Implementation of the United States-Israel Oil Agreement

(October 17, 1980)


THE PRESIDENT. Minister Modal and Ambassador Evron, Secretary Muskie, Mrs. Modal, and ladies and gentlemen:

I'm very pleased to announce this morning the completion of our contingency arrangements for assuring Israel's oil supply security.

These arrangements further fulfill a promise that I made last year in connection with Israel's withdrawal from the Gulf of Suez oil fields and its conclusion of the treaty of peace with Egypt. In making peace, Israel committed itself to dependence solely on imported oil—a very bold and courageous and generous decision in this troubled time. At the time of Israel's withdrawal in 1975 from a portion of the Egyptian Sinai, the United States gave assurance that Israel would count on our help and could depend on us if it could not attain oil during its own efforts.

We renewed and extended this duration of the assurance in June of 1979, so that the establishment of peace with Egypt would not lessen Israel's long-range energy security. Now we have spelled out the emergency conditions under which the 1979 oil supply agreement may be activated. This contingency plan is a carefully defined understanding between friends, designed to ensure that all relevant concerns are taken into account. Both our nations hope this agreement will never have to be activated, but if it should become necessary, the United States will be a steadfast and dependable friend of Israel.

This agreement is one aspect of what I hope will be a broad range of cooperation in strengthening Israel's energy security. We're exploring now how we might work together further on research and development and for new energy technologies, especially shale oil extraction and the use of solar power for energy.

Our cooperation in energy and in other fields is for the cause of peace. It is against no nation. It is for the people who yearn for a secure future. It is in this spirit that I congratulate the negotiators of the oil supply understandings and invite now Secretary Muskie, representing the United States of America, and Minister Modal, representing the great nation of Israel, to proceed with the signing of the appropriate documents.

[At this point, Secretary of State Edmund S. Muskie and Israeli Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Yitzhak Modal signed the "Contingency Implementing Arrangements for the Memorandum of Agreement of June 22, 1979 Between Israel and the United States." The President then resumed speaking.]

I might say that Minister Modai is a very effective negotiator.

MINISTER MODAI. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Minister, would you like to make a comment?

MINISTER MODAI. Mr. President, Mr. Secretary of State, members of the administration, my Israeli colleagues:

The peace agreement, Mr. President, between Israel and Egypt, is probably the most important event, certainly in the Middle East, but probably also in the entire world in this generation.

It came about due to the leadership of Prime Minister Ben-Gurion (Begin) 1, President Sadat, and through the devoted efforts and active participation of yourself, Mr. President.

1 White House correction.

The State of Israel, in order to achieve this peace agreement, has made very large sacrifices. A major sacrifice was the relinquishing of the Alma oil field, which we discovered and developed, and this in addition to giving up the Abu Rudeis oil field as part of the interim agreement in 1975.

Now you, Mr. President, and the Congress understood the big risk taken by the State of Israel in giving up its opportunity for oil self-sufficiency and, therefore, an agreement that guarantees oil supply to Israel was signed in June of 1979. Now, that agreement did not contain the specifications of the conditions in which that agreement could have been activated, and therefore we felt, we in Israel felt that we need to have a better definition of which are the conditions in which your guarantee will come into effect. After tedious, long negotiations—over a year—we are finally signing, here today, the specifications under which that agreement will come into effect.

That is certainly the completion of a promise, I may say, Mr. President, of an offer made by you when you were in Israel, I believe in February of 1979.

Obviously, nobody can foresee future developments in the next 15—now it's only 14—years, but we are very happy to have a document which is so clear, so detailed, and which relates to such a vital and delicate issue. I would like to thank you, Mr. President, you Mr. Secretary, and your staffs for a job so very well done. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. I'd like to say to the press that following this ceremony, or perhaps already, the details of the agreement will be described. Has that been done yet? It will be done. So, your questions about the detailed agreement will be answered after this meeting.

I would like to say, informally but sincerely, on behalf of the American people, that we are very proud to have this agreement. The proposal was made voluntarily by me, on my own initiative, when I was in Jerusalem at the time when we were trying to bring to a conclusion the basic elements of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Israel has taken a courageous step in bringing peace to that entire area by voluntarily giving up control of and the use of these oil wells, some of which they themselves discovered and developed.

We anticipate that Israel will continue to receive their oil from present sources, but if those supplies should be interrupted or if exorbitant prices should be imposed upon Israel, above and beyond normal marketing prices as described in this detailed document, then the United States will meet this obligation to our friend, the Government of Israel.

I consider this to be not only an investment in the security of Israel but also a very sound investment in the security of the United States of America. And it's a further demonstration of our unfaltering commitment and steady progress toward the comprehensive peace in the Middle East, which all of us so deeply desire, based upon the security of Israel, in every sense and meaning of that word.

Mr. Minister, thank you very much for your coming here to conclude this document. And I hope you'll extend my best wishes to Prime Minister Begin and to all the officials of Israel who've made this progress possible. Thank you, sir.

MINISTER MODAI. Mr. President—

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, sir?

MINISTER MODAI. I would like to wish you good luck with your endeavors.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate that. That means a lot to me.

Thank you, everybody.


Source: Public Papers of the President