THE PRESIDENT. I'd like to say first of all that I am very deeply grateful to welcome back to our country an old friend of mine and a long-time friend of the United States--Prime Minister Rabin from Israel.
We've had two foreign visitors already. This is a different kind of visit. This is going to be a series of working sessions. Because of the crucial nature of problems that face the Middle East and the close historic ties between Israel and the United States, we've decided to minimize the amount of time spent in ceremony. We will have a meeting tonight at a banquet, but it will be a working banquet.
And I believe that this is the kind of interrelationship that will demonstrate to the world the seriousness with which we address our problems in the Middle East, our commitment to Israel, our long-standing friendship, our sharing of democratic principles and human liberty, and our constant search for peace.
As many of you may know, in the Six-Day War in Israel a number of years ago, the strategist and the tactician and the commander was Prime Minister Rabin. Later, he was ambassador to our country.
And while I was Governor of Georgia, he and his wife visited me in Atlanta. He had political aspirations then, I imagine, in the back of his mind. His success in politics was much more rapid than I have achieved. When I went to Israel not too long ago, he came back from Africa to meet with me and to explain to me in a 2- or 3-hour session in my hotel room some of the inner workings and hidden mechanism of the Israeli political structure. I didn't realize then how well he understood them because shortly afterwards he became the Prime Minister of that great country. Later, I've now become President of our country.
But I think this long-standing relationship with him and a personal knowledge of him and his deep commitment to peace in a courageous way will stand us in good stead as we explore the future of our two countries.
Recently, Secretary of State Vance took a trip to the Middle East, began his trip with a long conversation with Prime Minister Rabin and his Cabinet, members of the Knesset, other leaders of Israel, and then, subsequently, went to meet with the leaders of other countries in the Middle East to try to explore some common ground for future permanent peace there, so that Israel might have defensible borders so that the peace commitments would never be violated, and that could be a sense of security about this young country in the future.
I can't think of any two nations on Earth that more narrowly focus deep commitments on a common way for the principles of government based on mutual background, the present considerations on a common basis, and in the future a mutual commitment.
This is a time of great joy for me to have Prime Minister Rabin and his wife, Lea, come to visit us. And I believe that the next 2 days of discussions between myself and him, his leaders and ours, the Cabinet-level officers and the leaders of Congress and the private community, will be very fruitful.
Nineteen seventy-seven is a year that might very well bring a major step forward toward ultimate and permanent peace. And to a great degree, the success of this year's negotiations and hopes rest on the shoulders of a man who, in the past, has demonstrated his capability of dealing with complicated problems in a frank and courageous fashion and who has a vision that is very closely compatible with the visions of the people of the United States.
So on behalf of our people, I welcome you back to our country, Mr. Rabin, and would like very much to express our complete commitment to an even greater interrelationship on a common basis with the courageous citizens whom you represent in the great nation of Israel.
Thank you for coming. You are welcome here.
THE PRIME MINISTER. Mr. President, Mrs. Carter:
My wife and I deeply appreciate your personal welcome and your kind, warm words.
May I say it is always a pleasure to me to be back in Washington and to see around me so many friends. I wish particularly to thank you, Mr. President, for the kind invitation that brings me here today.
Your hospitality enables me to convey in a most personal manner, the best wishes, the friendship, and the esteem of the people and the Government of Israel, to you, Mr. President, and to the great people you represent.
Democratic Israel stands with you in your endeavor to foster peace and human rights within the family of nations. From this platform, let me say to you, Mr. President, that Israel shall continue to work tirelessly for the peace and welfare of our region, strengthened and encouraged by the special relationship that has long marked the ties between our two peoples.
Let me emphasize to you, Mr. President, that I have come from Jerusalem, the City of Peace, with a sense of dedication to build a structure of peace between Israel and our neighbors. Peace is our highest aspiration. It is towards this end that Israel commits all its energies; for peace is the essence of the heritage we share and the goal of policy we pursue. It is a heritage as old, as eternal, and as living as the Bible.
Everything our people stand for, everything we believe in derives from the Biblical definition of what is right and good. In the words of Solomon in the Book of Proverbs, "Righteousness exalts a nation."
It has been the moral standing of America that induces help among millions longing for a better, a more decent, and a more peaceful world. It is the understanding and support which America has throughout displayed for the security and welfare of my own nation that moves me now to express to you and through you to the American people our deepest gratitude.
Mr. President, I come knowing that our aspirations and goals are one. It is in this spirit that I look forward to our forthcoming talks, and it is in this very same spirit that I bring to you from Jerusalem our sincere greetings of shalom.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.