WASHINGTON (Mar. 9)
President Carter said today that Israel’s defense capabilities may have to extend “beyond the permanent and recognized borders” that may be agreed upon in a peace settlement between Israel and the Arab states.
While Carter said he did not want to be specific about this, he said it could mean an international force, a line that spreads 20 kilometers or so in a demilitarized zone or outposts consisting either of electronic equipment “or perhaps personnel outpost as were established in the Sinai region as a result of the Egyptian and Israeli agreement.”
Answering questions at a wide ranging press conference, Carter said “I am not trying to act as the one to lay down an ultimate settlement. I don’t know what an ultimate settlement will be.” But he indicated that he believed it would involve “minor adjustments to the pre-1967 border but that is a matter for Israel and her neighbors to decide between themselves.”
Carter stressed that in mid-May after he has a chance to talk to the leaders of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, he will have a more clear idea of what are the positions of the parties to the conflict. Following is the text of the questions and answers on the Middle East issue during today’s press conference:
NOT JUST SEMANTICS
Q. Mr. President, you talked about defensible borders lately and what that means in regard to the Middle East. Could I ask you, sir, do you feel it would be appropriate in a Middle East peace settlement for the Israelis to keep some of the occupied land they took during the 1967 war in order to have secure borders?
A. The defensible border phrase, the secure border phrase are obviously just semantics. I think it’s a relatively insignificant development and a description of possible settlement in the Middle East to talk about these things as a distinction. Recognized borders have to be mutual. The Arab nations and the Israeli nation have to agree on permanent and recognized borders where sovereignty is legal as mutually agreed. Defense lines may or may not conform in the for-seeable future to those legal borders.
There may be extensions of it–Israeli defense capabilities beyond the permanent and recognized borders. I think this distinction is one that is now recognized by Israeli leaders. The definition of orders on a geographic basis is one that remains to be determined but I think it is important for the world to begin to see and for the interested parties to begin to see there can be a distinction between the two–the ability of Israel to defend herself by international agreement or by the sometime placement of Israeli forces themselves or by monitoring stations as had been the case in the Sinai beyond the actual sovereignty borders as mutually agreed by Israel and her neighbor.
WOULD LIKE TO SEE END OF BELLIGERENCE
Q. Does that mean international zones between the countries?
A. International zones could very well be part of an agreement. And I think that I can see, in a growing way, a step-by-step process where there might be a mutual agreement that the ultimate settlement, even including the border delineations would be at a certain described point in an interim state; may be two years, four years, eight years, or more, there would be a mutual demonstration of friendship and an end to the declaration of state of war.
I think what Israel would like to have is what we would like to have–a termination of belligerence towards Israel by her neighbors, a recognition of Israel’s right to exist, the right to exist in peace, the opening up of borders with free trade, tourist travel, cultural exchange between Israel and her neighbors, in other words, a stabilization of the situation in the Middle East without a constant threat to Israel’s existence by her neighbors. And this would involve substantial withdrawal of Israel’s present control over territories. Now where that withdrawal might end, I don’t know.
I would guess there would be some minor adjustments in the 1967 borders but that still remains to be negotiated but I think this is going to be a long, tedious process. We are going to mount a major effort in our own government in 1977 to bring the parties to Geneva. Obviously, any agreement has to be between the parties concerned. We will act as an intermediary when our good offices will serve well, but I am not trying to predispose our own nation’s attitude towards what might be the ultimate details of the agreement that might mean so much to world peace.
THREE BASIC ELEMENTS
Q. I would like to try to clarify the Israeli situation if I might. A moment ago in answering the question you spoke of the possibility of substantial withdrawal of Israeli control over territory and then just a few seconds later spoke of the possibility of minor territorial concessions by the Israelis. What is it exactly that you have in mind here? Are you really talking about some big withdrawals or are you talking only about minor withdrawals?
A. I don’t think I used the word minor withdrawals. I think there might be minor adjustments to the pre-1967 borders but that is a matter for Israel and her neighbors to decide between themselves. And I believe that we will know by I would say the middle of May much more clearly the positions of the interested parties. I have not yet met nor talked to the leaders of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia to a lesser direct participation degree. I will meet with all these leaders between now and the middle of May. And I don’t want to try to define in any specific terms the exact delineation of borders, but I think this is obviously one of the most serious problems.
There are three basic elements: one is an ultimate commitment to complete peace in the Middle East. Secondly, border determinations which are highly controversial and have not yet been defined by either side. And third, dealing with the Palestinian question. And I am not trying to act as the one to lay down an-ultimate settlement. I don’t know what an ultimate settlement will be. But these matters will be clearly and openly debated within our own country and within the countries involved. And I think I have described as best as I can my own position.
Q. I would like to go just a little bit further in your discussion of the defensible border issue. If I understood you correctly you are talking about the possibility of something like an Israeli defense line along the Jordan River and perhaps at some point in the Sinai Desert and perhaps at some point on the Golan Heights that would be defense forces but not legal borders. Have I understood correctly that your feeling is that the Israelis are going to have to have some kind of defense forces along the Jordan River and in those other places?
A. You have added a great deal to what I have said. In the first place, I did not mention any particular parts of the geography around Israel. And I did not define the defense capability to Israeli forces. These might very well be international forces. It might very well be a line that spreads a broad 20 kilometers or more where demilitarization is guaranteed on both sides. It might very well consist of outposts, electronics or perhaps personnel outposts as were established in the Sinai region as a result of the Egyptian and Israeli agreement.
I am not going to try to get more specific and say what will or will not be the case but that is a possibility that might lead to the alleviation of tension there and is one about which I will be discussing with the representatives from the Arab countries when they come.