down and saw that I had written all of his grandchildren's names on the individual pictures and signed them, and he started telling inc about his favorite grandchild and the characteristics of different ones. And he and I had quite an emotional discussion about the benefits to my two grandchildren and to his if we could reach peace. And I think it broke the tension that existed there, that could have been an obstacle to any sort of resolution at that time.
MR. MOYERS. What does that say to you about the nature of these problems and their resolution?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, you know, when you put the problems in the focus of how they affect people, little children, families, the loss of life, the agreements and the need for agreement becomes paramount. When you put the focus in the bands of international lawyers and get it down to technicalities—is a certain event going to take place in 9 months or 8 1/2 months or 10 months; is this going to happen before that; is this demarcation line going to go around this hill or through the hill, on the other side of the hill; can the observation towers be 150 feet high, 200 feet high, 125 feet high—the human dimension of it becomes obviously paramount. But when the negotiators sit around a table and start talking, the human dimension tends to fade away, and you get bogged down in the legalisms and the language and the exact time schedule, when from a historic perspective they have no significance.
Another problem has been—and this has been one of the most serious problems-at Camp David we didn't have daily press briefings, and this was the agreement when we started here in Washington, that neither side would make a direct statement to the press. As you know, this has not been honored at all, and it's created enormous additional and unnecessary problems for us.
MR. MOYERS. You mean leaks from both governments are
THE PRESIDENT. Not just leaks. I mean, almost every day I see interviews in the national television of at least one of the sides in the dispute.
And also at Camp David I was working directly with the heads of state. Here we work with the negotiators, and the negotiators then refer their decision back to the head of state or the cabinet. The cabinet reverses themselves, reverses the negotiators on a language change or one word, and in effect you get the most radical members of the governments who have a major input into the negotiating process, rather than having the heads of state there 100 yards away so that they can resolve those issues once and for all.
So, I think the followup to Camp David has been much more time-consuming and much more frustrating than it was when the three of us were primarily leading the discussions.
NOVEMBER 16, 1978
EGYPTIAN-ISRAELI PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
Q. Mr. President, on the Middle East, sir, do you think a time might come when another summit might be necessary to untangle all the apparently serious problems that are cropping up?
THE PRESIDENT. I really hope not. And this is not something that we are contemplating.
There are two serious problems that we have now that we did not have at Camp David. One is the lack of authority, final authority, granted to the negotiators. Three weeks ago—I think it was 3 weeks ago, 3 1/2 weeks ago—I spent almost all weekend, including late at night, early in the morning, meeting with the Egyptian and Israeli negotiators. We arrived at an agreement on a treaty text. This text was then submitted back to the national leaders and cabinets and others, and was rejected because of what I consider to be minor differences. They were important to the negotiating nations: And at Camp David, on the contrary, I could walk 50 yards or in 2 minutes have a private conversation in my own cabin with either Begin or Sadat; sometimes, if necessary, both together.
That's been one of the most frustrating things. We've had to negotiate a treaty or a settlement several times already; each time someone has rejected the final conclusion.
I would say equally as serious, perhaps even more serious, is that the negotiations have been conducted and are being conducted through the news media. At Camp David, the imposition of a news embargo, where no statements were made unless all three nations—ourselves and the two negotiating nations—agreed, was a very constructive thing. And I think even the press analysis has agreed with that in retrospect—even at the time, even, perhaps. Now that's one of my most serious concerns.
When a text is presented to the Israelis, there is a series of statements made by them that such and such a portion of the text is unacceptable and that we will never change our position on this. And then the same thing happens in a mirror image in Egypt, where public demands are made by different voices there. And it hardens positions, and it makes it almost impossible to present to both nations an accomplished document which they have to either accept or reject in its totality.
You can find in any piece of legislation the Congress passes one paragraph or one phrase or one section to which I, as President, would strenuously object. But still when I look at the totality of the document, I quite often, most often, can sign it. And these two problems are very, very serious.
I will be meeting in a few minutes, right after this meeting, with the Vice President of Egypt. And I met early this week with Defense Minister Weizman. We're trying now to find some resolution of existing differences. But I don't have any intention at this point of going to another summit meeting. And I hope and pray and expect that it will not be necessary.
Q. Mr. President, to follow up on that, through these long weeks and months of the negotiations where you had such a role yourself, how can we expect that if there is agreement between Egypt and Israel—if it was engineered so much by an outside party, yourself, without a continuing commitment and initiative by the principals, how can we expect that to stand?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I want to make clear that we've not imposed our will on the other leaders as reluctant negotiators. Everything that has been agreed to at Camp David was not only accepted but-I think you could see during the ceremonies here—accepted with enthusiasm, even with celebration. There was, I think, a justified euphoria there of appreciation to one another for having reached an agreement.
It wasn't something that we demanded that the others accept. We don't have any authority to do that and don't want any. We've tried to serve as an avenue of communication and add our good will when we can. This would continue in the future. I think the issues that were established at Camp David and resolved are the basis for a 'historical breakthrough. And to use King Hassan's language, "You can't make the stream flow backwards." We've made progress that's irreversible, in my opinion.
Now, the differences, compared to what was agreed, are minor, but important, politically and symbolically. Neither side completely trusts the other. This is based on ancient animosities, frequent wars, losses that quite often bubble up to the surface when you are in private talks with either leader. And I think that their mutual trust of me and our country is an important ingredient. If the Egyptians distrust the Israelis' commitment to move forward with self-government and autonomous authority in the West Bank, Gaza, we say, "We trust the Israelis to move, President Sadat. You and we together can use our influence in the future to ensure compliance with the agreement." If the Israelis distrust President Sadat's peaceful intentions, then I can tell Prime Minister Begin, "To the extent that you trust us, you and I will work together to alleviate your concerns about Sadat in the future."
I think these kinds of problems can be partially alleviated by our presence. But there's got to be some building of mutual trust between the two.
It is disappointing to me. I anticipated after Camp David that in just a few days the agreement could be reached. But those ancient distrusts and disputes continually arise. And I think now, next year, maybe years in the future, a moderating, constructive influence by the United States might be necessary, as mutually requested by both parties. I think both the Israelis and Egyptians see that without our presence now, future progress will be much more difficult. Even with our presence, progress is difficult.
Q. May I follow on that?
THE PRESIDENT. You can, yes.
Q. If we do get the agreement and dare look over the horizon, how much do you think that will do to defuse the potential for continued violence by other causes in the Middle East and continued threats against American oil supplies? Would it be—take us a great leap forward away from that?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I think it would be a tremendous leap forward, even as it affects nations who presently are adamantly opposed to the peace agreements between Egypt and Israel. Yes, it would alleviate tension. It would help to let the moderate Arab countries, ourselves, and Israel act in concert to engender peace, open ways for economic development that still have not been adequately analyzed. I think that is the key factor in having a stable and a prosperous Middle East.
Q. Mr. President, when you outlined those problems, I've never heard you speak of why you think that those problems have developed. Is it in your view that these things are happening in spite of the good intentions of both sides? Or is there a suggestion there that maybe one side or the other or both have decided that maybe they just can't go along with what was agreed to at Camp David-maybe that Sadat thinks he can't get along with the rest of the Arab world on this, or the Israelis think that somehow they could get a treaty with Egypt and wind up keeping the land on the West Bank?
THE PRESIDENT. I think both sides are acting in good faith. They obviously want to interpret the agreements as much as proper to their own advantage. We have an inevitable problem in that Camp David, even though it was quite substantive—the texts were quite substantive-had to be embellished or elaborated with specific time schedules, exact drawing of lines between Israel and Egypt, interim withdrawal terms, the make-up of the Egyptian forces on the east bank of the Suez, the time to commence negotiations on the establishment of self-government in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. These kinds of things had to be negotiated in the final peace treaty.
In a few cases it might be necessary to modify the Camp David accords if both sides agree. If both sides don't agree, then our adamant position will be the Camp David accords cannot be abrogated, because this is just as solemn an agreement between those two nations as a future peace treaty will be. And unless both sides agree to modify the Camp David accords, we will insist that those accords be honored meticulously.
In addition to that, though, the progress from Camp David brings up hundreds of detailed decisions. We've put forward our own compromise proposals and our own documents as the original bargaining position. I spread out in my study upstairs, immediately above us, an enormous map of the Sinai—it was probably 10 or 12 feet long and 6 or 8 feet wide—and personally approved the drawing of the interim withdrawal lines and the final borders, even before the Israeli and Egyptian negotiators came here. And that was put forward to the military negotiators, who in effect have adopted what we proposed.
But I think that both sides are acting in good faith. They have political pressures at home. President Sadat legitimately wants to retain his good ties as a political and military leader of the Arab world. The Israelis have to be sure that their security is certain in years ahead. They want to retain an option of the final status of the West Bank and Gaza. This is all included in the Camp David accords.
But I think that it would certainly be obvious that both sides want peace, and I think that's the main hope that we have in spite of these differences.
When you balance the enormous benefits with peace, compared to the horrible consequences of failure, and then look at the tiny differences that exist between them now—on wording and language, linkage, schedules, hilltops, valleys, security outposts—these things are really minuscule in comparison with the advantages of peace. And their common desire for peace is the hope of all three of us, that we'll be successful.
NOVEMBER 30, 1978
EGYPTIAN-ISRAELI PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
Q. Mr. President, where do we stand on a Middle East accord between Egypt and Israel, and what can you or are you doing to try to bring the two parties together?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, we are negotiating and communicating with both the leaders of Israel and Egypt on a constant and sustained basis. I have been dissatisfied and disappointed at the length of time required to bring about a peace treaty that was signed by both Israel and Egypt. I've already outlined in the past my assessment of why this delay has taken place, as contrasted with Camp David. I'm not dealing directly with the principals simultaneously, and a lot of the negotiation has, unfortunately, been conducted through the press because of political reasons, domestically speaking, or other reasons.
Although I'm somewhat discouraged, we are certainly not going to give up on the effort. Tomorrow, I will be meeting with the Prime Minister of Egypt, Mr. Khalil, who's coming, I understand, with a personal message to me from President Sadat.
We have a need, obviously, to get a treaty text pinned down and approved by both governments, and to resolve the very difficult question of the so-called linkage, whether or not certain acts in the West Bank, Gaza Strip have to be taking place at the same time the Sinai agreement is consummated.
But regardless of temporary disappointments and setbacks that we've experienced since Camp David, they are no more serious nor of any greater concern than some that I experienced at Camp David. And we will continue to pursue our efforts to bring about a peace treaty there.
My reason for what optimism I keep is that I know for certain that both President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin want a peace treaty. I know that their people want a peace treaty. And I think as long as this determination on their part is extant, that our own good offices are very likely to be fruitful. So, I will continue the effort, no matter how difficult it might be in the future.
DECEMBER 1, 1978
Q. Following up on the Middle East statement you made, what is your personal reaction to President Sadat's statement that he will not go to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize? Are you personally disappointed by that, and what implications does that have to the peace process?
THE PRESIDENT. I'm not surprised that President Sadat will not go to Oslo. I think had the peace treaty been signed prior to December 10, or whatever the date is, that he would have gone. He will send a representative to receive the prize for him. But I don't think it has any particular extra connotation, other than the obvious one, that to receive the peace prize for bringing about a treaty between Israel and Egypt, absent a conclusion of the treaty, he considers to be inappropriate.
I don't think it has any far-reaching connotations that further aggravate the already difficult situation.
Q. Do you think the two can maybe get together again to resolve this?
THE PRESIDENT. That's always an ultimate possibility. I think they both see that there must be some substantive prospect of success before they get together again. We did not have that substantive prospect of success when they met at Camp David. But I think it was an absolutely hopeless case before we decided to go to Camp David. I don't think it's in that degree of extremity now.
DECEMBER 7, 1978
EGYPTIAN-ISRAELI PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
Q. Mr. President, how important is it, do you feel, for Israel to accept a definite target date—by the end of next year, for example—for the transfer to Palestinian autonomy; how important to accept a target date, as opposed to a more general commitment that we will try to bring autonomy as soon as possible; how important in terms of bringing Palestinians into the process, bringing King Hussein of Jordan into the process? How critical do you feel is the issue of persuading the Israelis to accept a definite target date for transfer to autonomy?
THE PRESIDENT. I should make clear that the United States does not have a unilateral position that we try to force or even encourage the Egyptians and Israelis to adopt. Any mutually acceptable agreement which could be concluded between the Egyptians and the Israelis would be satisfactory to us.
My concern, however, is that we would like to see the Camp David accords carried out, first of all, completely. I think any violation of the Camp David accords would set a very serious precedent which would cast doubt upon the present treaty which is being negotiated.
We would also like to see the Camp 1)avid accords carried out, not grudgingly, but enthusiastically, in the same spirit that we saw exemplified in the White House when the accords were signed. This has not been the case during the negotiations. There have been unwarranted delays, quibbling over what seems to us to be insignificant language differences, and excessive public statements on both sides that have made the negotiating process excessively difficult.
We have made a proposal to the Israelis and Egyptians of a peace treaty text plus a separate letter which would endorse a definite timetable on the establishment of the self-government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Israelis adopted the peace treaty text after they had previously rejected some of its component parts, and did not adopt the crucial and integral additional letter with few features in it, the most significant being the timetable. The Egyptians consider that the timetable is a mandatory element of a future Success.
I'd like to add one other thing: If the Egyptians and Israelis violate the 3-month limit on negotiating this treaty, it will be a very serious matter to us and, I think, to them. That's why I am sending Cy Vance to Egypt, and perhaps then to Israel. If, because of mutual lack of agreement, we go past December 17, it would cast doubt on whether the Egyptians and Israelis would carry out the difficult terms of the upcoming peace treaty, and it would set a precedent that would have far-reaching, adverse effect.
So, we consider the December 17th date to be very, very important, perhaps at this point more important than Prime Minister Begin or President Sadat. I'm going to make that clear to both leaders during Secretary Vance's trip.
But, to summarize by repeating my first statement, we don't have an independent position. Any mutual agreement between the two nations that leads to peace and a peace treaty would be satisfactory to us
Q. May I just follow that up, sir?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. Would you consider the establishment of four new settlements on the West Bank to be a violation of the Camp David agreements?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I would.
My interpretation of the Camp David agreements—and, as you know, Prime Minister Begin disagrees with this interpretation-is that there was a moratorium on the establishment of new settlements until the agreements had been reached on how to establish the autonomous government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. I had never connected in my own mind or in my conversations with either leader the cessation of settlement construction as it related to an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty concerning the Sinai. It was always connected in my mind and in the original versions and text of the proposals to be connected with the conclusion of discussions on how to establish the modalities and procedures of establishing the elections, self-government in West Bank, Gaza.
I might say I don't want that to be an obstacle to the Egyptian and Israeli progress. But that's my own personal opinion, and that's my recollection of what occurred at Camp David. It's the only extant difference, and it's already been explored in the press.
DECEMBER 12, 1978
EGYPTIAN-ISRAELI PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
Q. Mr. President, the other day you took a very serious view of Israel and Egypt going past the 17th of this month without concluding a treaty—that's the date they themselves set for it. Now, with 5 days left, what's your belief, or hunch, as to whether they'll meet that deadline? And do you still think it's sort of a "now or never" proposition?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't think it's now or never. And you very accurately described this deadline date as one established by Israel and Egypt in the most solemn commitment at Camp David.
Secretary Vance reports to me, from Cairo, good progress having been between him and President Sadat. He has not begun further negotiations with the Israelis yet because of Mrs. Meir's funeral.
He will return to Egypt, try to his discussions with President Sadat, and then go back to Israel for discussions with the Israelis.
I consider the deadline date to be quite important. If the Egyptians and Israelis cannot keep a commitment on a 3-month conclusion of a peace treaty when they themselves are the only two nations involved, serving as a mediator in the process, then I think it would be very difficult for them to expect the terms of the treaty they are negotiating to be carried out with assurance. It sets a very bad precedent for Israel and Egypt not to reach a conclusion.
I think the differences that presently divide Israel and Egypt are minor, certainly compared to the resolution of major differences in the past. And ! believe that President Sadat has reconfirmed his intention, his commitment, to Secretary Vance to conclude the negotiations without further delay. My hope is and my expectation is that the Israelis will have the same attitude.
Q. Mr. President, to follow up the earlier question on the Middle East, you said last week that if Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat had been able to negotiate together on some of these questions over the past few weeks, that there would not have been some of the problems that have arisen. My question is, if all else fails, would you consider calling the two leaders back to Camp David or some other place to negotiate directly with you to resolve this matter?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, let me say that I don't have any present plans to do that. If all else failed and I felt that we could get together again, I would not hesitate to do so. But I don't envision that taking place.
DECEMBER 14, 1978
EGYPTIAN-ISRAELI PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
Mr. President, Mrs. Carter, may we turn our attention to foreign policy and start with the Middle East, which continues to be a situation that is unsettled.
It does not look now as if the December 17th deadline is going to be met for the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. What now, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I'm not giving up on the 17th deadline.
Ms. WALTERS. Really?
THE PRESIDENT. The decision is primarily in the hands now of the Israeli Cabinet. We have worked out with Sadat as approval by him of the treaty text, and the remaining issues involved how rapidly and under what circumstances the provisions of the Camp David accords shall be implemented.
One of the major issues is whether or not a goal should be set, not a fixed, definite requirement that the West Bank, Gaza self-government should be established by the end of 1979. I personally don't see how this could be difficult for the Israelis, since it's not mandatory, but just a goal to be sought. But the decision now is primarily in the hands of the Israelis. Secretary Vance has had thorough discussions with both Sadat and Begin and their other government officials. We don't know what will happen.
I consider the December 17th date to be quite significant. But if we don't succeed in getting an agreement by then-it's certainly a strong possibility—then we will continue tenaciously to pursue the peace prospects and to try to reach an agreement between Israel and Egypt at a later date.
Ms. WALTERS. How? Summit, maybe? What?
THE PRESIDENT. That's always a possibility. But that would not be my preference. I would certainly have no objection, and would encourage at any time President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin getting together themselves. But I think for them to plan on coming over here anytime in the future would probably be a mistake, because I've got other pressing international problems. And we've really put an extraordinary amount of time and effort in the Mideast, and I just cannot neglect other problems in order to accomplish this goal.
Ms. WALTERS. We've said that Secretary Vance was coming back to put pressure on the Israelis. Other reports said no, it was urgent business. What's the urgent business, if that's it?
THE PRESIDENT. We have got a broad range of things that are now coming to a head. We've got problems between Chile and Argentina concerning territory down there that could erupt into a conflict. We're trying to reach a conclusion on the Nicaraguan question.
I think that the SALT negotiations are coming to a head. Cy will be going to Europe to meet with Gromyko, on the 21st of December, perhaps to plan for a summit meeting between myself and President Brezhnev earlier next year. And there are just such a broad gamut of things that I need Secretary Vance back here. And he and I agreed in a telephone conversation that his work in the Mideast was primarily completed.
The proposition that has been worked out with Egypt is presented clearly to the Israelis. And now it's up to the Israelis to either accept it or reject it.
Ms. WALTERS. You talked of President Sadat being generous in accepting some of the proposals. You didn't mention Prime Minister Begin. This was last night that you said this. Do you consider Mr. Begin to be intransigent?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, we don't know what the Israeli response will be.
Ms. WALTERS. I spoke with Israel this morning, with some key members in Foreign Minister Dayan's office, with his spokesman. And without going through each detail, what they are saying is that they were willing to sign the original agreement, but that President Sadat is now adding new conditions which they consider open up and change the treaty. And, particularly, they object to the fact that the Egyptians are not going to agree to normalization of relations and exchange of ambassadors until 1 year after Palestinian autonomy. And they say that this is not what was originally agreed to, all these new conditions.
THE PRESIDENT. That's not accurate. The way I understand the recent negotiations, at the time the Israelis complete the interim withdrawal, diplomatic relations would be established between Egypt and Israel. The embargo against Israel would be removed, and then when the self-government is established-within a month, not a year—ambassadors themselves would be exchanged.
The original proposal was that Israel would withdraw from El'Arish and from the central part of the Sinai in the interim withdrawal, much earlier than the Camp David accords required, in 2 months and 4 months. Based on that commitment by Israel negotiators, Sadat said he would exchange ambassadors at that time, a month later. Later Israel's Cabinet withdrew their proposal and therefore relieved President Sadat of the obligation to exchange ambassadors early.
But I think that that's a reasonable schedule. Diplomatic relations would be established with Israel immediately, as soon as they made their first interim withdrawal. It's only the exchange of ambassadors themselves that would be delayed.
Ms. WALTERS. Mr. President, if the Middle East talks fail and if you feel that Israel is not forthcoming, might there be a reassessment of the United States policy in Israel?
THE PRESIDENT. No. Our policy with Israel is—and with the Middle East—is that the security of Israel is paramount; the continued existence of Israel, their ability to protect themselves adequately, and the ability of the Israeli people to live in peace is paramount above anything else that relates to the Mideast.
Ms. WALTERS. In that regard, Israel was reported to be very upset when hearing that Senate Majority Leader Byrd had said that if Israel builds future settlements, the Senate may not increase its foreign aid to Israel. The Israelis said that Senator Byrd came to Israel recently, describing himself as your emissary. And one wonders if the Senator's statement reflects your point of view.
THE PRESIDENT. [Laughing] I have never attempted to control Senator Byrd's statements. And I think Senator Byrd speaks from the perspective of the Congress and as the Democratic leader of the Senate.
We have always, so far as I know, adopted as an official American position, with which I agree, that the settlements in the occupied territories are illegal and that they are a genuine obstacle to peace. And whenever the Israelis publicize with varied voices that there will be $35 million spent on new settlements or a billion dollars spent on new settlements or another new settlement's going to be created, it really puts a dampener on cooperation from the Jordanians, from the Palestinians who live in the West Bank, and even from the Egyptians in carrying out the spirit of Camp David.
I know it's a very sensitive issue with Israel. I'm not saying this in a critical way, but I can say with assurance that the Majority Leader was speaking for himself.
Ms. WALTERS. That does not represent your viewpoint?
THE PRESIDENT. Not necessarily. The attitude of the Congress is, I think, not something that I ought to comment upon. I can't say whether I agree or disagree that the majority leader speaks accurately for the Congress.
Ms. WALTERS. What now, Mr. President? Do you plan perhaps to call or have you already telephoned either Prime Minister Begin or President Sadat? Tomorrow there's a Cabinet meeting. What's going to happen maybe to get something either by this Sunday or soon after?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, it's hard for me to answer that question. I've not received any report from Secretary Vance, except very brief dispatch messages. And he will be back in the United States tomorrow afternoon. Of course, as soon as he returns, he'll come and give me a thorough report. But we've done all we could and will continue to do all we can in spite of setbacks and disappointments and frustrations and delays.
We are very deeply committed to carrying out both the letter and the spirit of Camp David. It was a major step forward. We will never give up, no matter how difficult the circumstances, on searching for a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, to be followed by peace between Israel and all her neighbors.
Source: Public Papers of the President