Carter News Conferences & Interviews: Middle East/Israel
FEBRUARY 9, 1979
EGYPTIAN-ISRAELI PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
Q. Mr. President, a policy question with regard to the upcoming Middle East talks, if I may. On the one hand, it's argued that a separate Israel-Egyptian peace would generate irresistible psychological momentum for a broader, comprehensive settlement, and such that explicit linkage would not be required. The other hand, pragmatists say that a separate peace would so tip the political and military balance in Israel's favor that there would be very little likelihood of progress in the future toward a comprehensive peace.
Which of these approaches would you press upon Israel and Egypt when they come here?
THE PRESIDENT. The United States does not have a position to put forward on a peace treaty. There's not a word or a phrase or a sentence or a paragraph that I want to see put in a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. What we do is to encourage Israel and Egypt to put forward their ideas.
In 95 percent of the total cases, they have now reached agreement. In those remaining 5, we add our good offices to propose to them, when a deadlock exists between Israel and Egypt, alternative wording and substance, hoping that they'll accept some of our proposals. If they don't, we go back to the drafting board.
But at Camp David, there was evolved a description of a comprehensive peace settlement for Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the Palestinians who live on the West Bank and Gaza. That was one document. The other document outlined the basic principles of a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt unilaterally. But the Israel and Egypt treaty terms were also mentioned very clearly within the comprehensive settlement outline.
I think that the commitment of both Begin and Sadat was to a comprehensive peace settlement. And I've heard Prime Minister Begin say several times to President Sadat in my presence, when only the three of us were there, "I am not looking for a separate peace treaty with Egypt."
The way the negotiations have evolved, with the Palestinians and the Jordanians unwilling to participate, this has of necessity led to the bilateral discussions between Israel and Egypt. Egypt is very insistent that Israel comply with the agreement at Camp David that a comprehensive peace settlement be sought, and Israel, on the other hand, is very insistent that the peace treaty that's being evolved between Israel and Egypt not be abrogated because of factors beyond their control—for instance, the refusal of the Palestinians to participate in future negotiations.
So, I think that's where the basic deadlock exists. I, therefore, am very deeply committed to carrying out, if I can, the principles of the Camp David accords, which encompass a comprehensive settlement.
FEBRUARY 12, 1979
EGYPTIAN-ISRAELI PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
Q. Mr. President, do you anticipate that at some point in time you're going to have to call a three-way meeting between yourself, President Sadat, and Prime Minister Begin to get this Middle East peace process locked up and that that might be a natural outcome of the Foreign Ministers' meeting that's coming up?
THE PRESIDENT. I would say that the reality of having a Mideast peace settlement is one of my fondest hopes and dreams and my greatest commitment. I have probably spent more of my personal time on trying to have peace in the Middle East than any other single issue.
We made tremendous strides forward at Camp David, as you know, and we expected at that time to rapidly conclude the remaining 5 percent of the issues that had not then been resolved. That has not proven to be as easy as we thought. I think an inevitable next step is to have the Foreign Ministers of Israel and Egypt come here to meet with Secretary Vance—I might visit with them briefly-in an attitude of mutual commitment and flexibility and in a maximum state of isolation from public statements or commitments, which quite often form a very serious obstacle to progress.
If that hope is realized, there would be no need for any further summit conference. But I would guess that in this case that Mr. Khalil and Dayan would go back to Egypt and to Israel to report progress and to seek confirmation of their negotiated positions from their own government leaders, including President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin.
If that effort is not completely successful and the final peace treaty terms are not concluded, then if there's adequate evidence of flexibility and desire on the part of President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin, then I would certainly consider favorably having them here for a summit meeting.
But our hope is that the Foreign Ministers can be successful, provided they take advantage of our recommendation and routinely go back to Israel and to Egypt to seek further guidance during the negotiations themselves.
FEBRUARY 22, 1979
THE MIDDLE EAST
Q. Mr. President, my name is Croskery, from Cincinnati. I'd like to know what we're going to do to ensure the stability of small oil-producing states in the Middle East during this time of instability in that part of the world?
THE PRESIDENT. I've just sent Secretary of Defense Brown into that region, as you know, to meet with the leaders of four nations: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and Israel. We have the top officials of Oman here consulting this last few days with Secretary Vance. And in the Emirates, in Bahrain, and other small countries we've assured them that our influence, our power as a nation will be used to preserve the basic security of that region free from any outside political or military power.
We are trying to bring them together in a spirit of peace and harmony and a recognition that their own national independence ought to be preserved by them and also preserved by us.
As I said in my brief remarks earlier, I am consulting with the Congress now, based on the reports that Harold Brown brought back, about how we might increase to some degree our military assistance efforts for those small countries that feel insecure, so that through their own strength they might feel better able to withstand any internal and outside disturbances that are unwarranted.
There are some nations that provide major stabilizing efforts. Egypt is a strong, powerful nation in the Arab world; Israel's strength is part of our own security. Iran, we hope and pray, in the future will still be a factor for stability in their region—in a different character, obviously, than it was under the Shah, but we hope will be independent and determined to maintain kind of a rock of stability in that region, impervious to outside influence and attack.
So, I'd say, working with individual nations, working collectively to reduce tensions among them and making sure they have adequate military capabilities and using our own influence to prevent some major outside power from having an inordinate influence—those are some of the things that we can do.
The last one, obviously, is to try to bring some peace between Israel and her own neighbors. I think if the Arab world, in a united way, working with us, perhaps with Israel in a peaceful pursuit, could face any outside disturbance rather than to focus their animosity, as it has been in the past, on Israel, it would certainly be a very stabilizing factor.
We derive great benefit from free access to oil from that region. Some of our allies and friends in Europe and Japan rely much more heavily, and we are trying to get them to use their own influence to parallel ours in maintaining the independence of individual nations and the stability therein.
There are a few instances in that region where economic aid, either through direct grants, which are fairly rare, or through guaranteed loans on a multilateral basis or through international lending institutions can also help. That's kind of a gamut of things that we explore and use with varying degrees of priority and emphasis.
Q. Mr. President, Secretary of Defense Brown has just returned from the Middle East, and it's reported that Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, concerned about the role of the Palestinians in Iran, is interested in becoming the region's policeman-which is how some newspapers are describing it—in return for heavy infusions of U.S. weapons. What's the likelihood for this?
And, also, Sadat has said that he would not use the equipment in conflict with Israel, but how can we be sure that if he's called upon by his Arab brothers to fight Israel that he wouldn't use it?
THE PRESIDENT. I think Sadat has demonstrated in a very dramatic way, and also a consistent way in the last few years, his peaceful intentions toward Israel. His trip to Jerusalem, his participation, successfully, in the Camp David negotiations, I think, is proof of his good intentions toward having peaceful relations with Israel.
As you probably know, Israel* is a very powerful element in the Arab world, economically; their population is very great; their military strength is great, compared to many other countries. And I think they can be a legitimate stabilizing force. They now have five divisions or more on the eastern side of the Suez confronting Israel. Part of the Camp David accords, part of the negotiated points that have already been concluded on the Sinai agreement would call for the withdrawal of these forces. They would perhaps never be used. But at least any entity that threatened to attack another country in the Mideast would be faced with the prospect that those Egyptian forces might very well be used to preserve the peace. I'm not predicting that this would happen, but the potential would be there for Egypt to help to protect relatively defenseless other Arab countries or to preserve peace in the Mideast.
I don't want to try to comment on any nation being a policeman for the region nor for the world. I think that's a very serious mistake.
There obviously have been requests made by many nations around the world for military or economic assistance that is in excess of what our Nation could provide. That situation might apply to the request that President Sadat has recently made. But he certainly wouldn't be unique in that respect.
As you know, the two nations that receive the most aid from our country at this time, and for many years in the past, has been Israel and Egypt. And I think that the greatest single step we could take to preserving stability and peace in the Mideast, although it might be unpopular with some other Arab countries, would be a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. That's our top priority, and we'll continue with that pursuit.
EGYPTIAN-ISRAELI PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
Q. Mr. President, many observers of the Middle Eastern situation believe that the failure of Egypt and Israel to sign the Camp David agreements as originally conceived this fall, and, in fact, the subsequent delays in signing any agreement, are directly related to the lack of pressure by the United States not on Israel and Egypt, but on Jordan and Saudi Arabia to join the talks or at least to lend support to the negotiating process. Would you please comment on this?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think in a spirit of complete candor we have approached our limit on legitimate influence, perhaps even pressure in a proper way, on the countries in that entire region to support the Camp David accords and to participate in future discussions.
We have sent delegations to Jordan, to Saudi Arabia, even this past week, to encourage their tacit or public or active support of these accords. And I've used my own personal influence to a maximum degree within the bounds of propriety in the same pursuit.
As you know, my own involvement in the Camp David negotiations has been substantial. There is no other single item that has addressed my attention as President, on which I've spent more time, more effort, more study, more prayer, than to bring peace between Israel and her neighbors. We believe the Camp David accords are a very firm and well-advised foundation on which to predicate, first of all, an agreement between Israel and Egypt, combined with a comprehensive settlement as part of the same procedure that relates to Israel and her neighbors. And whatever we can do—to use the word again—within the bounds of propriety, recognizing the independence of other nations, we have done, are doing, and will do to bring about peace between Israel and her neighbors.
FEBRUARY 27, 1979
EGYPTIAN-ISRAELI PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
THE PRESIDENT. In my 2 years as President, I've spent more time and invested more of my own personal effort in the search for peace in the Middle East than on any other international problem. That investment of time and effort was and is appropriate because of the great importance of peace in that region to our own country and the vital importance of a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt to those two countries.
Some progress was made in the talks at Camp David last week, 4 1/2 days of talks. I do not share the opinion that the proposals that we put forward were contrary to the Camp David agreements of last September or that they would make an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty meaningless.
Based upon the developments of last week and the recommendations of all the parties involved, I had hoped to be able to convene without delay negotiations at a level which would permit the early conclusion of a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, as a first step toward a wider settlement for the entire Middle East.
I regret that such direct negotiations are not possible at this time. I'm concerned about the impact of this development upon the prospects for peace. However, it was the belief of all those at Camp David—Secretary Vance and all the negotiators from Israel and Egypt—that the conclusion of an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty is an urgent necessity. I share that view completely.
If we allow the prospects for peace that seemed so bright last September when we came back from Camp David to continue to dim and perhaps even to die, the future, at best, is unpredictable. If we allow that hope to vanish, then the judgment of history and of our own children will of necessity, and rightly, condemn us for an absence of concerted effort.
For that reason, I spoke personally this afternoon with Prime Minister Begin and with President Sadat. I've invited Prime Minister Begin to join me as soon as possible for a frank discussion of all the issues involved. I'm hopeful that these talks will lead to an early resumption of direct negotiations.
Prime Minister Begin has accepted my invitation. He will be arriving here Thursday evening for discussions with me.
I will then consider asking either Prime Minister Khalil or President Sadat to join in further discussions. I recognize that the public interest in this matter is intense. However, I have made it clear in the past that any premature public discussions of these very sensitive issues serve no useful purpose. For that reason, I will have no further comments to make on the Mideast peace negotiations this afternoon, but I will be happy to answer any further questions on other matters of interest to the American public.
Q. Well, Mr. President, I really think you should answer a couple of questions. One, are you saying that Camp David is back on track or you are trying to get it on? And also, were you led to believe by your own advisers or by the Israeli officials that Begin would come, or did you labor under some false assumption on your part?
THE PRESIDENT. I won't have any other questions to answer on that subject. I think I've covered it adequately. And Prime Minister Begin is making a simultaneous announcement in Israel, and I don't think it would be constructive for me to answer any questions further.
ISRAELI ACCESS TO OIL
Q. Mr. President, in view of the fact that we have some arrangement to support Israel in the event that they have oil shortages, do you view Iran's lack of desire to supply oil to Israel as creating problems for us in terms of our support for Israel in securing secondary sources?
THE PRESIDENT. When the supply of Iranian oil to Israel was interrupted, I immediately notified Prime Minister Begin and the Israeli Government that we would honor our commitment to them. So far, the Israelis have been able to acquire oil from other sources in the Sinai, and also on the world markets from different countries.
We will honor that commitment. I think that the total Israeli oil consumption is only about 1 percent of 'the consumption in the United States. So, even if Israel should have to depend upon us for a substantial portion of their oil, we would supply that oil from our country or from sources in other nations without disruption of the American economy.
MARCH 24, 1979
EGYPTIAN-ISRAELI PEACE TREATY
Q. Mr. President, I'm Jimmy Dillard, and I'd like to know, how sound is the peace treaty, whose foundation is built with 5 billion inflated American tax dollars?
THE PRESIDENT. This peace treaty is a result of 30 years of war and the lessons which our Nation has learned from it. We have two notable friends in the Middle East, among others—Israel and Egypt. At this moment, they are in a state of declared war against each other. Thousands of people in each country have lost their lives. Our own interests are directly involved. We will provide part of the cost of removing the armed forces from the Sinai Desert. This is a very expensive proposition.
The Egyptians have five divisions on the Israeli side of the Suez Canal. The Israelis have two divisions, two large airfields built on Egyptian territory. Israel is very much in need of economic stability. Their inflation rate last year, for instance, was more than 50 percent. We will help them bear the costs for these peacetime changes. The cost will run a little more than a billion dollars a year for 3 or 4 years for both nations combined. Our Nation can well afford it. It's an excellent investment, and I believe the American people are strongly in support of this very modest cost for peace, when the cost of war, even to our own Nation, to our own taxpayers, would be much, much greater.
I believe it's a very good investment.
MARCH 25, 1979
EGYPTIAN-ISRAELI PEACE TREATY
Q. Mr. President, Bill Sims, Wycom Corporation, Laramie, Wyoming. First of all, forgive me, sir, before my question, if you could leave a little piece of paper with your name on it at the podium, a big fan of yours would love to have it. [Laughter]
My question, sir: With sometimes conflicting reports coming from the Middle East almost daily, how can the American public be sure that the agreement you will sign this week is not just window dressing? Sir, does this agreement really have meaningful significance to the world?
THE PRESIDENT. I think perhaps a hundred years from now, 50 years from now, what occurs tomorrow may be the most significant occurrence during my own term of office as President. We are a nation at peace. It's a notable achievement for a country as large as ours to be at peace.
In the Mideast, war there not only afflicts the lives of everyone involved, but it's a constant constraint on the quality of life when the people in Egypt, people in Israel—who deeply desire to live in harmony with their neighbors—have never been able to do it since Israel was founded.
When I go back 8 or 9 months to assess what did exist then and see where we stand now, it's almost unbelievable. Sadat said when I was in Egypt recently that what we achieved at Camp David was a miracle, that he never expected either Egypt or Israel to reach an agreement when he went there.
I think that we now have a posture where our excellent friends, the Israelis, and our excellent friends, the Egyptians, can be friends with one another. We're going to have a short period of time—I believe it will be short—with threats and posturing and possibly some acts of terrorism mounted against [by] 1 those who oppose peace in the Middle East.
But my belief is that if we can open those borders and have thousands of students going back and forth between Cairo and Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv and Alexandria, and tourists going to visit the Pyramids and coming to see the Dead Sea Scrolls, and open trade and commerce, that the people themselves will so deeply appreciate the difference in their quality of life and their attitude toward life, that no matter who the leaders might be in the future, this peace will be permanent.
We're going to not stop here. We've got to address the very difficult question of the Palestinian problem.
The Israelis are committed to this proposition, the Egyptians are committed to this proposition, and so are we. But I think as we let the other Arab entities-the PLO, Jordanians, Syrians, Lebanese, Iraqis—see the tremendous benefits of the peace between Israel and Egypt, it's going to be much easier to bring them in the process and therefore achieve what I dream about—which may not come during my own term of office, but I'll continue to work for—and that is a comprehensive peace throughout the Middle East.
So, I think it is very significant, it is permanent, it's a first step. But as Sadat says, it's a foundation for what we all dream for—that comprehensive peace in the Middle East. I think it's a very good step.
APRIL 6, 1979
U.S. PALESTINIAN POLICY
Q. Mr. President, I wondered if you could—I'm changing the subject, but if you could redefine your Palestinian policy. Exactly what is the current position?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I wouldn't want to redefine it, because it's been very consistent from the beginning. [Laughter] And I wouldn't change one part of it.
As far as direct relations or consultations or negotiations with the PLO is concerned, we will not do this unless the PLO endorses the United Nations Resolution 242—the basis for all our discussions, and a resolution that's been endorsed by all of the Arab countries, as well as the Israelis-and also recognizes Israel's right to exist. As long as the PLO and its constitution and commitment is dedicated to the destruction of Israel, we will not negotiate with them.
As far as the Palestinian people themselves are concerned, we are eager to see them join in the discussions and negotiations to effectuate the agreements reached at Camp David and encompassed in the recent Mideast treaty and all its ancillary documents.
My hope is that in a couple of months, when El Arish is returned to Egypt and the borders between Israel and Egypt are open, that the free travel of Palestinians and Egyptians, for instance, back and forth between their homes, will alleviate the tension and let the Palestinians escape from the unwarranted constraint of the threat of terrorism against them if they negotiate to get full autonomy, to use Mr. Begin's expression—full autonomy.
I think Sadat has done more for the Palestinians and their cause than any other Arab leader. And now they are fearful of the carrying out of threats of death by some of the more radical Arab elements in the Mideast.
So, we're eager to see the Palestinian people participate, to have full autonomy. And we will not deal with the PLO unless they meet the requirements that I described.
APRIL 10, 1979
Q. Within the last few hours, Mr. President, a terrorist bomb was exploded in Tel Aviv, and Israel has bombed Lebanon. Isn't there likely to be even more violence in the Middle East than there was before the treaty, and what can you do about it? And would you be willing to stop arms sales, all arms sales to the Mideast?
THE PRESIDENT. First, I would not be willing to stop all arms sales to the Middle East, because I think the countries there must have an adequate means of defending themselves—Israel, Egypt, and others.
Secondly, I believe that the terrorist bombing is a longstanding problem. It's not something that just has arisen because the treaty has been signed. I think the terrorism threats are counterproductive. My own hope is that the best way to alleviate this constant dependence on death and hatred and destruction and terrorism is to prove the viability and the advantages of the peace process.
I would like to see, as early as possible, but by the end of next month, all the borders open between Israel and Egypt, a free passage of students and tradesmen, diplomats, tourists, and for the demonstrated advantages to Israel and Egypt to be very apparent to the citizens of Jordan and Syria and Lebanon and to the Palestinians, wherever they live, hoping to convince them that that's the best approach to achieve their own purposes and goals-that is, peace and a realization of the right to control their own future.
But I don't think there's any doubt that terrorism will continue in the coming months. I hope it will wane as it's proven that the peace treaty is permanent and that it is going to work.
An immediate step that will tend to convince everyone that it is permanent and cannot be disrupted by terrorist acts will be the quick ratification of the treaty by the Egyptian Parliament and the exchange of the documents themselves. And then the return of El Arish and the first part of the Sinai to Egypt—I think that will be a step in the right direction.
APRIL 25, 1979
MIDDLE EAST PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
Q. Hello, Mr. President. My name is Vickie Hinesly, and I'm from York, Maine. And I'd like to welcome you from the people of Maine. First, I'd like to congratulate you on your peace treaty with the Middle East. First, I'd like to ask you, now that we have a partial peace with the Middle East, what are your plans to secure peace in the rest of the Middle East and to secure the flow of oil through the U.S.?
THE PRESIDENT. Good. Yesterday, as you may have noticed in the news, I appointed Robert Strauss to be our new negotiator and talked to both Prime Minister Begin and to President Sadat on the phone yesterday afternoon. Their new relationship has been very exciting to me since the peace treaty was signed. And I can tell you in complete confidence if you won't relay it to anyone else—. [laughter] -that sometimes those two men were not completely compatible with one another. [Laughter]
Q. I'll bet.
THE PRESIDENT. Since the peace treaty was signed, I honestly believe that they have learned to know and to like and to respect one another. President Sadat yesterday said, "Prime Minister Begin," he said, "that man has really changed," he said, "changed for the better." And he said, "We are now talking to each other on the phone, not just when a crisis develops but on a routine basis whenever a question arises that concerns our two countries."
Next month, almost exactly a month from now, the first part of the Sinai will be returned from Israel to Egypt—El Arish. They will met there together. They will fly together to Beersheba and will appear before the student body at the Ben Gurion University and then will open direct flights between Israel and Egypt for the first time in anyone's memory. I'm very thankful for that.
At this time, however, the other neighbors of Israel are trying to create every possible obstacle to the carrying out of the peace treaty terms. I don't want to criticize them, although I wish they would eliminate terrorism and murder as an element of their effort. The best way to change their attitude—that is, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and others—is to demonstrate in the coming negotiations that the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people will be honored and that the terms of the Camp David agreement will indeed be carried out.
We have a good relationship with almost all the countries that produce and sell us oil. We have maintained that firm relationship. One thing that I would like to do, however, in addition to keeping that friendship with them, is to develop more independence by increasing the production of American oil and by shifting to things like I've already described: increased use of coal, increased use of small dams, increased use of wood, and also conservation.
So, I would say the Mideast peace negotiation is on track. I've been very pleased since the treaty was signed. We have a good relationship with the oil supplying nations, but we want to become less and less dependent on them in the future.
APRIL 30, 1979
ISRAELI SETTLEMENT POLICY
Q. Mr. President, the Israeli Cabinet has recently approved two new settlements on the West Bank. In light of the enormous cost to the United States of implementing the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, isn't it reasonable to expect the Israelis to cease from settlement policy which violates international law? And secondly, why should the American people pay for policies of the Israelis that undermine the peace process and run counter to American foreign policy?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, the position of the United States historically has been consistent, and my own position on settlements in the West Bank, Gaza area and on the Golan Heights, and in the Sinai have my position has been consistent. The Israeli Government knows perfectly well, after hours of discussion on this issue, what my position is.
We do consider the creation of Israeli settlements in these areas as being inconsistent with international law, and, as I've said many times, they are an obstacle to peace. Knowing that, the Israeli Government still on occasion authorizes new settlements. They interpret the law differently from myself.
I hope that the Israeli Government will severely restrain any inclination, either approved by the Knesset or done without legal sanction, in establishing new settlements. But there is a limit to what we can do to impose our will on a sovereign nation.
MAY 4, 1979
AMERICAN PRISONER IN ISRAEL
Q. Mr. President, you were recently instrumental in securing the release of several Russian dissidents. In similar terms of humanity, would you be willing to exert influence on the Israeli Government to secure the release of a young American woman? Her name is Terre Fleener of San Antonio, and she is wasting away in Israeli jails. 1
1 Terre Fleener was convicted of giving information on Israeli security arrangements to members of the Palestine Liberation Organization. She was released from prison on June 30, 1979, after serving 20 months of a 5-year sentence.
THE PRESIDENT. I'm not familiar with the case, but before this day is over, I will contact the Secretary of State and ask him to initiate an investigation and seek her release, if it's considered to be advisable.
MAY 18, 1979
PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANIZATION
Q. Hal Rosen of Chicago. Earlier this week, on Monday, Joseph Sisco,1 speaking before the Chicago Foreign Relations Council, said that while it's official U.S. policy that we don't recognize—or make contact, rather, with the PLO unless they recognize 242, that he sees modification in this in the future. While he's not an official Government spokesman, obviously, does his view reflect any change in our policy?
1 Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.
THE PRESIDENT. NO, there's been no change. I don't contemplate any change. Our Nation is pledged, again, on its word of honor, which I have corroborated since I've been in office, that we will not deal with the PLO until they accept U.N. Resolution 242 as a basis for negotiations, which all the other Arab entities have done, and until they recognize the right of Israel to exist.
And I think that any such meeting as that, on any kind of an official basis, would be counterproductive. And we're not doing it surreptitiously. We're not cheating on our commitment. Obviously, as is well known by Israel, there are members* of the PLO, individual members* who are mayors of major cities, for instance, on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, and both we and the Israelis deal with them as Palestinians, not, however, in their capacity as members* of the PLO. So, there has been and will 'be no change in this policy.
MAY 29, 1979
THE MIDDLE EAST
Q. Mr. President, on the Middle East, sir, is it feasible in your view to expect the Palestinians and other Arab nations to join the peace process as long as the United States does not put forward some of its own ideas in greater detail about what autonomy is going to look like on the West Bank and Gaza?
In other words, as long as the Israelis are continuing to say there will be no Palestinian homeland, there will be no entity linked or unlinked to Jordan, there will be no Palestinian state, is it not incumbent on the United States, again in this peace process, to come forward with some ideas of its own in order to encourage the Palestinians to join in?
THE PRESIDENT. We've never been reticent about putting forward our ideas both to the Israelis and the Egyptians and to others about what ought to be done in the West Bank, Gaza area. We've never espoused an independent Palestinian state. I think that would be a destabilizing factor there.
I believe the next step ought to be the exchange of views during the negotiations between Israel and Egypt. We will observe the different proposals that are inevitably going to be made; some of them have been described publicly. Then later on, after the negotiations proceed as far as they can do with any degree of momentum, we will reserve the right—requested, I might say, by both Israel and Egypt— to put forward United States proposals to break a deadlock or to provide a compromise solution.
We have been involved in that kind of process both at Camp David and when I went to the Middle East. I think that's one of the reasons that we've been as successful as we have so far.
But for us to preempt the negotiations by putting forward, to begin with, an American proposal, I think, would be counterproductive, and it would remove some of the reasonable responsibility that ought to be directly on the shoulders of Prime Minister Begin and his government and President Sadat and his government.
I might say that this past weekend, I talked personally to President Sadat and to Prime Minister Begin and, this morning, to Secretary Vance. And they were all very pleased and very excited not only at the progress made in El Arish and Beersheba but also at the attitude on both sides toward a constructive resolution of these very difficult issues.
So, at this point, I feel very hopeful that both sides are negotiating in good faith. We'll be there to help them when they need our help.
AUGUST 10, 1979
Q. Mr. President, so much has been said in the last few weeks about your position regarding the Palestinians, PLO, Israel, and so on and so forth. Most of the answers have been coming through the Secretary of State. I wonder if you could tell us in your own words what your position is on the creation of a separate Palestinian state—
THE PRESIDENT. I'm against it.
Q. —your position on the PLO, et cetera.
THE PRESIDENT. I'm against any creation of a separate Palestinian state. I don't think it would be good for the Palestinians. I don't think it would be good for Israel. I don't think it would be good for the Arab neighbors of such a state.
I do believe that we must address and resolve the Palestinian question in all its aspects, as was agreed to by Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat and myself in writing at Camp David.
I do believe that the Palestinians should have a right to a voice in the determination of their own future, which is also specified and agreed to by Begin, Sadat, and by me at Camp David in writing.
I will not deal with the PLO unless they do two things: accept the right of Israel to exist, which they've not yet been willing to acknowledge, and accept the fact that U.N. Resolution 242 is a document binding on them. They've got to accept 242, accept the right of Israel to exist. This is a commitment we've made. We've never deviated from it. We're not going to deviate from it.
AUGUST 30, 1979
PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANIZATION
Q. Mr. President, if we can turn the conversation to a lighter topic. [Laughter] This business of not talking to the PLO is not your policy, and yet you are following it. We have seen that that policy has caused the departure of one of your most devoted and apparently an official to whom you are most devoted.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. How long are you going to continue observing this policy, and does it make any sense in a country which prides itself on open discussion of all issues with all parties that you are continuing to ban from negotiation with the PLO?
THE PRESIDENT. Our commitment, made by Secretary Kissinger, as you know, to the Israelis at the time they were negotiating Israeli withdrawal from Egypt, was that we would not recognize nor negotiate with the PLO until they did two things. One was to acknowledge Israel's right to exist and secondly to espouse U.N. Resolution 242. We will stick to that commitment. It was made when Nixon was President. Ford, when he was in office, reconfirmed our national commitment to the Israelis, and when I became President, I also committed our Nation to adhere to this commitment.
I have met with the leaders of Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and in every instance when I have met with them, at least on my initial meeting with them, I have asked them to induce the PLO to recognize Israel's right to exist and to recognize 242. In most instances those Arab leaders said they thought they could accomplish that. They have not been able to.
So, we will not negotiate with nor recognize the PLO until after they recognize Israel's right to exist and the efficability of U.N. 242.
Q. This is not your policy, but you apparently think it is a proper policy.
THE. PRESIDENT. It was not my policy. I have endorsed the policy, and I will carry it out.
SEPTEMBER 25, 1979
ISRAELI SECURITY AND DEFENSE
Q. Good evening, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good evening.
Q. My name is Zahava Teitelbaum, and I'm a housewife and I work for a program for new immigrants. I just came back last week from a trip to Jerusalem, the beautiful and divided capital of the Israeli Government.
My question is, I know the United States would never tolerate terrorist attacks from Cuba, and I wanted to know why the President opposes Israel's right to defend itself on its northern borders against the PLO terrorist incursions into Israel.
THE PRESIDENT. I don't. I think any nation has a right to defend itself; obviously, including Israel. Let me recapitulate just for a moment what has happened.
Two years ago, I met with Prime Minister Rabin and then with Prime Minister Begin and also with President Sadat and others. There was a conviction in their minds that never in their lifetime would they have direct communication with one another and no chance to negotiate a peace treaty between them.
A year ago, almost exactly, we went to Camp David and came down with the Camp David accords, which set out not only a basis for peace between Israel and Egypt but also a basis for a comprehensive peace settlement for the entire Middle East, including all of Israel's neighbors.
Six months ago, we concluded the Mideast peace treaty. And a lot of people say, you know, "What have you done lately?" Well, the fact is that now we are looking to President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin to negotiate directly. They have developed a very good respect for one another. And it was a thrilling thing for me to see Sadat sail into the Haifa Harbor recently in an Egyptian yacht, escorted by American and Israeli warships and American and Israeli airplanes, and see him received so well in Haifa.
A basis of the Camp David accords was the right of Israel to defend itself, a right of Israel to be secure. And along with that was a commitment made by President Sadat and myself and Prime Minister Begin that the Palestinian question in all its aspects would be resolved, that the Palestinian people have a right to a voice in the determination of their own future. But, at the same time, Sadat agreed on behalf of many Arabs that Israel would have a right to defend itself. And I have never questioned Israel's right to defend herself against terrorism from the north or against her neighbors from the east or from the south.
The second thing I'd like to say is that we give Israel—as a good investment for our own security, because we derive great benefits from Israel being strong and free and at peace—great aid, the most aid we give any other nation on Earth, because we believe in Israel having the ability to defend itself. In addition to that, as a result of the Camp David accords and the Mideast peace treaty, I advocated to the Congress, and the Congress agreed to increase that aid by $3 billion. And we're now working out with Defense Minister Weizman, who was in Washington in my office last week, how to spend that money to give Israel the means by which they can defend themselves.
But this Government and this President will never abandon Israel. We will always support Israel, and we will always make sure that Israel has the means by which to defend themselves.
I want to say one more thing, and then I'll close this answer. Israel's got one sure friend, and that's the United States of America. And I look with great concern and disgust at a growing clamor around the world, even making the ridiculous charge that Zionism is the same as racism. That's an outrage and a disgrace to human beings.
And I'm not asking you—Miss Teitelbaum, right?—I'm not asking you to give me your support or to approve everything I do. But let me say this: It's important for Israel, for a President like me, to have your support in carrying out the agreements made at Camp David and with the treaty. I need your help and I need your support.
God knows that politics is secondary to me when it comes to the defense and the strengthening and the peace and the security of Israel. But I think that our Government, which has already done so much—working with Sadat and Begin and others to make this major move toward peace—really needs the unity and the support and the understanding of making further progress. Condemnations and criticisms during these transient times, I don't believe help Israel. I don't want you to approve everything I do, but I need your support and your prayers that my future efforts, along with those of the Israelis and Egyptians, will be as successful as they have been in the last 12 months.
OCTOBER 10, 1979
U.S. POLICY TOWARDS ISRAEL
Q. Mr. President, Simon Weber, Jewish Daily Forward, New York. As an ethnic newspaper, we have a special interest in Israel -
THE PRESIDENT. So do I.
Q. —and of course we are concerned with all the problems of the United States. But there is a feeling in the Jewish community your administration is kind of pressing hard on Israel, in the case of Lebanon, in the case of the Palestinians. Would you explain that?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I will. I think I would prefer to let Foreign Minister Dayan speak for me. I'm sure you're familiar with the comment that he made.
THE PRESIDENT. And he has a good clear insight into the relationships, both public and in the private negotiations between Israel and the United States. I could not have said it better. Neither could Jody Powell have said it better.
We have opened up public discussion and public debate and private negotiation on matters that were previously avoided because they are controversial. But I think it's well to remember that about a year ago, we had the Camp David accords signed, not just by me, not just by President Sadat, but by me, Begin, and Sadat. And then about 6 months ago, we had the Mideast peace treaty signed and approved by all three of us. The progress has been sometimes faltering, sometimes epitomized by dispute, sometimes by allegations that the United States has been unfair to Israel or unfair to the Arab countries or unfair to Egypt or unfair to the Palestinians or unfair to Lebanon.
I think we've had a well-balanced approach. We have, as a primary concern-primary concern—the security of Israel, the existence of Israel, leading toward peace for the people who live in Israel with not just Egypt but all their neighbors. That's our first concern. And along with that, of course, is to seek for a comprehensive agreement between Israel and all her neighbors. I think we've had good progress so far.
We believe that there can be no permanent peace without a resolution of the Palestinian question in all its aspects, to use the language that Prime Minister Begin himself adopted in the Camp David accords. And I think as far as Lebanon is concerned, we deplore violence in the northern part of Israel and the southern part of Lebanon, no matter where it originates. We abhor the use of terrorism by some of the Palestinians to effectuate their cause. We think this is a sad and deplorable mistake. And we hope to see a relationship between Israel and the people of Lebanon, including Palestinians, which would lead to a peaceful relationship.
But we don't put any pressure on Israel. It would be counterproductive if we did. And I believe that Prime Minister Begin would join in with Foreign Minister Dayan in certifying that our approach has been responsible and fair.
I can't deny that there have been occasions when the Israelis have felt that we took a biased position, and I can't deny either that there have been times when the Arab countries feel that our position is biased toward Israel. But I describe to you the same order of priorities that I would describe to Sadat: first of all, the existence and security of Israel; secondly, the effectuation of peace between Israel and her neighbors, all her neighbors; and third, a recognition that a resolution of the Palestinian question has to be a prerequisite to a permanent peace in the Mideast.
Source: Public Papers of the President