Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Carter Seeking Popular, Congressional Support for His Course in the Mideast

August 16, 1977
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

President Carter has apparently embarked on a face-to-face dialogue with the American people to win popular support and bi-partisan political backing in Congress for his course of action in the Middle East. In rejecting the advice of Congressional leaders in his own party as well as among Republicans, the President also appeared to be going back on a previous pledge that his Administration would eschew public remarks on the political process.

The President made this pledge shortly before Secretary of State Cyrus Vance began his ill-fated Middle East trip two weeks ago. At that time, a storm had broken on the President’s blueprinting of conditions for a Mideast settlement and he decided to put a lid on official U.S. talk.

However, after it was apparent, following the early stage of Vance’s trip, that the Arabs would accept neither a true peace with Israel nor a Geneva conference without the Palestine Liberation Organization, Carter himself, in Plains, Ga. and Vance in Saudi Arabia publicly sought to bring the terrorist PLO into the Geneva conference by leaning toward Arab terms and in opposition to Israeli Premier Menachem Begin’s government’s refusal to deal with the terrorists.


Following Vance’s report to the President yesterday, a White House statement said the President and Vance: “remained determined to do all that is possible” to bring peace in the Middle East and that “with the approval of all concerned, the U.S. will use its influence, offer its advice and work to bring the parties into fruitful negotiations.”

The statement said that both Vance and Carter will meet the foreign ministers of Israel and the Arab state next month and will also “stay in close touch with the Soviet Union,” the cochairman along with the U.S. of the Geneva conference.

The announcement that Carter would also meet with the foreign ministers indicated the President’s personal involvement in the proceedings to assure some peace progress will be made. This is part of his oft-stated view that a solution to the Mideast conflict must take place with due speed. Nevertheless, the announcement of his involvement in the foreign ministers’ talks is a new element in the proceedings since until now the talks were due to be held between Vance and each of the foreign ministers separately.


Carter made clear his intention to campaign for public support in an interview with ABC-TV reporters in Plains on Aug. 9 which was broadcast last night. On Aug. 9, the Vance mission was already seen as a failure and the President and Vance both publicly sought to induce the PLO to join a Geneva conference by agreeing to accept United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. Previously, the U.S. had demanded that the PLO alter its charter calling for the destruction of Israel. But this proviso was dropped.

In the ABC interview, the text of which was released by the White House, Carter said “We are going to continue to try in a very determined and tenacious way” to achieve a Middle East settlement “and I am going to continue to go public with the American position.”

The President’s comments were made as he defended his Administration’s policy of letting the American people “know the facts” on foreign policy issues, including the Middle East. “It is best for the American people to know why we have not had a Middle Eastern settlement in 30 years or maybe 2000 years,” Carter said. He said the American public should not only know the American position, but understand the differences between the various sides in the Middle East dispute.


Harry Reasoner, one of the interviewers, pointed out that “a number of Israeli leaders in private say that you have made drastic changes in America’s attitude toward Israel and that they regard you with considerable trepidation.” He asked the President if there is “justification” for this view.

“Yes, I am aware of that feeling and also many other feelings,” Carter replied. “There’s no single attitude among all Jews in the world or all Israeli citizens.

“To the extent that Israeli leaders genuinely want a peace settlement I think that they have to agree that there will be an acceptance of genuine peace on the part of the Arabs, an adjustment of boundaries in the Middle East which are secure for the Israelis and also satisfy the minimum requirements of the Arab neighbors and the United Nations resolutions and some solution to the question of the enormous number of Palestinian refugees who have been forced out of their homes and who want to have some fair treatment.

“I think world opinion is very powerful on disputing nations when there is a consensus on what ought to be done,” the President said in another passage. “Quite often for domestic political consumption there is an adamancy, very disruptive and antagonistic attitude taken on the part of some leaders. But we are willing to accept this consequence.” The President said “We face some tough decisions in the future that is going to require bi-partisan support,” including “Middle East” questions.

Recommended from JTA