Reagan News Conferences & Interviews: Middle East/Israel
APRIL 10, 1987
Q. Mr. President, King Hussein has been getting a favorable response in Western Europe to his proposal for an international peace conference on the Middle East. Such a conference would include the Soviet Union and the Palestinians. Does the U.S. now support such a conference, and will the King be coming to Washington?
The President. We have been working, ourselves—this idea—we can't ignore the fact that so far Israel, and with some justice, opposes the idea of the participation of the two countries you named, because both of them still deny the right of Israel to exist as a nation. They say it has no right to even exist. Until they are willing to abide by, well, U.N. rules 242 and 338, as Egypt did, and agree that Israel has a right to exist as a nation, then I think that we would join also. We are not opposed to the idea of an international meeting to try and bring together those warring nations—the Arab bloc and Israel—and remove that threat once and for all from the Middle East.
MAY 12, 1987
Q. A lot of talk is being heard about adopting the idea of holding an international conference attended by all of the parties concerned to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. Nevertheless, the American attitude is not clear. Would the U.S. agree to participate in such a conference ff it is going to lead to the formation of two independent states, Israel and Palestine, and what would Arafat's role be?
The President. We remain committed to a negotiated peace between Israel and all of its Arab neighbors. To this end, we have stated our willingness to explore all possibilities, including an international conference, that might lead to direct negotiations and a peaceful settlement. Such a conference must lead promptly to direct negotiations and must not interfere with those negotiations. In recent weeks, this process of exploration has produced what we believe to be significant progress toward negotiations which would offer serious prospects of reaching agreements between the parties on peace. Much remains to be done before one can safely express optimism on further developments, but we are encouraged and will continue our efforts.
As I stated in my September 1, 1982, peace proposal, we firmly believe that self-government by the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza in association with Jordan offers the best chance for a durable, just, and lasting peace. We have always recognized that Palestinians should participate at every stage of the peace process. The form that Palestinian representation takes is a question that must be resolved by the parties to the conflict. The actions of the recent Palestine National Congress in Algiers indicate a negative, unrealistic attitude toward the peace process.
Q. Every people in the world has its own state—the British have Britain and Americans have America. Where is the state of the Palestinian people?
The President. We believe that any negotiations designed to lead to a Middle East peace must address the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, together with the security of all states in the region. We have always recognized that Palestinians should participate at every stage of the peace process. Any agreement on the final status of the West Bank and Gaza should receive the prior consent of the inhabitants of those territories.
We will not support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, nor will we support annexation or permanent control by Israel. As I stated in my September 1, 1982, peace proposal, it is the firm view of the United States that self-government by the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza in association with Jordan offers the best chance for a durable, just, and lasting peace.
OCTOBER 22, 1987
Middle East Peace Settlement
Q. And what are the prospects for a peace conference under joint U.S-Soviet sponsorship?
The President. Oh, well, we had thought, in going along for a long time with the others that believed that the Arab nations were still technically in a state of war with Israel, that they and Israel could get together and should get together. Some of them have, such as the great efforts that King Hussein of Jordan has—how far he has gone to try and bring this about. But it just hasn't worked. And more and more, the word has been uttered that we should form an international group to help them come together and bring peace. And we finally have gone over to explore that. That's what the Secretary-General has been doing in the Middle East. And so far, Israel prefers not to go that route.
DECEMBER 22, 1987
Reporter. Mr. President, do you find any justification at all for the actions the Israelis have taken in Gaza and the West Bank?
The President. Well, we think it is regrettable, and our State Department has been talking to both sides in this, trying to get both sides—there has been provocation on both sides—to get them to cease.
Q. Israel's leaders say they're not concerned, Mr. President, about how the world views the situation. So, how do you pressure them, sir?
The President. Well, they may not be concerned, but maybe the world is concerned.
Source: Public Papers of the President