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Jimmy Carter Administration: Remarks Following Meeting with Israeli PM Menachem Begin

(November 13, 1980)

THE PRESIDENT. Well, to continue a long and very fruitful series of meetings between myself and Prime Minister Begin, we've had a chance this morning to review the progress that has been made, both in our bilateral relationships in bringing peace to the Middle East. This has been one of the most difficult, time-consuming, but one of the most gratifying experiences that I've had as President.

In my judgment there is a general recognition in our two countries and, indeed, around the world, of the close interrelationship between our two nations that is unshakable. It's predicated not on the identity of particular leaders, but on the strong feelings shared among the people of the two countries. Also, in our Nation I think there has been a greatly enhanced realization of the strategic value to our country of a strong and a peaceful and a democratic nation in Israel in a troubled region of the Middle East. Internationally, also, the end of 30 or 32 years of war between Israel and Egypt has been a very gratifying development.

We have assessed this morning the prospects for future progress. Prime Minister Begin and I have shared the reminder to ourselves and, hopefully, to expand to the world that the Camp David accords and the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt are solemn documents, committed on the honor of our Nation, on a permanent basis, signed by the leaders of the three nations with ourselves as witnesses, and we consider these to be permanently binding on us as a prospect for peace unfolds in the future. We also are well aware that there is no viable alternative extant to the continuation of the Camp David peace talks, and we are committed to that prospect and to that process.

There is no doubt that there will be delays in the future and frustrations, problems to be faced. I think the extreme political and personal courage exhibited by Prime Minister Begin and by President Sadat has been the foundation of the progress that we have made, and I'm deeply grateful to Prime Minister Begin for that exhibition of leadership on his part.

We have a permanent commitment to the peace and security of Israel. The ties that bind our two nations together are very strong, and I'm doubly grateful for the contributions that Prime Minister Begin has made to this process and to this achievement.

I'd like to ask Prime Minister Begin to comment briefly if he would, expressing, again, my sincere gratitude to him and on behalf of the American people my gratitude and my commitment to the further enhancement of the relationships that exist between our two countries, which are already very strong and mutually beneficial.

Prime Minister Begin?

THE PRIME MINISTER. Thank you, Mr. President.

I am very grateful to the President for his invitation to come and meet with him in the White House, although my visit to the United States this time is of a private character. We had a friendly discussion, as always, and may I share with you my personal feeling this time.

I am deeply impressed by this shining example of a true democrat given by the President. He proved what is the beauty of democracy, and how he took the decision by his free people, the citizens of the United States—I am still under the impression of this gracious acceptance of the decision of the American people. And it will be an example not only for future generations in this country but also for many other nations.

At the same time as I cabled to the President after the election I expressed to him on behalf of the people and Government of Israel our gratitude for all he has done during the tenure to strengthen and fortify the security of Israel and his incessant efforts to bring about peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, which were crowned by the Camp David agreement and the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, a turning point in the annals of the Middle East.

Now, both the President and I share the same view that the Camp David agreement is a binding treaty which should be carried out. We believe that it is a commitment, a sacred trust. We found a way to make peace between the two countries, Egypt and Israel. We have to find a way to bring into realization the agreement on the full autonomy for the Palestinian Arabs in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza district. It took some time. It may take some time. We have to be patient, because it's an historic conflict; it didn't start yesterday; it may not finish tomorrow. We made great progress; we shall make it also in the future. And therefore in this direction we shall continue our efforts, namely to be faithful to what we achieved, written, and signed at Camp David and carry out the commitments all the three countries took upon themselves in accordance with that international treaty.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Fine. Thank you.

Sources: Public Papers of the President