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Reagan Deplores Israel’s Action on the Golan but is ‘optimistic’ That Mideast Peace Will Be Achieved

December 18, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

President Reagan said today that Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights “increased the difficulty” of obtaining a Middle East peace but he continued to be “optimistic” that it will be achieved.

Reagan, who was answering questions at a nationally televised press conference from the East Room of the White House, refused to say whether he believed the Golan Heights should be returned to Syria. He said that it was “not proper” for him to comment on this because under United National Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, it was a matter to be negotiated.

The President noted that “we were caught by surprise” by the Israeli action Monday. He said the U. S. deplored the “unilateral action” by Israel because it “increased the difficulty of seeking peace” under Resolutions 242 and 338. He said he was hopeful that the Israeli action would be “ameliorated.” This was assumed to be a reference to current international efforts to have Israel rescind its action.

The President noted that only a few hours after the Israeli Knesset adopted the measure applying Israeli law to the Golan Heights, Egypt and Israel continued working on the autonomy negotiations. “The peace process is going on,” Reagan said, and “we continue to be optimistic.”

Asked by a reporter about Israeli “oppression” and “violence” on the West Bank, Reagan said he knew nothing about violence there. When asked by another reporter whether he had objected when the Jordanian Arab Legion controlled the West Bank and when Syria shelled Israeli settlements from the Golan Heights, Reagan said he could not remember what his position was that long ago. But, he added, he remembered where he was during the 1967 Six-Day War. He said he was participating in a rally at the Hollywood Bowl in support of Israel. Reagan was Governor of California at the time. He said the only other elected official at that rally was George Murphy, then a Republican Senator from California.

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