WASHINGTON (Dec. 20)
President Johnson reaffirmed last night the United States commitment to Israel. He spoke on a nationally-televised interview on which he warned that “the situation in the Middle East is a very dangerous one.”
One of the questions asked him concerned the Glassboro, N.J., meeting last summer between the President and Premier Alexei Kosygin of the Soviet Union. The question was whether “the restraint that we and the Russians seem to show in the Middle East crisis” came from Mr. Johnson’s dialogue with the Soviet leader.
Replying that he considered the Glassboro conference “very useful,” the President expressed doubt, however, “that it really helped solved any of the problems of the Middle East.” The President referred to his statement on June 19, citing the five conditions “that ought to enter into bringing about peace in the area.” (These conditions were the right of all nations in the area to live in peace, acceptance of the right of existence of each nation; freedom of navigation in international waterways; solution of the Arab refugee problem; and limitation of the Middle East arms race.)
Mr. Johnson told the newsmen that he stressed the five points to Mr. Kosygin at the Glassboro meeting, and that “he understands them.” “He did not agree with them,” the President added, “but I think that the Soviet Union understands that we feel very strongly about this matter, that we do have definite views.” He added that Arthur J. Goldberg, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, “has made our position” on the Middle East “very clear.”
The President said that the United Nations appointment of Gunnar Jarring, as a special Middle East envoy, had led him to be “hopeful” that his five-point conditions “can be worked out and that a permanent solution can be found to that very difficult problem.” He repeated that the Middle East deadlock “is one of our most dangerous situations, and one that is going to require the best tact, judgment, patience and willingness on the part of all to find a solution.”
One of the newsmen asked whether the United States had “the same kind of unwavering commitment to defend Israel against invasion as we have in South Vietnam.” The President replied that the United States did not have a SEATO treaty with Israel, “if that is what you are asking. We have made clear our very definite interest in Israel, and our desire to preserve peace in that area of the world, by many means, but we do not have a mutual security treaty with them (Israel), as we do in Southeast Asia.”