Jimmy Carter photo

B'nai B'rith International Remarks at the Closing Banquet of the Biennial Convention.

September 04, 1980

President Spitzer, President Day, Ambassador Evron, Senator Carl Levin, Secretary Klutznick, Secretary Goldschmidt, members and friends of B'nai B'rith International, ladies and gentlemen:

My wife made me promise that at the beginning of my speech I would recognize the presence of Mr. Shalom Doron, who's the chairman of the board of the B'nai B'rith Women Children's Home in Israel, one of the finest places that I have ever known about, where Rosalynn was privileged to visit when we were in Jerusalem last year.

This is a home, as you women certainly know, for children who are severely emotionally disturbed. They have a remarkable 70-percent recovery rate among those children. They give no drugs, and as Mr. Doron says, the therapy is love. My wife is one of the experts on mental health, says it's one of the most successful programs and schools that she has ever seen in her life, and you're to be congratulated for it.

I come before you at a special time in our Nation's history, a dynamic period of controlled turmoil known as election time. [Laughter] It's a time when good friends can find themselves in total disagreement. It's a time when parents are very likely to find themselves at odds with their own sons and daughters. It's a time when liberals ask the candidates if they'll do enough and conservatives ask the candidates not to do too much. It's a time when mere discussions become sharp debates and when debates turn into heated arguments. I understand it's a lot like hiring a new rabbi for the synagogue. [Laughter]

Speaking of elections, I'm told that Jack Spitzer was a shoo-in for reelection as your president this year. I find that a good omen as I appear before you. [Laughter]

Well, I'm delighted to be back with you again. I remember distinctly the excitement of my attendance at your banquet in 1976. And I'm delighted to be here, because, well, I think you know why. The B'nai B'rith and the Democratic Party have stood together for progressive causes for almost 50 years—from social security to strong trade unions, from civil rights at home to human rights abroad. We've made progress because we've worked together, and we've worked together because we've had shared goals, shared ideals, shared commitments.

People sometimes say that the old Democratic coalition no longer exists. But I say that all those who care about economic justice and personal dignity and civil liberties and pluralism have a living record of achievement that keeps that coalition alive. If anyone doubts that it's alive today, let them look tonight at the people and the ideals and the achievements of B'nai B'rith International. The whole world looks to you with admiration and with appreciation.

Like you, I believe both in progress and also in the preservation of tradition. Progress is the very essence of the American dream, the conviction that each generation through hard work can give its children a better life than we ourselves enjoy. But we do not want reckless change. We value political traditions, we value our cultural diversity, and we treasure them as guideposts for the future.

This will be a decade of change, perhaps even more rapid change, perhaps even more disturbing change than we experienced in the 1970's. But it's also a decade of challenge; it's a decade of hope. Our country is on the right road to the right future, and we will stay the course. The election is not about the past. I've called it a choice between two futures, and I believe that Americans want a future of justice for our society, strength and security for our Nation. And I believe that Americans want a future of peace for the entire world. We're on the right road in building a just society. We're not a perfect nation but we're making good progress.

B'nai B'rith has always recognized the universality of that effort for justice and for basic civil or human rights. That's why you seek ratification of the equal rights amendment, and so do I. Our Nation is more than 200 years old, and it's time for the rights of all Americans, women and men, to be guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States.

You want to preserve the separation of church and state, a policy that's served us so well for 200 years, and so do I. And you want a competent and an independent judiciary, and so do 1. I want America to stay on the road that we've set for ourself in the past and which we insist upon following in the future. We're on the right road to the right future in bringing peace to the Middle East, and we'll stay the course, no matter how difficult it might be, in our commitment to justice and peace and to the security and the well-being of Israel.

I hope that when the history books are written about my own administration, that one of the paragraphs there will be that President Jimmy Carter, representing the United States, helped the leaders and the people of Israel and Egypt to find a permanent peace. This is most important for us. Ever since President Truman recognized Israel's independence the very day it was proclaimed in Israel, our two nations have had a special relationship based on a common heritage and a common commitment to ethical and Democratic values. It's in the strategic and the moral interest of the United States of America to have peace in the Mideast and a secure and a peaceful Israel. It's in our interest as well as those of the people of Israel.

We've not been completely successful yet, but our course in the Middle East has brought the first real peace that that region has known in the 32 years of Israel's existence. There is no turning back. The brave vision of Prime Minister Begin and President Anwar Sadat has been vindicated. The proof is in the almost unbelievable present circumstance, for Ambassadors are exchanged between nations, in meetings between the leaders of those nations in Cairo, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and also in Alexandria, in airline flights between the two countries on a routine basis, and even the fact that now Israeli visitors or tourists can buy the Jerusalem Post at newsstands in Cairo.

Normalization has begun. It can and it must proceed further. When I went to Jerusalem and to Cairo and to Alexandria, the excitement of the hundreds of thousands of people on the streets were the most vivid testimony to me of the hunger in the hearts and minds of the people of those two great nations for a lasting peace and for justice.

The United States of America is a full partner with Israel and Egypt in the task of extending that peace—extending a genuine peace between Israel and all her neighbors. And I'm also convinced that the people of Jordan and Syria and Lebanon and the other nations in the Middle East who are Arab want peace as deeply as do the people of Israel and of Egypt. Some leaders have not yet been convinced, but I'm convinced that the people there want peace.

Together we're engaged in the only negotiation that has ever addressed both Israel's security and the political status of the West Bank and Gaza at the same time on the same agenda. And I'd like to remind you that this was an agenda set by the leaders of the two nations—Israel and Egypt—even before we began the three-way talks that led to Camp David accords and the peace treaty itself. Prime Minister Begin has assured me that he wants this from the bottom of his heart.

The road will not be easy. I cannot assure you that our country will always agree with every position taken by the Government of Israel. But whatever differences arise, they will never affect our commitment to a secure Israel. There will be no so-called reassessment of support for Israel in a Carter administration.

As Ambassador Evron pointed out to you, when he spoke recently, we have never threatened to slow down or cut off aid to Israel, and I can assure you that we never will. I know from experience and from long and extended negotiations and discussion with the leaders of those two countries that without security for Israel there can be no peace. President Sadat understands this just as clearly, as do I, or as Prime Minister Begin understands it. That's why we moved so quickly in the first few months of my own Presidency to enact a strong antiboycott law.

Such a law, as you know, has been blocked under the Republicans by the Secretaries of State and Treasury. They were afraid it would hurt our relationships, diplomatic and trade relationships with the Arab world. I thought about this. But I decided to go ahead despite these risks, because I knew it was the right thing to do. Now foreigners no longer tell American business leaders where they can do business and with whom. And Secretary Phil Klutznick, the Secretary of Commerce, is making sure that we're going to keep it that way.

The United States Government and myself personally are committed to United Nations Resolution 242, and we will oppose any attempt to change it. The United States Government and I personally oppose an independent Palestinian state, and unless and until they recognize Israel's right to exist and accept Resolution 242 as a basis for peace, we will neither recognize nor negotiate with the PLO. As I have repeatedly stated, it is long past time for an end to terrorism.

Also I know, and have known since my early childhood, the importance of Jerusalem in Jewish history. From the time King David first united the nation of Israel and proclaimed the ancient city of Jerusalem its capital, the Jewish people have drawn inspiration from Jerusalem. I sensed that special feeling myself last year when I stood as President of the United States before the Knesset in Jerusalem. I was there searching for peace in the city of peace. My prayers were answered in the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.

We're still pursuing with Israel and Egypt the larger peace that all of us seek. In such a peace, Jerusalem should remain forever undivided, with free access to the holy places, and we will make certain that the future of Jerusalem can only be determined through agreement with the full concurrence of Israel.

It's important for me to point out to you—because we share an intense interest in this subject—that President Sadat understands perfectly that my positions have been, are now, and will be those that I have just described to you.

I believe in keeping Israel strong, and I'm proud that in the 32 years of Israel's existence, one half the total economic and military aid has been delivered to that great democracy during the brief time that I have been President of the United States. I don't look on this as being kind to Israel, nor as a handout; I look upon it as President of our country as an investment in the security of America.

Ultimately, as all of you know, there is no other path to peace in the Middle East except through negotiation, and those negotiations are difficult, tedious, sometimes contentious. Sometimes there is a delay in progress that causes us all to be frustrated, sometimes almost discouraged. No one who cherishes the goal of peace can allow that course to founder. This is the policy that I will always follow. There will not be one policy for election year and another policy after the election. Exactly the same policy that led to the Camp David accords and to the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt and an uninterrupted supply of military and economic aid to Israel will continue as long as I am President of the United States.

I shared a common problem with Prime Minister Begin and with President Sadat. As was the case with them, my personal involvement in the Camp David process carried high political risks. No politician likes to have a highly publicized effort for a great achievement and fall. There was certainly no guarantee of success. The differences seemed almost insurmountable. Neither was there any guarantee of success in Jerusalem or Cairo when I went there to remove the obstacles to a peace treaty. I have been personally involved in the peace process because in conscience there is really no choice for me. We simply must continue to move away from war and stalemate to peace and to progress for the people of Israel and for the people of Egypt.

Our efforts were successful in 1978. Our efforts were successful in 1979. If we stay the course, they will be successful in the future. This is a time not for despair, but for a renewed commitment.

This week my personal representative to the peace negotiations, Ambassador Sol Linowitz, has been in the Middle East again, meeting with Prime Minister Begin and then with President Sadat. Once again we've found a way to move towards peace. The talks will resume. And again I will personally join in the search for peace, if necessary in a summit meeting, which Prime Minister Begin and I discussed on the phone when he called me this morning. He called to express his personal gratitude at the success of the Linowitz mission to the Middle East, and also to express his gratitude at the renewed prospects for progress. As you know, President Sadat has already publicly agreed with this idea of a a summit meeting if necessary to ensure success.

We are on the right road in working for peace and in helping to keep Israel secure, and we'll stay on that road in close partnership with our Israeli friends as long as I'm President.

The Mideast peace effort cannot be isolated as an international affair. Closely related to it—and I hope that you will mark my words—we are on the fight road also in moving toward energy security in the future. We had to fight for 3 years, as Senator Carl Levin knows, who helped me with this effort, to enact a comprehensive energy program. It's only just begun to work, because the legislation has only just recently been passed. But the benefits are already clear. We're now importing 24 percent less foreign oil than we were when I became President. The first year, 1977, that I was in office, we averaged importing about 8 1/2 million barrels of oil every day. This year we expect that average to have dropped to about 6 1/2 million barrels per day, which means that's a 2 million barrel less purchase of foreign oil every day, because we've moved on energy. But this progress is not a sure thing for the future. The success of this effort depends on the outcome of the election this year.

The new Republican leaders sneer at energy conservation. They say we should do away with the 55-mile speed limit. They say we should do away with the synthetic fuel program. They say we should abolish the windfall profits tax, a tax on the unearned profits of the big oil companies. And they would like to let the big oil companies keep the money, money that we will use to spur solar energy, coal use, gasohol and to help the poor and the aged pay for the higher cost of fuel to heat their homes.

As an alternative, all they offer is the wan hope that if we just give the oil companies enough money, they'll solve the energy problem for us and maybe help to shape our foreign policy at the same time. We must be very careful about this. The new Republican leaders do not seem to recognize the cost of foreign oil dependence-not just the financial cost, not just the cost in joblessness and inflation, but the foreign policy cost and the national security costs as well. To abandon conservation, to abandon our energy program could be to take the destiny of our Nation out of our own hands and put it in the hands of OPEC. We must not permit that. You should consider very carefully who might be Secretary of Energy or Secretary of State in a different administration next year.

We're on the right road also in rebuilding the cities of America. We've built a tough-minded working partnership between American mayors and the Federal Government and also private industry. You can see and feel the result in cities all over America—a renewed sense of pride and accomplishment and confidence.

When I campaigned for President in 1976 and went into almost any city in this country and talked to the local officials there in the counties and the city governments, there was a sense of discouragement, alienation, and despair. We've not yet been completely successful, but we have started rebuilding the spirit of accomplishment and confidence in our cities. We still have a long way to go and this program—so successful so far—is not a sure thing for the future. It depends on the outcome of this election.

A gigantic, election-year tax cut promised—Reagan-Kemp-Roth—would deprive us of over a trillion dollars between now and 1987—the financial tools to finish this job, not only in the cities but to meet the social needs of America. The scheme would deal our cities a great blow and would set them back a generation. We simply cannot permit this to happen.

Now our country is ready to build on these kinds of foundations. The economic renewal plan that I announced last week will help us do just that. We will retool American industry and make it more competitive and more innovative and more productive. The results will be more jobs and more stable prices for all the people of our country.

The alternative presented by the new Republican leaders would reignite inflation just as we're beginning to get it under control. The Republican nominee for Vice President once estimated that the scheme that he now advocates, Reagan-Kemp-Roth, would mean an inflation rate of more than 30 percent. This is one free lunch that America simply cannot afford.

We're also on the right road to the right future in meeting challenges from abroad. Before I took office, our military strength slid steadily downward for 8 straight years. We have reversed that trend, to ensure that we'll continue to have the modern conventional forces and the modern strategic forces needed to deter war, to keep our Nation at peace through strength.

We are now moving decisively to increase our security—and also that of our friends—in NATO and in the critical Indian Ocean, and in the Persian Gulf area we are building American strength. The brutal Soviet invasion of Afghanistan shows how important these efforts are. We're determined to respect the independence of the nations of that area, and we are determined to meet any threats to our vital interests.

At the same time, we will stand by our commitments to control nuclear arms. As long as I'm President, the United States will not initiate a pointless and a dangerous nuclear arms race. We'll continue to work for the control of nuclear weapons. Mutual and balanced nuclear arms control is not some sentimental act of charity. It's not a favor we're doing for some other nation. It's essential to our own national security.

And we're on the right road to promoting human rights. I'll not be swayed from that course. We'll stand firm for human rights at the Review Conference on European Security and Cooperation in Madrid this fall to make sure that the Helsinki agreements are carried out. We'll be fighting for human rights as we did in Belgrade under Secretary Goldberg at the last session.

Because of our strong efforts and the focus of world attention, more than 50,000 Soviet Jews moved last year to freedom in Israel and to the United States. As you know this was the greatest number in history. They found freedom to worship, freedom to rejoice in the cultural and religious traditions of centuries. But in July, last month, less than 2,500 were permitted to emigrate—an annual rate of 30,000—and the rate of new approvals was even lower. This makes our cause more urgent, our resolve more certain, and we will continue to communicate that resolve very clearly to the Soviet leaders.

In closing, let me say that, as President of our country, I try to represent its people. The American people believe in peace, for ourselves and for our allies whom we love. The American people believe that in order to 'have peace we must be strong, strong militarily, and we're second to no nation in the world in military strength; that we must be strong politically; that our influence must be extended to others in a benevolent and acceptable way; strong morally, that we do not ever yield from a commitment to the unchanging principles and goals and ideals on which our Nation was founded-a nation committed to freedom and to pride in the future and to the worth of an individual human being, a nation committed to the principle that every person can worship as he or she chooses, and that in diversity, in the plurality of our economy and our social structure, lies not weakness, but strength.

I represent a nation that believes in truth, and sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes it's a temptation for a political leader in a democracy like ours or like Israel's to mislead the people, because most people want to hear good things. But Americans and Israelis are not afraid to face the facts, and that's part of the strength of our society.

And I represent a people who believe in democracy and openness in letting government differences be exposed, in letting the people of our nations be involved in the debates. We're not afraid of those differences and those debates. We're not afraid to strip away the bark and let people understand the reasons why decisions are made.

Part of our strength as a country is that a President or a Prime Minister—we're not alone. When we speak, we speak for the people, not in spite of the people. And I also represent a country that believes in the future. A country that's not afraid. A country that realizes that we have never made progress the easy way. A country that knows that we can't find simple solutions to difficult questions and that we cannot waver in our commitment. And that the country must be united. It must be bound together with confidence in our own strength, recognizing the blessings that God's given us, thankful for them and willing to use them for the benefit not only of ourselves but of others.

We would never have been successful in Camp David had it not been for our attention to the future. The last few hours we were there were hours of despair, because we felt that we had failed. As we prepared to leave Camp David Prime Minister Begin sent over a stack of photographs of me and him and President Sadat and asked me if I would simply sign my name. He wanted to give them to his grandchildren. And I had my secretary go and find out from some of the other members of the Israeli delegation the personal names of every one of his grandchildren. And I took a little extra time, and I wrote each name on the photograph and signed it myself. And instead of sending it back to Prime Minister Begin by messenger, I carried it over myself.

We were both discouraged men, because we had reached what seemed to be an impasse. And we stood there on the porch of one of those little cabins at Camp David, and he began to go through the photographs—they were all just alike but had different names—and he told me about each one of his grandchildren and which one he loved the most and which one was closest to him and which one got in trouble, which one was the best student. And I told him about my grandchildren, too. And we began to think about the future and the fact that what we did at Camp David was not just to be looked upon as a political achievement that might bring accolades or congratulations to us. It was not just an investment in peace for our own generation; it was an investment in the future.

We share a lot, Prime Minister Begin and I. The people of the democratic world share a lot—a common faith in our own country and its principles and a faith in the worth of other human beings all over the world, even those quite different from us. We believe that there's the same yearning in the hearts of people in every land for freedom, for self-realization, a better life for their children, and a future of peace and security and hope. That's what I want for our country and for the countries that are so important to us, like Israel.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 9:53 p.m. in the Sheraton Ballroom at the Sheraton-Washington Hotel. In his opening remarks, he referred to Jack J. Spitzer, president of B'nai B'rith International, Grace Day, president of B'nai B'rith Women, and Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ephraim Evron.

Jimmy Carter, B'nai B'rith International Remarks at the Closing Banquet of the Biennial Convention. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250661

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