President Nixon said here last night that U.S. friendship with Israel’s Arab neighbors did not affect its policy toward Israel and was in fact “in the long term interests of Israel.” In a nationally televised question-and-answer session at the convention of the National Association of Broadcasters, Nixon declared that U.S. policy in the Middle East would “continue to support the independence and integrity of the State of Israel” and “continue to try to seek not only renewed relations with Egypt but with other countries with which those relations have been broken, as you know in the past, growing out of the June, 1967 war.”
“But,” he added, “let me make one thing very clear. Being a friend of one of Israel’s neighbors does not make us an enemy of Israel.” Nixon also said that the conditional nature of the lifting of the Arab oil embargo–subject to review in June–would not deter the U.S. from its present peacemaking efforts in the Middle East. He acknowledged, however, that those efforts and the embargo lifting were “parallel” and “inevitably what happens in one area affects the other.”
That remark led some observers to the view that Nixon was acknowledging some pressure from the Arabs to make additional progress on the peace front or face a renewal of the oil cut-off.
MIDEAST MORE IMPORTANT THAN VIETNAM
Nixon also stressed that there could be no permanent peace in the Mideast unless both the U.S. and the Soviet Union desired it. He described the region as “one of those flash points in the world far more important to the interests of the United States and the Soviet Union than a place like Vietnam.” He said “the problems of peace in the Middle East” would be high on the agenda of his talks with Soviet leaders in Moscow this spring.
Nixon spoke at considerable length on the Middle East. His remarks were in response to a questioner who asked whether, with the oil embargo lifted and “with Egypt seeming to lead the way in that regard, what does that do to U.S. Middle East policy, and especially should push come to shove regarding Israel?”
The President said: “I realize that many of those who support Israel and its independence, as I have since that state came into existence, wonder about the policy of the United States which is now one designed not only to be a friend of Israel but to be a friend of Israel’s neighbors. And I would only suggest that in terms of the future of Israel, it is much better to have the United States a friend of Israel’s neighbors and thereby able to influence and perhaps restrain their policies rather than as an enemy or with no communication…. In the long term interests of Israel and in the long term interest of all the countries in the Mideast, it is vital that the United States play a constructive and positive role.”
NO PERMANENT PEACE IF USSR OPPOSES IT
He cited as an example “the progress on the Syrian disengagement, which will be even more difficult from the disengagement on the Israeli front–the Egyptian-Israeli front….This is a positive move. We have a long way to go. But in the long term, we have to realize that a United States role in the Mideast must be one that works with all the countries in the area that are willing to work with us.” He said that implicit in many questions about the Middle East is why the U.S. maintains its attitude “at a time when the Soviet Union seems to be following, some claim or allege, an obstructionist attitude in the Mideast.”
“Let me say.” the President continued, “there cannot be permanent peace in the Mideast unless the United States is for it and plays a role to get it. But also there cannot be permanent peace in the Mideast if the Soviet Union is against it. As far as the Soviet Union and the United States are concerned, our interests are not always the same in the Mideast. In my meetings with Mr. Brezhnev two years ago, also this year, and I trust also later in the year, the problem of peace in the Middle East will be high on the agenda.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.