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Gerald Ford Administration: Remarks on the United Nations and Foreign Assistance

(September 22, 1975)


Q. Mr. President, my name is William Sumner, and I am not sure what Mr. Mersman meant by my associations, but for your sake I will say I am a registered Republican.

THE PRESIDENT. I appreciate that. We need more in California. [Laughter] Q. Well, I have worked on getting a tough question for you. Over the years, Mr. President, foreign aid programs have proved themselves quite long-lasting and very costly. Some have met with success, probably many others have met with obvious failure. Very clearly, the American electorate has been disillusioned with foreign aid and both parties have promised to cut it back as best they can.

However, every administration has favored foreign aid at some time or another, frequently to buy itself out of a jam overseas. The recent Sinai accord can be said in part to follow this example, and I deliberately use the Sinai example to make the question as tough as possible. We all hope it works, but, Mr. President, in balancing the near-term practical usefulness against the huge cost and the growing unpopularity of foreign aid, do you think it is realistic for the American electorate to expect perhaps some cut in the foreign aid bill during the remainder of your 5-year Administration?

THE PRESIDENT. Let me assure you that at the time that Secretary Kissinger and I had to make some very hard decisions on what we could do to help facilitate the negotiations between Israel and Egypt, we took into consideration the request by both countries for us to make available not more than 200 technicians in the U.N. buffer zone plus the prospects of substantial economic and military aid to the State of Israel and, to some extent, the same to the State of Egypt.

Let me say that, as we analyze the alternatives--and the alternatives were simply two--if we did not play a meaningful role in what we have recommended to the Congress, it would be my judgment that the stalemate in the Middle East would continue with all of the potential volatility, increasing tensions, and the high likelihood of another military conflict. And each one seems to get bloodier and bloodier and more costly. That was one alternative.

The other choice was to do what we have recommended to the Congress. I believe it is a good investment in momentum and a long-range possibility of an equitable and secure peace in the Middle East. I believe that it is a way in which we can participate in a fair and proper way to achieve the momentum and to hopefully avoid a conflict. And in balancing the difficult choices, the decision by myself, and with Secretary Kissinger, was that this is a better course of action.

And may I say that it is going to be costly, but the general figures used are somewhere between $2 billion to $2.3 billion for economic and military assistance for the State of Israel.

I only point out that earlier this year at the time that I was conducting the reassessment of our Mideast policy, I received a letter signed by 76 Senators asking me to make certain that I recommended $2,600 million for Israel without any participation by Israel in the negotiations with Egypt.

So, going by what 76 Senators felt was a proposal of some magnitude in money, I believe the decision to work with Israel and Egypt to achieve peace-and I think it is a good, solid program--it is a better investment than more money being spent, as 76 Senators requested us to do, without any program for momentum of peace in the Middle East. I think it is a good gamble for peace.

The other would be a very difficult potential problem of a high likelihood of war. So, I think it is the right action, and I hope the Congress promptly and overwhelmingly approves, number one, the 200 technicians to serve in the U.N. buffer zone, and also the necessary amount, which, of course, the Congress can decide. But I think it is a good gamble for peace, and I hope the Congress responds.


Q. Mr. President, my name is Clark Maser. I am a member of the World Affairs Council and an elderly skier. [Laughter] What steps should the United States take if the State of Israel is expelled from the United Nations, which has been threatened by the so-called tyranny of the majority? Should we withdraw in that case all financial support to the United Nations or should we withdraw from the United Nations?

THE PRESIDENT. I, as well as Secretary Kissinger, have strongly spoken out against the threats that primarily came from the nonaligned nations. The attitude that we expressed toward the nonaligned underdeveloped nations has, to a substantial degree, softened some of the prospective actions that were anticipated in the United Nations. You don't find that pushing quite as hard today as it was 6 months ago or a year ago.

Now, we believe in the universality of the United Nations. And I don't believe nations should be kicked out because the majority have a grudge or an adverse point of view. You can't make the United Nations do its job, perform its function, if a simple majority in the General Assembly can just arbitrarily decide that that nation ought to be kicked out.

I totally disapprove of that procedure. And this country, as long as I am President, will strongly, vigorously fight against any such action against any nation, and we have said this particularly in reference to Israel.

I believe our firm stand, our efforts through Secretary Kissinger at the special session has pretty well diluted the prospective action concerning Israel in 1975. If there is any reaffirmation of what appeared to be inaction, we will vigorously fight any action by the General Assembly, and we will take a strong stand, the strongest possible stand in the Security Council.

Sources: Public Papers of the President