Menu JTA Search

Bush, New U.S. Envoy to Un, Rejects Imposed Mideast Settlement, Backs Rogers Plan

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

George Herbert Walker Bush made his debut as United States ambassador to the United Nations today by rejecting a Big Four-imposed Middle East settlement but backing the Rogers territorial plan of Dec. 9, 1969. The 46-year-old Massachusetts-born Texan, a Republican Congressman from 1966 to 1970, met the UN press corps this morning in his first official act as ambassador after presenting his credentials to Secretary General Thant. The subject of the Mideast dominated the 40-minute session, at which Bush exhibited an extroverted, freewheeling style in contrast with the taciturnity of his ousted predecessor, Charles W. Yost. “The Four have a useful role” in the Mideast deliberations, Bush remarked, but they should not “superimpose” a settlement or in any way “impede” the very sensitive balance that now exists in the Jarring negotiations. He added praise for the Swedish intermediary, commenting: “I personally have the greatest respect for what Dr. (Gunnar V.) Jarring is trying to do, and I know our government does.” But Bush stated that President Nixon’s position on the Rogers plan was “clearly the position our Mission is going to take.” Nixon, reaffirming that plan last Thursday in his “State of the World” message, said the U.S. “has recognized that any changes in the pre-war borders should be insubstantial.”

Israel opposes both Big Four imposition of a settlement and the Rogers plan. The new envoy added that the matter of minor territorial adjustments was “under consideration at the highest councils of our government.” Bush, flanked by U.S. Ambassadors Christopher H. Phillips and Seymour Maxwell Finger, said he was “willing” to have a special Big Four meeting this week to help save the cease-fire, which expires March 7. He said the four–the envoys of the U.S., the Soviet Union, Britain and France–“continue to play an important role.” But as to whether they should make a public statement in support of a truce extension, Bush commented that “it would depend on the nature of the statement,” whether it “enhanced the quest for peace.” In this latter connection, he said” any fair-minded observer would say things have come a long way.” But he admitted that this was “a very critical time” for the Mideast, and that the U.S. must “keep our cool in a heated-up situation.” Bush said the U.S. desired “a lasting peace,” and that toward that end “we’re not writing off any approach,” including a Big Power force in the Mideast. Regarding his personal philosophy, Bush said he wanted to be a “strong” and “forceful” diplomat, though not so strong and forceful that he would “disturb the progress.” He declared: “I will feel no inhibition whatever in presenting my views forcefully to the President and the Secretary of State.”

Bush, who was given the UN ambassadorship after he lost a Senate race urged on him by President Nixon, added: “I have a close relationship with the President. I think I have his confidence.” The newcomer to Turtle Bay, who divested himself of his presidency, chairmanship and shares in Zapata Off-Shore Co. of Midland, Tex., before running for Congress in 1966, gave a carefully worded reply to a question about Mideast oil by the correspondent of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Asked “What role should America’s oil interests in the Mideast play in its policy in that region?,” he said that while oil was “of fundamental importance…tremendously important” there, U.S. oil interests were “not going to dictate” Washington’s Mideast stance. He added that in being prepared for his new job over the past several weeks, the matter of American oil interests was never mentioned to him. In the course of his comments this morning, Bush used the phrase “even-handed”–the kind of Mideast policy recommended to President Nixon by fact-finder William W. Scranton, former Republican Governor of Pennsylvania, and reacted to bitterly by defense-conscious Israel. Bush clarified his use of the phrase by remarking: “What I’m talking about is fair play. I mean not superimposing our will on others, I mean a lasting peace–that sort of stuff.”

NEXT STORY