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Jimmy Carter Administration:
News Conferences & Interviews on the Middle East/Israel

(1980)


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FEBRUARY 25, 1980

LEBANON; U.S. BASES IN PERSIAN GULF AREA

Q. Mr. President, Senator Jackson recently suggested that this country work together with Israel and Egypt to provide bases and military support to secure the Persian Gulf area. Is the Government planning to do this? And would you also comment on recent reports that the Soviet Union has delivered 60 tanks, as well as other military equipment, to the Palestinian terrorists in southern Lebanon?

THE PRESIDENT. We don't have any evidence of that delivery of tanks to the Palestinian terrorists in southern Lebanon, but I can't certify that they have not delivered some tanks.

Secondly, we've not had any offer by either country of a U.S. base on their own territory. We have had offers of the use of facilities. For instance, during the recent crisis, when we were moving our sea forces into the Gulf of Arabia, we did use Egyptian facilities for some of our observation planes and other Air Force units. The Israelis have offered us the use of their facilities in Haifa for some of our naval forces. There have been occasions when the Israelis offered us the use of Egyptian bases, and perhaps vice versa.

But I think that all of the countries, including Israel and the Arab countries, would not want American bases to be established on their own territory, because this has the connotation of American sovereignty there. We do have some bases around the world, as you know, based on our controlling that actual territory.

But an alternative that's adequate for us is to have the right, through prior agreement, to use facilities for planes or ships, and this is what we are exploring in that region. Three nations that you didn't mention, by the way, would be Kenya and Oman and Somalia. But to establish a so-called American base with an implied sovereignty over an area of land, even though it would just encompass a military base, is something that we are not exploring.

Q. So, you feel that you already have that use of facilities from Egypt and Israel?

THE PRESIDENT. We are developing that use of facilities in several countries in that region, including the ones I've just named, but not as a military base. We do have the offer from Israel and Egypt to use their facilities when necessary in time of crisis.

MARCH 14, 1980

ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS

Q. Mr. President, is Israel keeping faith with the Camp David accords and the autonomy talks, when by government policy it continues to confiscate the land of Palestinians?

THE PRESIDENT. There is nothing specifically in the Camp David accords concerning the settlements themselves. There is an agreement in the treaty between Israel and Egypt about settlements that have been established in the Sinai region, which is Egyptian territory. I might say concerning that, that our policy is set by me, as President. There has been no, change in our policy. That policy is guided by U.N. Resolution 242 and 338, the basis of all of our negotiations; by every word in the Camp David accords, signed by me on behalf of our Nation; and by Begin and Sadat on behalf of Israel and Egypt. We intend to carry out that agreement.

Right now we are indulged in some very difficult but very important discussions and negotiations to establish full autonomy on the West Bank, Gaza area. I believe that these discussions can be successful. It's crucial to our own Nation's security that they be successful, that we have peace in the Middle East; and, it's, I think, crucial to the whole region that these discussions be successful.

I might add one other point. It's not easy. We've had tedious negotiations at Camp David. We had tedious negotiations almost exactly a year ago, when we finally concluded and signed the Mideast peace treaty. Our principles are well known by Prime Minister Begin and by President Sadat, and I stay constantly in touch with them and our negotiators to make sure that we are successful.

I believe that we will have peace in the Middle East, with a secure Israel behind recognized borders, with the Palestinian question being resolved in all its aspects, and with peace between Israel and her neighbors.

Q. You say the policy is set by you.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

Q. And this is a question about the recent mix-up on the U.N. resolution. My question really goes to process. The resolution was not the resolution that you wanted. Are you the only one who can determine that it's not the resolution you want? Does your staff not know when it's not a resolution that you want, or is it possible that some of your foreign policy advisers are trying to make policy for you?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think anybody in my administration doubts that I'm the one that sets the policy. The U.N. resolution, as it was passed, was not in accordance with the policy that I have established. It was not in accordance with the agreements that I had made with Prime Minister Begin, well understood by President Sadat.

We had agreed among us that we did not approve, as an American Government, of the settlements on the West Bank and Gaza area—that they were an obstacle to peace. But we also had agreed that during the time of the negotiations, we would not call for the dismantling of existing settlements. That was to be resolved as an issue in the ongoing negotiations.

Also, President Sadat, Prime Minister Begin, and I agreed on a paragraph in the Camp David accords concerning Jerusalem. It called for, and we still believe, that there should be an undivided Jerusalem, but that those who look upon those places in Jerusalem as holy places, should have unimpeded access to them for worship.

This resolution in the U.N. violated those two very important and basic principles. Those issues have not yet been resolved. There is nothing in this resolution at the U.N. that established the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza area. That will be established after a Syear interval period, during which full autonomy is enjoyed by the residents of the area. So, the resolution was in violation of my policy.

I might say that I have absolute confidence in Secretary Vance. I have seen him days and days and weeks negotiating to achieve the security of Israel and the peace of Israel. It was an honest breakdown in communications between me and the United Nations. I'm responsible for anything that goes wrong in this Government, and I'm also responsible, on occasion, for things that go right. Secretary Vance is responsible for the State Department. But to say exactly how the communications broke down is very difficult to do.

But I made it known as quickly as I discovered it, that this resolution did violate the policy and disavowed our vote for it.

APRIL 10, 1980

U.N. RESOLUTION ON ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS AND JERUSALEM

Q. Mr. President, I have a couple of political questions. Why did you let Secretary Vance take the fall for the U.N. resolution vote on the Israeli settlements? Shouldn't you have fired him or taken responsibility yourself, as Eisenhower did with the U-2 and Kennedy did with the Bay of Pigs?

THE PRESIDENT. Cy and I considered that there was enough blame or culpability to go around, and we both took a maximum amount. [Laughter] Politically speaking—and as I said to news people-personally, I'm responsible for anything that goes on in our Nation.

It would obviously have been better, in retrospect, for me to study very carefully the text of the U.N. resolution for which I approved a positive vote. My understanding was that there were no references in the text at all to Jerusalem and that we would clearly make sure that the world understood that we did not favor demanding publicly the dismantling of the existing settlements. Those two items had been discussed between me and Begin at Camp David, and Sadat understood our position. And I feel now, and felt then, that for us to be clearly on the record as favoring those two parts of the resolution are in contradiction to the further peace prospects that we are now pursuing.

But it was a matter of Cy Vance being responsible for what happened at the State Department. I'm responsible for everything that happens in the Government, including the error that was made.

APRIL 12, 1980

MIDDLE EAST PEACE NEGOTIATIONS

Q. But you yourself, Mr. President, wish to see the Camp David agreement fully implemented. Unfortunately we seem still very far away from that end. How do you intend to make Mr. Begin change his mind?

THE PRESIDENT. We all change our minds. I think it would be a mistake for me at this point to predict what's going to happen in the future. I'll be meeting with Prime Minister Begin this next week; I met with President Sadat this week.

If you would go back 2 years at the situation then and compare what has been accomplished during this period, it is indeed almost a miracle. Then no Arab nation would even speak to Israel nor recognize its right to exist nor negotiate with it. Now we have the most powerful Arab nation of all recognizing Israel as a country; ambassadorial exchanges have been made; the borders are open; trade is being enhanced and negotiating taking place on a daily basis.

The commitment has been made by Prime Minister Begin himself to grant full autonomy to the Palestinians on the West Bank, to resolve the Palestinian question in all its aspects, to give the Palestinians a voice in the determination of their own future.

These are the kinds of things that were inconceivable 2 years ago. I know how difficult it was for Prime Minister Begin to agree, for instance, to withdraw from the Sinai and to commit himself to give up oil wells that were vital to Israel's security and also to agree that the Israeli settlers in the Sinai would be withdrawn in the next phase.

The Egyptian-Israeli treaty has been honored meticulously by both sides. And I don't anticipate any ease of success in future negotiations between Israel, Egypt, and all her neighbors, but we're making the best effort we can. And there have been very good and very profound concessions made on both sides in an effort to achieve peace in this vital area of the world.

Q. Mr. President, you refer to the French action in Africa. What about the Middle East? President Giscard d'Estaing has made a statement, and it looks like the European countries agree with his conclusions. According to your opinion, is that policy helping or damaging your own policy in that situation?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't agree with the statements made by President Giscard d'Estaing, but I certainly recognize his right to make them. And I'm not sure that all of the European countries agree completely with what he has said.

In my opinion, the best opportunity for the realization of our hopes, which are common among all of us, in the Mideast, surrounding Israel, rests in the further progress to be envisioned under the Camp David accords. It is a basis for an adequate peace settlement for Israel and all her neighbors. I don't believe that President Giscard d'Estaing has put forward an alternative negotiating process, that would be acceptable by the parties in dispute, that might replace the Camp David accords.

The Palestinians have legitimate rights, which we are trying to honor. They have a right to a voice in the determination of their own future. These two statements, among others, have been recognized by not only ourselves and the Egyptians but also by the Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Begin.

So, I believe that it would be better for the European countries to give us a chance to continue the Camp David process unless there is a clear vision or delineation of a preferable alternative, and I see no prospects of this being put forward.

Some have moved toward a recognition of the PLO. We have no intention of recognizing the PLO nor of negotiating with the PLO until they first acknowledge the effectiveness and authenticity of the United Nations Resolution 242 and also recognize Israel's right to exist. This is a clear policy of ours which will be honored.

But we are as determined as others to see the refugee question resolved, full autonomy established in the West Bank/ Gaza, a secure Israel, recognized borders, and peace.

ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS

Q. Mr. President, with the settlement policy, particularly on the West Bank, your Government has told Israel that you oppose that, and yet they go on snubbing you, if you like, even humiliating the United States by keeping on the settlements, like even in Hebron and so on. Why don't you actually take a step like reducing aid to Israel by the amount that it costs for the settlements?

THE PRESIDENT. We have a respect for Israel's independence and .autonomy as a nation, just as we respect the independence and autonomy—

Q. But the West Bank is not an independent nation, is it?

THE PRESIDENT. The decision made by Israel in their Government is worthy of respect as an independent nation, just as we respect the right of Great Britain to disagree with us, or other nations as well. Our position on the settlements is very clear. We do not think they are legal, and they are obviously an impediment to peace. The Israeli Government, however, feels that they have a right to those settlements.

Under the Camp David accords, the Israelis have committed themselves to withdraw their military government and its civilian administration and then to redeploy military forces in selected security locations. When and if this is done, in my judgment, the basic question of the settlements will effectively be resolved. The Israelis will still maintain that Jewish citizens, Israeli citizens have a fight to live wherever they choose. As you know, many Arabs live in Israel itself.

But the ultimate status of the West Bank and Gaza is to be negotiated among Israel, the people who live in the region, the Jordanians, and the Egyptians. And this is what has been already prescribed in the Camp David agreement. There are obviously very strong differences of opinion between Israel and her neighbors, and between Israel and us on this particular instance, but we have to honor those differences and work as best we can to resolve those differences peacefully.

APRIL 19, 1980

MIDDLE EAST PEACE NEGOTIATIONS

Q. Mr. President, in the last 10 days, Mr. President, you've talked with the leaders of Israel and Egypt at length about their negotiations on Palestinian autonomy, and you've said, today in fact, that the problems look less formidable now. Can you tell us where the give is and where you see the hope that these two parties might reach agreement by May 26 or any other time in the near future?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not able and have never been able to speak for Egypt or to speak for Israel. The negotiation is basically between those two countries. We have faced much more formidable obstacles in the past than we presently face, both prior to the Camp David accords and also prior to the Mideast peace treaty conclusion.

Now we are carrying out the Camp David agreement. When I discuss these matters with President Sadat or Prime Minister Begin, they have never deviated one iota from the exact language and the exact provisions of the Camp David accords. It's looked on almost as a sacred document. There are differences of interpretation about what is actually meant by "a refugee" or what is actually meant by "full autonomy" and so forth.

But we're now in the process of negotiating how much authority and power and influence and responsibility to give to the self-governing authority, how exactly it will be composed—those are the two basic questions—and how that selfgoverning authority is to be chosen. And once that's decided, Israel is completely ready to withdraw their military government, the civilian administration, to withdraw their own forces and to redeploy them in specified security locations, and to let those new duties and responsibilities be assumed by the Palestinian Arabs who live in the West Bank/Gaza.

That will be a major step forward. And if we can accomplish that, then the details of exactly how to administer water rights and exactly how to administer land and how to administer other specific elements of security, like controlling terrorism, which are now the difficult issues being negotiated, I think will be resolved without delay.

MAY 31, 1979

MR. SCHORR. Mr. President, on the tangled skein of international problems you could start almost anywhere—

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

MR. SCHORR.—but let us start, because it's current, on the problem of Palestinian autonomy talks. They have reached a snag, if not broken down altogether. The Europeans now appear to be getting ready with some kind of initiative in which they're going to move ahead in a pro-Palestinian direction. Are you worried about it? If so, what can you do about it?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I'm worried about it and have been for the last 3 years or so. It's important to put this thing in perspective. Two years ago nobody thought that there would be any direct talks between an Arab country and the Israelis under any circumstances or that there could be peace between the major Arab nation of Egypt and Israel; or nobody dreamed that there would be diplomatic relations established and tourists flying back and forth between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on the one hand, and Alexandria and Cairo on the other.

We've had enormous progress already made, because of the courage and the conviction of the Israeli and the Egyptian leaders. Before the Mideast peace treaty was signed in front of the White House here, a little more than a year ago, and before the Camp David agreement was reached, we had equally difficult and intransigent problems to address, and there was an equally discouraged attitude among some who didn't have faith in the peace process.

We've got to maintain the basis for the peace negotiations—twofold: One is United Nations Resolution 242, and secondly, the Camp David accords, which have become almost like a bible between Israel and Egypt as we get into these detailed negotiations.

As you know, there is a sharp difference of opinion now between Israel and Egypt about how rapidly to move forward on full autonomy, a common commitment; how rapidly to move forward on the withdrawal of the Israeli forces, military forces, and the administrative government there; how to set up the security locations on the West Bank to protect Israel from external aggression; and how to deal with water rights, how to deal with land rights. These kinds of things are extremely hard to resolve, but we are down to what you might call the nitty gritty now. The issues have been clearly defined.

Lately there's been a sharp difference of opinion evolved within the Government of Israel, and we are waiting now for Israel and Egypt to get back together. We're very eager to see this done. My prediction to you is that without very much more delay we will be back at the negotiating table, making progress again toward a Mideast peace treaty on that basis, and full autonomy for the West Bank, Gaza.

As far as the European nations are concerned, they have the same hope that we do: that the issue of autonomy on the West Bank, the resolution of the Palestinian problem, the provision of security for Israel, a permanent peace in the Middle East, comprehensively negotiated with Israel's neighbors—we have the same goals. I don't believe that the Europeans will make any move within the next couple of weeks.

MR. SCHORR. You don't?

THE PRESIDENT. No.

MR. SCHORR. They're meeting in Venice.

THE PRESIDENT. We will all meet in Venice, seven of us, the last part of June, June 22. The European Community members will meet, I think, the 12th or 13th of June. There will certainly, almost certainly, be no action by them before that date. We are encouraging the European allies not to intervene in the negotiations as long as we are meeting and are making progress toward a Mideast peace settlement.

I can't control them. They obviously have opinions of their own. That's been proven many times. Neither can I control Israel and Egypt. We have a conciliatory role to play and an intermediary role to play. We keep the talks going. Both nations depend on us. And to the extent that they trust me and trust our Nation's inclinations and commitments toward peace and toward fairness, to that extent we'll have the prospect of success.

So, to summarize: We have a good basis; the issues are clearly defined; Israel and Egypt both want a peace settlement. We are asking the European allies not to get involved in it for the time being.

MR. SCHORR. Have they agreed not to?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't believe they'll do it for the next couple of weeks, which I believe will be enough time to get us back at the bargaining table. And even if they do come in, we will not permit in the United Nations any action that would destroy the sanctity of and the present form of U.N. 242.

MR. SCHORR. You've got a firm grip now on what happens in the United Nations?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we've got a veto power that we can exercise, if necessary, to prevent this Camp David process from being destroyed or subverted, and I would not hesitate to use it if necessary.

JUNE 12, 1980

Q. The European Community is considering an initiative and, on the other hand, the United States is trying to get together again the Israelis and the Egyptians. What do you think at this point the situation will be?

THE PRESIDENT. It's important, very quickly, to look at this Mideast effort in perspective. Two years ago, it was inconceivable that Israel and Egypt would be sitting down together working on ways to alleviate tensions between them, with open borders and diplomatic recognition, exchange of ambassadors, tourism, trade being established.

The Camp David accords have brought that progress into being. Both Israel and Egypt will be meeting with us shortly, here in Washington, to resume the talks. The Camp David accords outline a way to resolve the Palestinian issue, to give the Palestinians a voice in the determination of their own future, to resolve the Palestinian question in all of its aspects.

These phrases that I've just quoted to you have been approved specifically not only by myself and President Sadat but also by Prime Minister Begin and, subsequently, ratified by the Israeli Knesset.

So, we have a basis here for progress. It is obvious to everyone that the relationship between Israel and her neighbors is crucial to the stability and the maintenance of peace in the Mideast. And this Camp David process is the only one in the last 30 years that has made any progress in guaranteeing to the Palestinians the realization of their own rights.

So, I'm committed to the Camp David process. If the European nations—the Community wants to take actions that are constructive, we will welcome this. But to subvert or to cancel or to bypass the Camp David process, we believe, would be a very serious mistake.

Q. Do you really hope in a breakthrough at this time?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. We've had them before. When we went to Camp David there was no prospect then of an assured success, but almost miraculously, the Egyptians and the Israelis reached an agreement on basic principles, under which we are presently working. And later, when I went to the Mideast, it was to salvage what seemed to be a hopeless breakdown in their relationships, and from that came the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt with the return of the Sinai to Egypt and the establishment of these good relationships.

Now we do face difficulties and I can't guarantee success, but I guarantee that we will continue to work for success with the best possible avenue being the use of and the building upon the Camp David accords.

Q. Will you personally be involved again in it?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I am personally involved almost on a daily basis in directing the Secretary of State and our negotiators and in dealing directly with the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of Egypt. And I'll be meeting with other leaders from time to time. We have a good correspondence with the Saudis, for instance, who have a beneficial influence on occasion. The King of Jordan will be here to meet with me for 2 days prior to the time that I come to Italy.

So, we are exploring every possible avenue of success in the Mideast and trying to provide stability there while the nations involved search for peace.

Q. Do you expect a meeting with Sadat and Begin?

THE PRESIDENT. Not any time soon, but they are always willing and eager to join me in discussions when it's necessary to meet at that highest level.

JUNE 13, 1980

MIDDLE EAST: ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS

Q. I'm Leo Goldberger of The Hebrew Watchman of Memphis, Tennessee. Mr. President, Jordan occupied the West Bank when the armistice was signed following the war of 1948. No nation at that time or for 19 years later called for the autonomy for the Palestinians during that time. In 1967, Israel liberated Judea and Samaria, and the Israel Government started its settlements in that area. My question is, why do you call these settlements illegal, and what court or international body made this ruling on which you base your statement?

THE PRESIDENT. We consider these settlements to be contrary to the Geneva Convention, that occupied territories should not be changed by the establishment of permanent settlements by the occupying power. The ultimate status of the West Bank and Gaza area will be determined in accordance with the agreement reached at Camp David, through negotiations, after the self government is installed in the West Bank and Gaza.

We have long maintained this position under the administration of previous Presidents, back at least 15 years, that the establishment of settlements in that area was contrary to progress toward a comprehensive peace. I discussed this at length, as you can well imagine, with Prime Minister Begin and others in the Israeli Government. They obviously have a difference of opinion. And there's a strong difference of opinion, I might say, within Israel itself, about whether there should be a cessation of the construction of additional settlements until a peace agreement is reached. This is a very disturbing matter for the Egyptians and for others that would have to join in with Israel on a comprehensive peace agreement.

We have not changed the American policy since the time when Arthur Goldberg was our delegate to the United Nations and when U.N. 242 was hammered out. We've repeated this policy on our part. We have encouraged the Israelis to restrain themselves on the establishment of settlements.

I might point out that within the Camp David accords—and I wish all of you would reread the text, because this is the text that we follow meticulously—that was approved by Prime Minister Begin himself, that does call for the establishment of Israeli security posts at agreed locations 1 to make sure that Israel does have adequate protection against any sort of outside invasion, and there can be forward-based troops as determined by Israel and others which would protect Israel in case of an invasion. That's our basic policy. It has not changed for many, many years.

MIDDLE EAST: EUROPEAN PROPOSALS FOR PEACE PROCESS

Q. Mr. President, our European allies in a meeting already have taken the position which indicates that the PLO should be made a part of the negotiating process. How would you characterize this action in keeping with your earlier remarks that you would attempt to restrain our allies from taking steps that would be injurious to the Camp David process?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't seen the text of what the allies have decided. My understanding is that the foreign minister level has recommended to the heads of state a draft proposal. This is a sharp division among the heads of state themselves. It wouldn't be proper for me to reveal what I know about their attitudes. Some of them do not want to refer to the PLO specifically, but just refer to Palestinians or Palestinian Arabs. We have avoided any reference to the PLO as a negotiating partner, but we have referred-in agreement with Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat—we've referred to Palestinians and to Palestinian Arabs.

We will not negotiate with the PLO, and we will not recognize the PLO status until after the PLO recognizes Israel's right to exist and until the PLO also recognizes that U.N. 242—resolution—is a basis for further progress for a comprehensive settlement.

So, whatever the European allies might do about this, our position is clear and as I've just stated to you.

MIDDLE EAST: KING HUSSEIN'S ROLE IN PEACE PROCESS

Q. Mr. President, Doris Sky from the Intermountain Jewish News in Denver. Mr. President, King Hussein will be in Washington in a few days. Do you feel that at this time he may be ready to assume any active and public role in the Mideast peace process, and can you tell us if and how you plan to encourage him to take a more active role?

THE PRESIDENT. As you know, under the Camp David accords, as signed by all three heads of state, including myself, we call for Jordan to join the Camp David negotiations in two phases: The first phase is the one that's going on now, which would establish the self-governing authority, in effect, and with its very difficult but very important elements. And then following the establishment of that self-governing authority, there would be a period of 5 years under the self-governing authority, during which Israel and Jordan and the Palestinian Arabs who live in the West Bank/Gaza area would join in the negotiations to determine the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza area.

I will certainly encourage King Hussein to join in these talks as soon as it's possible for him to agree to do so. This has been our position since the Camp David agreement was reached. I can't speak for him. His position has not been one of cooperation on the Camp David accords so far. One of the reasons that he states is that he was not adequately consulted before the terms of the Camp David accords were reached by me and Begin and Sadat and, therefore, this is an imposed agreement demanding that he join the talks when he was not involved in the decision itself.

But this will be the first time I've met personally with King Hussein since Camp David, and I'll use all of the persuasive power that I have to encourage him, within the bounds of his own decisions-of course, he represents an independent nation—to be constructive in bringing about a comprehensive peace. And I'll try to convince him that the best procedure for doing this is in accordance with the Camp David accord itself.

MIDDLE EAST: EUROPEAN INVOLVEMENT IN PEACE PROCESS

Q. Mr. President, at the United Nations, our Representative vetoed once, abstained two times in the past few weeks, on matters relating to Israel and the Middle East. Now, we had in that process complete opposition from the international community, including Scandinavian countries, England, and France. What hope is there of regaining some sort of cooperation from the international community in behalf of a peaceful resolution of the serious issues in the Middle East?

THE PRESIDENT. You've described the situation accurately. The best hope that I can see is demonstrable progress under the Camp David process. One of the reasons why there's such an absence of support for Israel's position is that many of the former friends and allies of Israel don't think that the Camp David talks are going to succeed.

To the extent that we make progress, those European nations—the Scandinavian countries and others—I think will come back to a more balanced approach to the question. And if we can ever get the Palestinian Arabs and the refugees represented in the talks through the West Bank mayors, the Gaza mayors, and others, I think this will alleviate tension considerably and not only will stop the rash of U.N. resolutions but also will strengthen support for a balanced decision on those matters.

So, I would say that—to answer your question—demonstrated progress on the Camp David accords, which we have reached at Camp David itself and with the Mideast peace talks, is the best solution to the problem.

MIDDLE EAST: ISRAELI MILITARY OUTPOSTS AND CIVILIAN SETTLEMENTS

Q. Mr. President, may I take you back to an earlier statement you made, that military outposts will be, and I quote you correctly, I believe, "to be determined by Israel and others."

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

Q. Who else, besides Israel, is to determine Israel's security on the West Bank, and the second part of the question is—

THE PRESIDENT. The phrase that's used in the Camp David accord is agreed locations 2 and the presumption there is that Israel would make proposals about where those outposts were to be made, and if there is a comprehensive settlement, the others would be involved. But I would say the primary choice of those outposts would be with Israel.

2 The correct quotation is "specified locations." [White House correction.]

We discussed at Camp David, along with Mr. Weizman and Dayan and Prime Minister Begin, the possible location of those outposts and the possible level of military forces to be stationed there, but no decision was made. The tentative places and figures put forward by the military leaders seem to be generally acceptable. If Israel proposed a location or a series of locations that was not acceptable, then Israel would not have to agree to the overall settlement.

So, I would say that the basic presumption would be that Israel would make their choices, and the basic presumption is that within the framework of a comprehensive settlement—to be decided by Jordan and the Palestinian Arabs and others—that those choices would be approved, but nobody can take that away from Israel as the prime one.

Q. May I follow up on that, Mr. President, please? It could be possible, of course, and it has been the practice of Israeli governments, present and past, to establish settlements on the West Bank for security purposes.

THE PRESIDENT. I know that.

Q. And a civilian settlement could be for security, as well as a military-manned outpost.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

Q. Therefore; isn't it possible and legal, even under the Geneva Convention—and Israelis, many of them, think that the opposition to settlements is a political issue and not a legal issue—but apart from that, since a civilian settlement also could be considered military, would you then agree that it is worthwhile for Israel to establish settlements on the West Bank for defensive purposes?

THE PRESIDENT. In my opinion, the establishment of additional Israeli settlements on the West Bank is not necessary. It is an obstacle to peace, because it creates very serious problems in reaching a comprehensive agreement. In my opinion, the Camp David accords, signed by Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat and myself, prescribe an adequate commitment to Israel's security; that is, that the military government will be withdrawn and that security posts at agreed locations will be established.

We have not demanded from Israel that any settlements be dismantled. We have requested from Prime Minister Begin and others that the establishment of new settlements be ceased until after an agreement could be reached, in order to expedite the process. Israel disagrees. Their Government makes the decision, and they have so far carried those decisions out. What Prime Minister Begin has described to me is an extension of existing settlements, and he did agree to a temporary moratorium or delay in the establishment of new settlements after Camp David.

So, I would not be willing to endorse the concept of establishing civilian settlements on the West Bank, but I do endorse the concept that Jews should have a right to live where they choose and Jews should have a right to leave a place of their choosing.

The thing that is troubling about the establishment of settlements under the aegis and with the sponsorship and sometimes the financing of the Israeli Government is that it indicates to the Palestinian Arabs, to the Egyptians, and to others, that Israel will not carry out the principles of the Camp David accord in withdrawing their government, military government, and establishing the security outposts. This is a long-time position of the United States. It's one that has been discussed clearly with Prime Minister Begin, and it does not mean at all that we oppose Jews living where they choose, including on the West Bank.

Ms. BARIO. 3 Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Just one more. I'll take one more.

3 Patricia Y. Bario, Deputy Press Secretary.

Q. Mr. President, let me make one comment. I think the Camp David agreement talks about specified locations, not agreed locations. That was a clear difference that the Israelis had requested to make—at least from the Israeli point of view—clear that they were the ones that would specify the locations—there wouldn't be an agreement necessary.

THE PRESIDENT. You may be right. I'll let somebody bring the text back to you in just a few minutes and read it to you.

SEPTEMBER 2, 1980

THE MIDDLE EAST

Q. Hello. As a host sister to an Egyptian student who's here in the local area studying year-long, I would like to ask, are there any indications of change in America's policy with Egypt and the Middle East in the near future?

THE PRESIDENT. We will not change our policy in the Middle East anytime in the foreseeable future.

It's easy for us to get discouraged about the faltering, sometimes excessive delays in the peace process that was initiated at Camp David exactly 2 years ago. Before we went there, with myself and Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat, nobody thought we'd be successful. I had serious doubts, and of course, I think Begin and Sadat had even more serious doubts that we could bring peace between two nations whose whole existence the last 30 years had been based on the prospective war and sometimes intense hatred among their people. In 30 years at that time four different wars had broken out between Israel and Egypt.

We were successful at Camp David. There is now a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, and we're working with great determination to continue that process and to bring a comprehensive peace to the Middle East with security for Israel and with the realization of the legitimate aims of the Palestinian people. This is something that Begin, Sadat, and I have all agreed to do.

We've had some setbacks lately. The peace process is still alive. President Sadat has called for another summit conference sometime later on this year. I'm sure that when the invitations are extended for that summit conference that Prime Minister Begin would also respond affirmatively. I have just sent, last Friday night, Sol Linowitz, my chief negotiator, back to see Prime Minister Begin. So far, tomorrow he'll go to Egypt to talk to President Sadat. When he comes back we'll have a clearer picture of what are the prospects for immediate progress.

But I think it would be a mistake for the American people to give up hope and to be discouraged because of transient obstacles that are foreseeable. I think if you talk to President Sadat or Prime Minister Begin, you would find that they are very gratified at what's taken place so far. And when I see Egyptian Ambassadors in Tel Aviv and Israeli Ambassadors in Cairo, when I see the borders open, airplane flights now back and forth between Alexandria and Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and Cairo, tourists going back and forth, it really thrills my heart.

In the last week there have been a series of top Israeli officials who have been over to visit Sadat. Prime Minister Begin has not visited with him lately. But the peace prospect is still alive, and this is an important thing, not only for Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, but it's also extremely important for our country.

I'm glad that our Nation is strong; I'm glad that for the last 4 years we have been at peace. I pray God that when I go out of office—hopefully the end of the next 4 years—we will have been at peace for 8 years. And I'm also proud that peace in the Middle East has brought our own Nation additional security. Our policy with the Middle East has not changed and is not going to change.

PALESTINIAN SELF-DETERMINATION

Q. Okay. My name is Mohammed Madani. I'm from Jordan, and I'm a student here. Mr. President, you are the only American President so far who mentioned about the Palestinian people homeland, they should have—

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

Q. So, my question is, American Government has 99 percent of the Palestinian problem solution in its hand, so why until now are you still ignoring the Palestinian people rights and you don't solve their problem? As you can see, President Sadat gave Israel a full chance to do justice, but Israel refused. And remember, Mr. President, if the Palestinian people lost faith in the past American Government, and they still have faith in you.

Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much. Let me try to answer your question very briefly.

I don't know if you've had a chance to read the text of the Camp David accords. It's only a few pages, and if you'll give one of my aides here your name and address we'll send you a copy of it. It's a very interesting document, which points out that Prime Minister Begin, speaking for Israel, and President Sadat, speaking for Egypt, and myself committed ourselves to the resolving of the Palestinian issue in all its aspects, and it gives the Palestinian people—the Israelis say "Palestinian Arab people"—a voice in the determination of their own future.

For a long time, certainly since—in the last two or three decades we have had practically no progress made toward bringing peace between Israel and her neighbors nor recognizing the problem with the refugees and the Palestinians themselves. I don't claim that we've done enough yet, but we have laid a groundwork now, a basis for future progress. There is no reason for the Palestinian people to deny the good will that President Sadat has expressed in the Camp David accords and that I have expressed with my signature on the Camp David accords. The basic problem is still how to deal with the security of Israel being preserved and the peace between Israel and her neighbors, and the resolution of the Palestinian question in all its complicated aspects and the giving of the Palestinian people a voice in the determination of their own future. That is a complicated series of questions to resolve, but the fact is that for the first time in the history of the Mideast, Israel, Egypt, and the United States are committed to doing exactly what I've just outlined to you so briefly.

We cannot forget the Palestinian issue. It's foremost in the minds of the leaders of Israel and Egypt and the United States, along with the security of Israel, the unity of the city of Jerusalem, free access to the city of Jerusalem for the worship by all people. I hope that when the history books are written about my own administration, that a small paragraph at least will say that President Jimmy Carter was able to contribute to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East when Israel stayed secure, when Jerusalem was honored by those of all faiths, and the Palestinian people had a voice in the determination of their own future and the issue was solved in all its aspects. That's what I'm going to work for continuously.

SEPTEMBER 18, 1980

THE MIDDLE EAST

Q. Mr. President, yesterday, after meeting with Foreign Minister Berg of Israel and Hassan Ali of Egypt, you said without elaboration that unanticipated progress had been made in restarting those trilateral talks here in Washington on Palestinian autonomy.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

Q. But Foreign Minister Berg said today those initial discussions would not include the issue of Jerusalem. Given the importance of that issue, what progress has been made this week, and what's the cause of your optimism?

THE PRESIDENT. When Sol Linowitz went to Jerusalem and to Egypt a few weeks ago and met with Foreign Minister Shamir and with General Hassan Ali, and also with Prime Minister Begin and President Sadat, we were pleasantly surprised after a fairly long dearth of direct contacts between Israel and Egypt to find both nations eager to get back to the negotiating table.

Yesterday, after they left my office, Sol Linowitz, Mr. Shamir, General Ali, sat down to continue top-level negotiations to try to find a basis for carrying out the comprehensive peace.

Following Sol Linowitz' trip to the Mideast, President Sadat announced, both before and after he arrived, that he was eager to see a summit conference later this year. Prime Minister Begin had not until that time made that statement. Prime Minister Begin called me on the telephone to say that the Linowitz mission had been remarkably successful, to thank us for what he had contributed, and to say that he would be eager to meet with me and President Sadat at a summit conference either before or after the American elections were concluded.

We will work that out. I am determined that the prospect for a summit meeting will not interfere with the substantive negotiations that must precede it. And I think the fact that yesterday and today the Foreign Ministers of the two countries are negotiating again in the presence of the American Ambassador assigned that task is indeed encouraging in itself.

OCTOBER 2, 1980

THE MIDDLE EAST

Q. Good afternoon, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon.

Q. My name is Tony Mann, and I'm from Dayton, Ohio. My question is, with the conflict and terrorism continuing in the Middle East, what new measures are the United States now taking or planning to take to bring stability and lasting peace to that area of the world?

THE PRESIDENT. Our security is directly related to stability in the Middle East and particularly to the preservation of the existence and the freedom and, hopefully, the peace of Israel.

One of the most exciting times of my administration so far has been when President Sadat, Prime Minister Begin, and I forged the Camp David accords, followed up by a treaty between Egypt, that's by far the most powerful and influential Arab nation, and her neighbor, Israel. And now, of course, they have normal commerce, the borders are open, the tourists go to and from Israel and Egypt, they have ambassadors in both countries. Instead of confronting each other across barbed wire with machine gun bullets and tanks, they confront each other now with negotiating. This is a very fine development and, I think, helps to stabilize the western part of the Mideast area, that is, the part that borders on the Mediterranean.

OCTOBER 16, 1980

JERUSALEM

Q. Hello, Mr. President. In your 1980 platform you stated that you would like to have a United States Embassy moved to Jerusalem. In that light I would like to ask you to sign a petition saying to the people of Israel, "You are not alone. We are united with you in proudly affirming that united Jerusalem is an integral part of the sovereign state of Israel and is its capital city. To this we pledge our complete and unswerving support. Be strong. Be strong and let us strengthen one another."

THE PRESIDENT. I have not supported that particular element of the Democratic Party platform, and I'll tell you why.

AUDIENCE MEMBER. You haven't supported Israel either.

THE PRESIDENT. We have worked, as you know, with the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of Egypt, both at Camp David and subsequently, to have a peace between Israel and her major Arab nation, who's a neighbor. There is no way that any successful attempt could be made against Israel militarily absent Egypt, and now, as you know, the borders are open between the two countries, regular airplane flights go back and forth, tourism is growing every week, diplomatic relations exist, ambassadors are stationed in both capitals.

When I was at Camp David with Prime Minister Begin and Sadat, President Sadat, we, all three, agreed on a paragraph of the Camp David accords relating to Jerusalem. I know intensely the deep feelings of the Israeli people and Jews all over the world about Jerusalem. Our commitment, agreed to by Prime Minister Begin, is that Jerusalem should forever stay undivided, that there should be free access to the holy places for all worshipers who consider that city to them to be holy, that the ultimate status of Jerusalem under international law should be resolved through negotiation, and that the final result of that negotiation would have to be acceptable to Israel.

That's my position, and I will maintain it.

OCTOBER 20, 1980

JERUSALEM

Q. Mr. President, what would be your most explicit statement on the future of Jerusalem?

THE PRESIDENT. First of all, I look upon a strong and secure Israel as an integral part of the security of our own country. And the help that we give Israel in retaining their freedom—economic aid, military aid, and a chance for security, is a direct investment in better security for my own country and yours.

Secondly, the biggest thing that's happened to provide Israel with freedom and security has been the treaty between Israel and Egypt. Egypt is by far the most powerful, strong, Arab country there is. And as you know, 7 years ago there was a war between Israel and Egypt, the fourth war in the 25 years that Israel had been in existence. Now Israel is at peace with Egypt.

Third, when we were at Camp David, we worked out between President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin, with my help, an agreement on Jerusalem, and this mirrors our position. We think that Jerusalem should be forever undivided. We think that worshipers should have free access to the holy places of Jerusalem. Third, we believe that the ultimate permanent status, legal status, of Jerusalem should be decided through negotiations, and last, that the final agreement reached in those negotiations would have to be acceptable to the Government of Israel.

OCTOBER 24, 1980

ISRAEL

MR. EVANS. There is much concern about the anti-Israel resolutions, UNESCO and in the General Assembly, and other attempts to isolate Israel in the world community. Now, what are we, what is the United States doing about this?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am very disturbed by the efforts of the enemies of Israel to isolate Israel in the world community. We will not permit this to happen. Not only is Israel our friend and our ally, but attempts to isolate Israel are also intended to weaken this country and also to destroy the progress that we have made already with the Camp David accords and the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

We are committed to the Camp David accords, and we are committed to the peace effort that is continuing, all based on the proposition of honoring U.N. 242, passed earlier in the General Assembly and in the Security Council. We have made it clear, for instance, that we will veto any change in U.N. Resolution 242.

We oppose the creation of an independent Palestinian state. As I have repeatedly said, we oppose a PLO state. But I want to go even further. Whenever in the future the United Nations is misused or abused on Israeli-Arab issues with malicious and unfair and one-sided resolutions, we will oppose them, and in the Security Council we will veto them. Secretary Muskie gave fair warning that this would be our policy, on August the 20th when he spoke at the General Assembly or Security Council. Now I want to say it emphatically and clearly, so there can be no misunderstanding in anyone's mind.

Also, I want to make it clear again that we will not permit any isolation of Israel in other United Nations organizations, nor will we allow the United Nations to be used as a propaganda organ for the PLO. That is the reason we voted against the Women's Plan in Copenhagen this summer. It Contained anti-Israeli language and called for the diversion of funds out of the United Nations funds to the PLO.

For this same reason I personally intervened with various heads of government to obtain their support to prevent the PLO becoming an observer in the recent deliberations of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. We were successful in this effort after a massive attempt by the other side to change this longstanding policy.

When two Islamic nations introduced a resolution to reject Israel's credentials at UNESCO's General Assembly in Belgrade just last month, in September, I again intervened and got other nations to help us stop it. And earlier this week I instructed our delegation at the UNESCO conference not to participate nor to be present even in any session at which Yassir Arafat appeared.

We took similar strong action at the national tourism conference in Manila when another effort was made early this month to drive Israel out. We stopped that effort, too.

We have successfully opposed every effort to reject Israel's credentials at the current session of the U.N. General Assembly, and I have made our position clear. If such an effort should be successful, and I don't believe it would, then I see no way that we could continue even to participate in the deliberations of that body.

Well, these are a few examples that come to mind offhand about our staunch support for Israel and our staunch commitment not to permit the isolation of Israel nor to permit Israel to be driven out of the General Assembly or embarrassed nor to use the General Assembly or United Nations bodies to promote the PLO.

OCTOBER 25, 1980

THE MIDDLE EAST

Q. First of all, Mr. President, I'd like to add my welcome to the welcomes that you've just heard from the other people.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, sir.

Q. My name is James Epstein. I'm a teacher at Start High School, however my question has nothing to do with Start High School. Mr. President, earlier in your administration, when you met with President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin, you gave Israel and Jewry the world over great confidence that the U.S. would be supportive of a just peace for Israel and the Near East. Since then, some of that confidence seems to have waned, and especially as a result of an apparent slip-up in communication between the White House and the U.N. Representative at one time. Can you give us some idea of how our former confidence can be restored?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I'll try.

When I first met with the Prime Minister of Israel it was Mr. Rabin, and just 2 or 3 weeks later I met with President Sadat. At that time they had just completed the fourth war between Israel and Egypt in the 25 or so years, 30 years, of Israel's existence. I told the Prime Minister and the President that my ultimate goal for the Mideast was that the major Arab nation, Egypt, should start to recognize, first of all, Israel's right to exist, which no Arab nation had been willing to do; secondly, that there should be direct negotiations between Egypt and Israel; third, that Israel's security should be guaranteed in an agreement; fourth, that there should be open borders between the two nations, there should be diplomatic recognition between the two nations, there should be exchange of ambassadors between the two nations, and also trade and tourism between the two nations.

President Sadat replied to me, "That's my dream also, Mr. President, but it'll never come into realization in my lifetime." All of those dreams have already been realized.

We are still engaged in the negotiations between Israel and Egypt to try to bring about a comprehensive peace. There are some difficult issues. If I should ever mislead the leaders or people of Israel or Egypt in any way, my value as an intermediary or mediator would be destroyed. I have got to keep the trust of both sides by being honest and open. I do not have any secret agreements or understandings with Israel that's not known by the world and certainly not known by President Sadat or vice-versa. I'll maintain that.

I know there are some very sensitive issues with the Israeli people and also with American Jews. I will never support a PLO state or a Palestinian independent state. I'll never negotiate or recognize the PLO until after they announce that they support Israel's right to exist, to live in peace, and support U.N. 242 as a basis for a Mideast settlement.

I will continue to protect Israel in international councils, in UNESCO, the ILO, in trade missions, and in the General Assembly. I've since announced that if the constant Syrian and other effort is ever successful which I don't think it will be—to expel Israel from the General Assembly or to reject their credentials, that I see no way our Nation would continue to participate in the deliberations of that body. If there are resolutions in the future in the Security Council, where we have a veto, I will continue to protect Israel, and if those are frivolous resolutions designed to damage Israel or to damage the peace process that we initiated at Camp David, I will direct that a veto be exerted by the United States to kill such a resolution.

Another point that ought to be made is this though. I cannot always promise you that I will agree with Israel—unless it's the desire of the American Jewish community to terminate the peace process-when Israel takes a unilateral step, say on Jerusalem, with a proposal that the headquarters be moved into east Jerusalem, I cannot approve that as an unbiased negotiator or mediator between the two. The agreement that I have with the Israelis and the Egyptians is that Jerusalem will remain an undivided city, that the holy places will be freely acceptable (accessible)1 to all those who want to worship there, and that the ultimate legal status of Jerusalem will be determined through negotiations, understanding that the final terms of that negotiation would have to be acceptable to the Government of Israel. That's the American position, well understood by Mr. Begin and all his fellow workers, well understood by President Sadat and all his fellow workers, and I think it's a sound position.

1 White House correction.

I might add that we are very much aware that our aid programs and our support for Israel is not a benevolent act. My duty is to the United States. And when I see a strong, united, secure, democratic Israel, that is a direct benefit to the security of my own Nation. And I'm very proud of the fact that in just 3 1/2 years, the Congress and I together have provided more military and economic aid to Israel than in all the other almost 30 years of Israel's existence. This is a good investment for us in our own security. And it will continue.

OCTOBER 31, 1980

ISRAEL

Q. Mr. President, my name is Mark Levine. I'm the rabbi of the—[inaudible]—congregation here in Memphis, Tennessee. Mr. President, the American people know that there is only one country in the Middle East that is not a totalitarian dictatorship or a fragile feudal monarchy. American people know that there is only one state in the Middle East that shares our own American democratic ideals, our democratic form of government, our democratic institutions, including exciting elections like the one we're presently engaged in. That state is the state of Israel.

The highlight of your Middle East policy was the Camp David agreement, which resulted in the peace between Egypt and Israel, for which we're extremely grateful and thankful. However, we are concerned and confused by signals that have emerged from your administration that have signaled the Arabs that in a second Carter administration you would be more forthcoming in pressuring Israel to make a concession that would be detrimental to its very existence, that would result in the emergence of another Palestinian terrorist state, a platform for Soviet intentions in the Middle East, and ultimately harmful to our own aspirations in the Middle East as Americans.

My question to you is: These concerns have been reinforced by reports emanating from Arab capitals that your signals, either through your failure to veto in the United Nations votes that were detrimental to Israel as well as private assurances received from your emissaries, that indeed in a second administration you would bear down hard on Israel. Mr. President, can you assure us, either way?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I'd be glad to. This will be the last question I'll have a chance for, but let me reply very briefly.

The first time I met with the Prime Minister of Israel, Mr. Rabin led the Government there. Just 2 or 3 weeks later I met with President Sadat. I told them both that the dream that I had as President was to have a major Arab nation, Egypt, recognize Israel's right to exist-none ever had; engage in direct negotiations with Israel—none ever had; recognize Israel's right to be secure—none ever had; to work for a peace treaty possibly, with open borders, exchange of tourism, recognition diplomatically, and exchange of Ambassadors.

President Sadat said, "That's a good dream. It'll never happen in my lifetime." All those dreams have now come true. And although Israel and Egypt had four wars in 25 years, the latest one in 1973, they now engage in discussions not about war, but about peace. They face each other not across barbed wire with bullets and tanks, but across a table, through negotiators. We've been a part of it.

In 1973 when Israel was in danger because of the Arab invasion, a Republican administration announced that we were reassessing our policy toward Israel and withheld, as you know, crucial military aid which Israel needed. We've never done that, and that will never be done as long as a Democrat serves in the White House.

We have one thing to contribute in pursuing peace in the Middle East, and that is the trust that the Arabs and the Israelis have in me. If I should ever betray that trust, if I should ever tell a lie, if I should ever make a misleading statement to them or go back on a promise, then my role as a mediator would be gone. I could not serve any more in that good office.

I look on the Mideast peace agreement not as a favor to Egypt and Israel, but as an investment in the security of my own country, because I see the fact that Israel is there, is secure, is democratic, is committed to peace, is strong, as a direct bulwark in the strength and the peace of my own Nation.

I will never support a PLO state. I will never negotiate with nor recognize the PLO until after they recognize Israel's right to exist and assume that 242 resolution is the basis for Middle East peace.

I will never cause any reassessment of our policy toward Israel in military or economic aid, as was done under the last Republican administration. As a matter of fact, in the last 3 1/2 years the amount of military and economic aid that we have given to Israel, with the support of Congress, has been as much as all the previous administrations in history since Israel first became a state.

I will never permit the other nations of the world, including the Arab nations, to isolate Israel in the world community. And if in the United Nations Security Council there should be an effort to expel Israel, I will veto such a resolution, if there's a resolution passed in the General Assembly to withhold the credentials of Israel. I see no way that my country would participate any further in the deliberations of the United Nations General Assembly.

Another point that I would like to make in closing is this: We've not sent any signals to the Arab countries. I don't deal with other nations in that fashion. Every posture that I have maintained in the Middle East has been well understood by the Jews in Israel and around the world, well understood by the Arabs in Egypt and the other countries. I don't have any secrets with Begin against Sadat. I don't have any secrets with Sadat against Begin.

We'll continue to work for a Mideast peace, for a secure Israel, for a Jerusalem that's undivided. And the ultimate legal status of Jerusalem in the community of nations will be determined by negotiations, and the conclusion of those negotiations will have to be acceptable to the Government of Israel. That's my assurance to you. I will not violate the commitment that I make.


Sources: Public Papers of the President

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