News Conference on U.S. Position on the Middle East

(June 13, 1967)


[1.] Q. On May 23d you reaffirmed the policy of three Presidents before you, committing this country to the territorial and political integrity of every nation in the Middle East.1

1 See Item 233.

When Ambassador Goldberg explained the U.S. vote at the cease-fire, he stated the same policy to the world. May I ask how you are going to honor this commitment in view of the Israeli conquest of the Arab lands?

THE PRESIDENT. That is our policy. It will continue to be our policy. How it will be effectuated will be determined by the events of the days ahead. It will depend a good deal upon the nations themselves, what they have to say and what their views are, what their proposals are after they have expressed them.

I cannot give you any rule of thumb or arbitrary formula at this meeting of what the developments in that distressed area will be, other than to say what our policy is.

In that statement, as well as my statement to Senator Mansfield,2 you will find that this Government, under many Presidents, has first in its mind--has had and does have now--peace in the area. How that will be involved with the other parts of the statement, as that was a vital part of it, will be determined by the events.

2 See Item 257.

NEGOTIATING BOUNDARY CHANGES

[2.] Q. Sir, could I follow up on that?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

Q. Is it correct, then, to assume that if the parties in the dispute negotiate changes in the boundaries that obtained before the fighting, the policy of the United States would not then necessarily be in opposition to such negotiated changes?

THE PRESIDENT. I will stay with the statement, if you can live with it until the nations can adjust themselves to their positions and give their stories. I think it would be better for our country and for them.

I see no real reason for my going beyond the statement I made. I do not think it would serve your interest as an individual or the Government's interest, or the Nation's.

Q. Mr. President, would you favor the two sides sitting down together and negotiating?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't go into that now. I have nothing more to say than my statement.

RUSSIAN PEACE EFFORTS

[3.] Q. Mr. President, during the war the Russians worked more or less in tandem with us to bring about a cease-fire. Is there any indication now or is it your hope that they would work in tandem, the two superpowers, to bring about this peace?

THE PRESIDENT. We would like all nations to do everything they can to promote an acceptable and honorable peace. We can only speak for ourselves. But it is our hope that we can avoid war and can achieve peace. That is going to require the best efforts of all of us.

Q. Mr. President, in the statement3 that was issued on Monday when the fighting started, there was a sentence about new programs of development for the entire area. Could you give us some of your thinking as to what new programs might be involved?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think I ought to go beyond the statement that I made on May 23d at this time.

3 The statement which was issued by George E. Christian, Special Assistant to the President, is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 3, p. 831).

THE U.S.S. "LIBERTY"

[4.] Q. Mr. President, do you have any more facts that you can release on the attack on the U.S.S. Liberty?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I think you know about as much about it as we do.

VIETNAM

[5.] Q. Mr. President, there seems to have been a lull or a fall-off in the fighting in Vietnam in the last few weeks. If that is true, and perhaps you could confirm it for us, do you think there is a change in the situation vis-a-vis both Vietnam and the Soviet Union that might lead us closer to a settlement of that conflict?

THE PRESIDENT. I would not make such a prediction. I think the fighting goes up and down depending on a good many factors.4

4 Following a verbal report to the President, Lt. Gen. Lewis W. Walt, Commanding General of the III Marine Amphibious Force in Vietnam, met with reporters at 1:30 p.m. on June 12 in the Fish Room at the White House for a news briefing on the military situation in Vietnam. The full text is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 3, p. 864).

THE DEBT LIMIT

[6.] Q. Sir, on the domestic side, what does the administration plan to do about the problems you are having with the debt limit bill in the House?

THE PRESIDENT. The Treasury and Mr. Mills 5 are exchanging viewpoints, I think, at the moment. I think the committee will take action sometime shortly and make its recommendations to the House. I would not want to anticipate what they would do in their votes, but I think it will be acceptable to the administration.

5 Representative Wilbur D. Mills of Arkansas, Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives.

THE SELECTION OF A NEW SOLICITOR GENERAL

[7.] Q. Mr. President, have you decided upon a successor to Mr. Marshall 6 at the Justice Department?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I have not. We have been canvassing some other appointments there. They will be announced later in the week. I doubt that the Solicitor General will be announced for some time, at least until Mr. Marshall's nomination is acted upon.

6 For the President's remarks to the press announcing the nomination of Solicitor General Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court, see Item 263.

RACIAL VIOLENCE IN THE CITIES

[8.] Q. Mr. President, we have had a new outbreak of racial violence in the cities this summer and it looks as if it may get worse. I wonder if you would comment on the causes of it and what might be done about it?

THE PRESIDENT. We are trying to do everything we can in cooperation with the cities, the counties, the States, and the private employers to minimize the tensions that exist. We have asked the Congress for help in this direction. They have promptly and generously acted in the $75 million special appropriation for the cities for the summer.

We shall continue, under the leadership of the Vice President, the Attorney General, Secretary Wirtz, and others in this field, to try to lessen these tensions by providing employment, by opening up recreational areas, swimming pools, supervised play, and additional training facilities, all of which we think will be helpful.

We want to keep these incidents to a minimum, but we will have to rely primarily on the good judgment of the people themselves and the local authorities to try to work out solutions to the problems as they arise.

THE APPOINTMENT OF MR. MARSHALL

[9.] Q. Mr. President, with regard to the Supreme Court appointment, did you receive advice that someone more conservative than Judge Marshall should be appointed?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I received very little pressure of any kind in this connection. I consulted the bar and the bar gave me their opinion--an impression that is similar in Judge Marshall's case to the one given in Justice Fortas'.

Their impression, as I recall it, was that the American Bar Association finds him highly acceptable.

RESUMPTION OF AID TO THE MIDDLE EAST

[10.] Q. Mr. President, to return to the Middle East--for the near future, what plans, if any, do you have for the resumption of economic aid?

THE PRESIDENT. We are reviewing the aid program throughout that area. The Congress is presently considering our program for next year. I would think that the events of the next few days and weeks will determine the extent, the desire, and the need more clearly.

This morning, I don't think I could say this is it because I might have a credibility problem, if I did that. I don't think that they are that far along. I don't think the needs, the problems we face, are going to be clear this morning.

REGIONAL COOPERATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST

[11.] Q. Mr. President, Walt Rostow 7 said yesterday in a speech in Vermont that regional cooperation in the Middle East would appear to be a key solution to their problems over there. Does that accurately reflect the administration's thinking of possibilities?

THE PRESIDENT. We have felt, as you know, for some time that where we could-as in Latin America, Africa, or in Asia, in various areas of the world--that the regional approach was a very desirable approach to facing up to the problems, economic and otherwise.

7 Walt W. Rostow, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.

Some areas are further along than others. In the last 2 years, we think we have made considerable progress along this line. We would hope that we could do better in the days ahead in all areas.

INDIVIDUAL VIEWS ON THE CRISIS

[12.] Q. Mr. President, there is a story in the Baltimore Sun today quoting the American Charge d'Affaires in Cairo saying the administration was not as sensitive to the seriousness of the crisis before it erupted into war in the Middle East. Would you have any comment on that?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I think you will find that there are pro-Egypt spokesmen, pro-Israel spokesmen, and individual opinions that will flow pretty freely these days.

I do not believe anyone very high in the administration would feel that way about it. The Middle East has occupied a good deal of our thoughts, our attention, and the time of some of the ablest leaders in our Government ever since I came into the executive branch in 1961. It still does.

I do not know the person to whom you refer. It sounds very much like a parochial view, or a local viewpoint.

ARAB CHARGES AGAINST THE UNITED STATES

[13.] Q. Mr. President, the Arabs, particularly the Egyptians, have made quite an emotional case against the United States, claiming that we backed the Israelis and that our Air Force helped them in the military action, itself. What is your reaction to this campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. I think that the people of the world should know that uppermost in my mind, our Government's mind, our people's mind, is trying to contribute anything we can to helping people get along with their neighbors and with each other. I do not want to say anything that would contribute to inflaming the feeling that already exists.

I think that all of you--and most of the world--know that the charges about our active participation with our carrier planes in the events was completely untrue. In due time--when that becomes evident to all the parties--the attitudes of a good many people will change and will improve.

THE SUEZ CANAL

[14.] Q. Mr. President, can you say what steps, if any, are being taken by the users of the Suez Canal to get the canal reopened?

THE PRESIDENT. No, I can't.

THE PROBLEM OF REFUGEES

[15.] Q. Mr. President, have you had an opportunity to look into the problem of the refugees and whether any emergency relief will be needed?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, that is a problem that is high on the agenda of the problems of that area. It will be one that all of the interested parties will no doubt address their attention to.

So far as our reaching an independent, unilateral decision, none has been reached-although we have considered various factors involved and have given a good deal of attention to it for some time.

ROLE OF THE "HOT LINE" IN THE CRISIS

[16.] Q. Mr. President, could you tell us how helpful a role the "hot line" played in Russian-American relations during this period?

THE PRESIDENT. I think it is always helpful when you can convey your thought orally or in writing to a person whom you want to communicate with. We did that on occasions. I did not see, except for the time involved, a great deal of difference between this and the other communications that save time.

You send a message just like you send a cable. There is no voice involved. The "hot line" was something dramatic, I guess. We just write out our message, giving our views, and say, "Here is how we feel about it." They come back with the same message. You take it and read it as you would any other message.

Q. Was time saving important in some of those messages, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. I think it is always good to save any time you can. I don't know how important it might have been.

Q. Mr. President, was there any voice communication with Premier Kosygin during the period of the crisis?

THE PRESIDENT. No.

ON BEING A PROTESTER

[17.] Q. Mr. President, yesterday Mrs. Johnson said you have been a protester all of your life.

THE PRESIDENT. She has reminded me of that a good many times before yesterday.

Q. You agree with the statement, then?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes.

DISCUSSIONS WITH CHANCELLOR KIESINGER

[18.] Q. Mr. President, what do you expect for a range of topics to discuss with Chancellor Kiesinger when he comes here next month?

THE PRESIDENT. I had lunch yesterday with Mr. Von Hase, his press secretary and advance official. We will have a wide variety of subjects to exchange viewpoints on.

I thought we had a very fruitful meeting in Bonn, although our time was limited and we were limited somewhat by the occasion. We will discuss anything that the Chancellor is interested in.

I am sure that among the matters will be the future of Europe and Germany, our trade problems, our troop deployment problems, our understandings that we have entered into in the past, our relations in the days ahead.

I anticipate that it will be a very pleasant and productive meeting. I enjoyed the Chancellor. We communicated well together. From what Mr. Von Hase said yesterday, I think that it will be one of our most pleasant and productive visits.

We have a good many coming this year.

We are very pleased that the Chancellor has found it possible to accept our invitation. I told him we would be delighted to see him any time, in June, July, August, or September, and he selected July 7th and 8th.

THE FOOD FOR PEACE PROGRAM

[19.] Q. Sir, on the Food for Peace program, have you had a new assessment of the needs in India this year; and, second, do you have pending a reorganization of the United States effort in this area?

THE PRESIDENT. I have no plans for a reorganization. I don't know what you may have pending around the various departments. I suspect that some of them may be pending or you wouldn't have used that word.

I have no plans pending, as far as I am concerned. The assessment on the Indian situation is no different from what it was when we asked Mr. Rostow to ask the Indians to join him in presenting the problem to the rest of the Nation and the world and to assure them that we would do our part, and that when and if they could present to us commitments, we would make every effort to match them at least 50 percent.

We will be considering the various commitments that other nations have pledged in connection with any commitment we may make in the days ahead.

RESUMPTION OF DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS WITH ARAB COUNTRIES

[20.] Q. Mr. President, sir, do you see any steps the United States might take to encourage resumption of diplomatic relations with the Arab countries?

THE PRESIDENT. We think that at this time the best thing for us to do is to let things clear up and let the people of the area and the world realize just what has happened. Then we will be exchanging viewpoints with all concerned.

No doubt Secretary Rusk will be talking to the NATO nations today and tomorrow, receiving their viewpoints and giving them ours. I do not expect any immediate decision in that field.

.MR. MARSHALL ON HIS NOMINATION

[21.] Q. I was just going to ask Justice Marshall, if we might, how he feels about this appointment.

THE PRESIDENT. I hope the Justice doesn't go into an extended news conference before his confirmation, but I am sure that if you deal purely with health matters he will be glad to respond.

THE SOLICITOR GENERAL. You speak for me, Mr. President. We will wait until after the Senate acts.

Reporter: Thank you, sir.


Source: Public Papers of the President