Johnson, Silent on Jets, Says Jerusalem is a Critical Issue in Peace Settlement
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Johnson, Silent on Jets, Says Jerusalem is a Critical Issue in Peace Settlement

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President Lyndon B. Johnson admonished Israel last night to remember that “boundaries cannot and should not reflect the weight of conquest” and reminded them that “it is more certain than ever that Jerusalem is a critical issue in any peace settlement.” The President, speaking to some 3,000 members of B’nai B’rith and their guests at the triennial convention banquet at the Shoreham Hotel here, also took issue with Israeli demands for direct negotiations with the Arabs, asserting that “many channels are open. How the talking is done at the outset is not very important tonight.”

Mr. Johnson had been expected to announce a decision to deliver supersonic Phantom Jet fighters to Israel to meet Israel’s need for deterrent strength. The convention had, two days before, heard both Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey and Richard M. Nixon, the presidential nominees, emphasize the importance of meeting Israel’s need for these planes. Then, on Monday, President Johnson met secretly with Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon of Israel. It was therefore widely anticipated that when Mr. Johnson made his unannounced and surprise visit to the B’nai B’rith banquet, it would be to respond to Israel’s anxiety over the mounting Soviet buildup of the Arab states.

Instead, Mr. Johnson lavished praise on the Jews as a people, condemned Communist anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe, and reiterated some aspects of support of Israel — but introduced a number of potentially controversial new points. The President said “it is more certain than ever that Jerusalem is a critical issue in any peace settlement. No one wishes the Holy City again divided by barbed wire and machine guns. I therefore tonight urge and appeal to the parties to stretch their imagination — so that their interests, and the world’s interest in Jerusalem, can be taken fully into account in any final settlement.” He singled out Jerusalem for mention after asserting that “boundaries cannot and should not reflect the weight of conquest.” The President said that in “recent weeks,” progress had been made toward peace in the Middle East. He urged leaders “to maintain and accelerate their dialogue.” He did not see direct negotiations essential. “Many channels are open.” he said. “How the talking is done at the outset is not very important tonight.”


The President said that the “Arab governments must convince Israel, and the world community, that they have abandoned the idea of destroying Israel. But equally, Israel must persuade its Arab neighbors and the world community that Israel has no expansionist designs on their territory.” He declared that “we are not here to judge whose fears are right and whose are wrong. Right or wrong, fear is the first obstacle to peacemaking. Each side must do its share to overcome it.”

President Johnson stressed that the number of Arab refugees “is still increasing. The June War added some 200,000 refugees to those already displaced by the 1948 war. They face a bleak prospect as the winter approaches. We share a very deep concern for these refugees. Their plight is a symbol in the minds of the Arab peoples. In their eyes, it is the symbol of a wrong that must be made right before 20 years of war can end. That fact must be dealt with in reaching a condition of peace.”

The President said the arms race continued. “We have exercised restraint, while recognizing the legitimate defense needs of friendly governments. But we have no intention of allowing the balance of forces in the area to ever become an incentive for war. We continue to hope that our restraint will be matched by the restraint of others — though I must observe that has been lacking since the end of the June War. We have proposed, and I reiterate again tonight, the need–now–for an international understanding on arms limitations for this region of the world.


President Johnson asserted that “no nation, that has been part of the tragic drama of these past 20 years is without blame. Violence and counter-violence have absorbed the energies of all the parties. The process of peacemaking cannot be further delayed without peril. The United Nations Security Council resolution of last November laid down the principles of a just and lasting peace.” The President reaffirmed the principles he outlined June 19,1967, and said they remained the foundation of American policy.

On the subject of final boundaries, he said: “we are not the ones to say where other nations should draw lines between them that will assure each other the greatest security. It is clear, however, that return to the situation of June 4,1967, will not bring peace. There must be secure and recognized borders. Some such lines must be agreed by the neighbors involved as part of the transition from armistice to peace. At the same time, it is equally clear that boundaries cannot and should not reflect the weight of conquest. Each change must have a reason–which each side, in honest negotiation, can accept–as part of a just compromise.”

Mr. Johnson affirmed that “no enduring peace settlement is possible until the Suez Canal and the Strait of Tiran are open to the ships of all nations, and the right of passage effectively guaranteed.”

He asked the B’nai B’rith to consider the plight of the Vietnamese and others in Southeast Asia — “a part of the world with which few Americans have family ties.” In calling for pursuit of peace there and in the Middle East, he asked: “let us work with our heads instead of our passions–with our sense of justice, and not our bigotry and after 5,000 years, I believe most of you know what I mean.”

President Johnson devoted a portion of his address to Czechoslovakia, stating that new military and political risks arose “from this aggressive act.” In this connection, he said: “some leaders of Eastern Europe have sought to indict those of Jewish faith for spreading ideas of freedom among their people. This is shocking–not only because it is a thin disguise for anti-Semitism–but because it suggests that freedom is the cause and passion of one people alone. Let there be no doubt in anyone’s mind about who cares for freedom: mankind itself cares.”

President Johnson was given an ovation when he entered the banquet hall. A cable from Prime Minister Levi Eshkol of Israel, praising Mr. Johnson’s “friendship and understanding” in glowing terms was read to the assemblage. Dr. William A. Wexler, President of B’nai B’rith, presented to him a silver esrog box inscribed in Hebrew from Psalms 45:18 reading “I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations, therefore shall the people praise thee forever and ever.”

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