WASHINGTON (Jul. 20)
President Carter said today after his third and final meeting with Israeli Premier Menachem Begin that he believes “the groundwork” has been laid “that will lead to a Geneva conference in October.” He said that Secretary of State Cyrus Vance will go in the beginning of August to Israel and the Arab countries to discuss plans for the conference.
Carter made his statement to newsmen in an impromptu news conference after seeing Begin off in front of the White House. The Israeli Premier, who this afternoon held a press conference to reveal his peace plan, did not say anything before getting into his car. (See P. 3 for news conference story.)
The meeting today, which was to have lasted 90 minutes, took only 50 minutes, unlike yesterday when the two-hour meeting at the White House was double the scheduled time. Asked why the meeting broke early, Carter said it was “an unexpectedly harmonious session.” He earlier said that he did not think that the meeting with Begin could have “been any better.”
SEES ACCOMMODATIONS BETWEEN ISRAEL, ARABS
The President said that there are “strong matters of difference between Arab and Israeli leaders but we have not found them to be so adamant in their positions that they are not eager for accommodations.” He said they all agree on the need for peace based on United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
Carter said there are problems on the question of a permanent peace, territorial issues, and the Palestinians. Asked if the West Bank is one of those issues he said that the question of the West Bank should “be left to the parties themselves” but he expected that issue would come up at the Geneva conference. Carter was also asked if he still maintained his well-known public positions on the Middle East settlement. “Now is the time to be quiet,” he said.
The President stated that he liked Begin “very much” and was further convinced of the truth of the words in which he welcomed the Premier when he said that Begin was a man of “principle and courage.”
Earlier, Begin had breakfast with Zbigniew Brzezinski, the President’s National Security advisor. Brzezinski said that during the meeting, which lasted more than 90 minutes, they discussed the “process of achieving a settlement.” He would not elaborate on the meeting, saying there was no point of having a private meeting if one talked about it.
However, Brzezinski said that Begin talked to him a great deal about Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial outside Jerusalem, which contains documents given it by Brzezinski’s father who was a Polish Consul in Germany during the 1930s and helped many Jews escape the Nazis.
PUBLIC SCRUTINY OF CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES
During a working dinner at the White House last night where Carter and Begin exchanged toasts, the President reassured the Israeli leader that the U.S. will not “try to impose our will on anyone” but will “act as a trusted intermediary” in the Middle East negotiating process. However, Carter stressed that the U.S. will not “avoid a controversial issue and wherever appropriate” will “open these controversial issues up to public scrutiny.”
Begin, in his response, said that after meeting the President he was convinced that Carter is “wholeheartedly a great friend of Israel. “He said that “with a sense of urgency on one hand and some patience on the other, I think we can build a foundation of peace in the Middle East and the recognition of justice for all and fairness for all as we believe.”
The White House dinner was the second meeting between Carter and Begin. They met initially yesterday morning for two hours. Carter said last night that he and Begin had conducted “far-reaching discussions” in which “we have explored differences of opinion in a very blunt and frank fashion.” He said that “some of the differences” have been resolved and that “some very sensitive questions, some that can prove to be embarrassing because of past statements made in the heat of anger or the heat of challenge or the heat of despair or the depths of insecurity” were also raised.
The President appeared to be referring to the recent bitter exchanges between Washington and Jerusalem on the issue of territorial withdrawals by Israel. Carter’s public statements on that issue and the concept of a Palestinian homeland aroused concern and anger in Israel. But at last night’s dinner the President offered his rationale for publicly speaking our on those matters.
He said that in order “to deserve” the trust of all parties to the Mideast conflict, the U.S. must “give the same point of view to all the parties who will be negotiating, not to mislead anyone, not to avoid a controversial issue and wherever appropriate, to open these controversial issues up to public scrutiny…even when, at times, it creates some hopefully transient dissension among people who have strongly held opposing views.”
PROPITIOUS TIME FOR PERMANENT PEACE
Carter added, “We recognize that the basic security of Israel must not only be guaranteed in military terms… but in the minds and hearts of people who live in that country…and of people who would disturb that security if they thought there was hope for success.” Carter hailed Begin as “a strong leader” and a “man of deep convictions and unshakeable principle” who has demonstrated the necessary courage that any move toward peace in the Mideast would require.
The President said that he and the Premier “both feel that this year is a propitious time to move toward real, permanent peace in the Middle East, a recognition by all nations that Israel has a right to exist, to exist as a proud and independent nation, to exist permanently and to exist in peace….This is a basis on which we approach the crucial coming months,” Carter said.