While President Nixon was concluding his talks with Prime Minister Rabin, Secretary of State Kissinger held a news conference in Jerusalem in which he sought to reassure Israel again on the issue of the nuclear power plant promised to Egypt by the US. Please find excerpts from this press conference below.
Q: Mr. Secretary, how certain are the technicians and the scientists that information given to Egypt cannot be used to manufacture a bomb?
A: I think it is important to get this agreement in nuclear reactors, I believe, with 28 other countries. You can check the exact number. The issue of diversion has never been raised in the face of our safeguards, except in the last month because of the Indian nuclear explosion. The Indian nuclear explosion occurred with material that was diverted not from an American reactor under American safeguards, but from a Canadian reactor that did not have appropriate safeguards.
We have always been confident that the safeguards agreements upon which we have insisted and on which we shall insist in this particular case, are adequate to prevent the diversion of nuclear materials for military purposes. Nevertheless, we will review these safeguards in the negotiations that have to take place with Egypt, or with any other Government, with which we will negotiate a similar agreement, to make doubly sure that there aren't any loopholes in it.
This reactor will take from six to eight years to build, and that period, will, of course, provide an incentive to concentrate on, among others, on economic development rather than on military purposes, a period of time within which we believe that the turn towards peace in the Middle East can be finally accomplished.
Q: Are the Israeli officials, that you have made this explanation to, satisfied with it? Are they confident as you are that there will be no diversion?
A: Needless to say, for a country that has lived as precariously as Israel, anything with even a vague potential for affecting the military situation, is a source of some concern.
I believe, however, that those Israeli officials with whom I have had an opportunity to talk, and with whom the President has had an opportunity to talk, realize that there is no danger of military diversion, that they are reassured and I believe that this whole matter is going to blow over very quickly.
Q: Mr. Secretary, what will the next step be in the Middle East peace negotiations?
A: Of course, you remember that in Egypt, President Sadat pointed out that there were further exchanges needed between the various Arab countries before the Arab countries could decide which would be the most appropriate next step. What the United States is prepared to do, is to exchange informally ideas with all of the parties to see which course will crystallize and that, in turn, will require that there are some prior discussions among the Arab countries.
As far as the United States and Israel are concerned, we expect to see the Foreign Minister in the United States next month, and the Prime Minister at an early date, and we will then discuss a common approach to the negotiation.
Q: Mr. Secretary, has President Assad definitely agreed to attend the Geneva Conference?
A: I don't know whether that question has ever been formally put to him this way, but certainly all our discussions were within the framework of the theory of him attending the Geneva Conference, and I don't believe there is any problem about that.
Q: Can you give us a overview of what you think has happened in the Arab countries and Israel in terms of the situation now, as you see it?
A: I think, to understand the situation now, one has to consider it in the perspective of what has occurred in the six or seven months since the initiative, in which the President's trip culminated, began. When this initiative began, the Middle East was polarized between the Arab world on the one side, and Israel on the other, with the Arab backed by the Soviet Union, Israel backed by the United States.
As a result every conflict in the Middle East had the insoluble quality of a Super-Power confrontation and the United States' role was seen as that of simply representing one of the sides in a dispute which had been festering for 25 years. Last November, there began a diplomatic turn in which the United States, without giving up its traditional friendship and support for Israel, at the same time began to move into a position where it could be helpful to all of the parties in the process of negotiation and where in turn, the other countries in the Middle East began to reconsider their one-sided reliance on only one of the countries.
This process leading to disengagement negotiations culminated in the presidential trip which has to be seen on many levels. On the one level, as a symbolic affirmation of a dramatic reversal in the whole historic evolution of this area. At the same time as enabling the United States to begin a relationship with all of the countries in the area, not based on the exigencies of a particular crisis, but based on the long-term prosperity and progress of the area, and the President's visit and conversations in all of these countries has served to crystallize and to put into a focus this direction of the relationship between the United States and all of the countries in the area.
And thirdly, it has enabled the President to engage in preliminary conversations, not about the tactics of how peace should be made, but about the general direction of the peace efforts, and I therefore think that the Middle East policy, if we can stay on this course, and we all recognize that this is a very tricky and complicated area, could mark one of the turning points in the post-war diplomatic history.
Q: Dr. Kissinger, in your opinion and that of the United States, how can the Palestinians effectively and constructively be brought into this whole negotiating process that has just been described?
A: Of course, the most efficient way for the Palestinians to be brought into the process is through a Jordanian negotiation, in which there is the historical background and for which Israel has always declared its readiness in principles. As for other steps that might be taken, I think it is premature to speculate at this point when there are other issues, such as borders and territory, that require more urgent consideration.
Q: There is a feeling here in one's conversations with Israelis that there is a mood which presumes that the Arab strategy right now is to consolidate their position preparatory to the long-range design of continuing an offensive to liquidate the State of Israel.
On the basis of your talks with the Arabs to date what reassurance, if any, can you give the Israeli populace that this is or is not in the long-range design or scheme of the Arab neighbors that surround them?
A: People who have lived for 25 years with the threat of extinction, whose neighbors for its entire history have not recognized its existence, needless to say live with a premonition of catastrophe that is not true of almost any other State, and therefore the sense of catastrophe, partly as a result of Jewish history, partly as a result of Israel's history, has to be deep in the souls of everybody here and we, as Americans, have to understand it.
On the other hand, it is our conviction that for the first time in the existence of Israel, the Arab States, even the more radical ones like Syria, are talking about a continuing State of Israel and that some of the Arab States seem to have made a rather crucial decision to seek to work out modalities of coexistence with the State of Israel.
Now this is an entirely new experience for Israel, and it is also difficult and a painful adjustment for Israel to see that the polarization that had been characteristic of the area through most of the history of Israel, with the United States totally on one side and the Soviet Union totally on the other, is also changing to a more complex relationship.
In my experience one of the more moving aspects of the disengagement negotiations has been to see the transformation of that fear into a sense that in the course of the negotiations a greater sense of security has developed through the process that the President initiated last October, and I believe that as a result of this trip and of the events that will follow this trip, that Israel will understand that its long-term security is more surely guaranteed by what is now going on and in fact it is the only way to assure it.
This doesn't mean, however, that as one goes through particular phases there may not be elements of uncertainty and even elements of pain, but we will face them with a sense of partnership and understanding that has been characteristic of our previous efforts.
Q: Dr. Kissinger, would you be willing to recommend as a next step in the negotiations disengagement talks between Israel and Jordan?
A: The United States has always favored in principle talks between Israel and Jordan. The problem is whether one can find some framework within which these talks may take place. If the two parties agree on talks, the United States would be prepared to be helpful and to play a useful role.