Exchange With Reporters on the Egyptian-Israeli Troop Disengagement Agreement.
I UNDERSTAND there is a statement to be released from the White House that points out the strong feelings that I have that this negotiation, culminating in the agreement, is a great success in not only preventing stagnation and stalemate in the Middle East but, more importantly, getting the momentum going for what all of us hope will 'be a continued effort to expand the permanent peace that all hope for that would conform, of course, to the resolutions in the United Nations, 242 and 338.
I suspect there can be anticipated some criticism, but I respectfully suggest that if we had not achieved this historic settlement, the alternative would have been turmoil, increased tension, obviously greater dangers in the Middle East for a renewal of the kind of tragic conflict that took place in 1973.
By the agreement between Israel and Egypt, the momentum has been continued. And I am convinced that when the Congress and the American people see what has been achieved and objectively look at the alternative of no success, that the Congress and the American people will support our role.
REPORTER. What sort of criticism do you anticipate, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. I am not sure there will be too much criticism, but there will be some legitimate questions asked, such as what is the anticipated role of the limited number of American technicians, civilian experts.
I can assure the Congress and the American people that the number will be in the range of 100 to 150. They will be civilians; they will be technicians; they will have no military role; they will be in the United Nations zone.
So, this contribution by the United States, I think, is a constructive one and not one that has great peril or danger. The United States will, of course, contribute assistance to Israel, and we will continue our aid to Egypt.
This, I believe, is another constructive effort by the United States to this peace agreement, this effort to, in the long run, provide a permanent, fair, and equitable settlement of the many differences in the Middle East.
Q. If Congress should not approve the stationing of technicians there, will the agreement fall apart?
THE PRESIDENT. It would have a very serious impact, because the contribution of the United States is important, and those technicians are a vital ingredient in assuring both Egypt and Israel that the agreement will be upheld. So, a turndown by the Congress would have serious repercussions.
Q. What will be their role, Mr. President? They are not acting as policemen to enforce the agreement, are they?
THE PRESIDENT. They are not. They are going to be stationed in what you can call warning stations, and their role will simply be that of a technician and have no other responsibilities.
Q. Mr. President, has there been any Russian comment on the presence of technicians themselves as distinguished from some criticism of having the early warning teams outside of the U.N. zone?
THE PRESIDENT. I have read of some questions being raised. I have not seen any--and I don't believe there is any--direct objection.
Q. Mr. President, why is it necessary to have Americans to do that? Can't other people be trained to do that, or is it more than just the technical skills they will bring to that that makes it important?
THE PRESIDENT. It is a very highly, very sophisticated technical knowledge, and we have Americans who are trained and who can carry on that responsibility. And I believe that both Egypt and Israel have faith that ours will perform that function in a responsible and fair way.
Q. I suppose the criticism that is going to be leveled against that is that by putting those people there you increase the danger that they could become hostages and the United States could be drawn in, in a direct way, into a new conflict. Is that part of the reason they are there?
THE PRESIDENT. They are not there for the potentiality of being held hostage. They are there to perform a technical responsibility, and I have no fear that they can or will be held hostage under any circumstances.
Q. Mr. President, there has been some talk about the figure of $3.1 billion in aid to Israel. Is that accurate?
THE PRESIDENT. That is not an accurate figure. Our aid will be significant, but I would not at this point wish to comment on the precise dollar total.
Q. What is the next step in the Middle East? Are you going to try to negotiate a Syrian-Israeli agreement now?
THE PRESIDENT. I can only say that this is a step in the overall settlement. The precise next step has not yet been discussed. I will, of course, talk to Secretary Kissinger on his return, but having achieved this, I can only say our overall objective fits in with the two U.N. resolutions, 242 and 338.
Q. Is there any change in the picture on your dealings with Congress on the oil veto? It is still expected it will lead to a veto?
THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't want to go beyond what we said--when was it, Friday morning? I am encouraged. I am always optimistic. But until Congress returns and until we hear from the Democratic leaders, I don't believe I should comment further.
REPORTER. Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: The exchange began at approximately 12:30 p.m. at Camp David, Md.
Gerald R. Ford, Exchange With Reporters on the Egyptian-Israeli Troop Disengagement Agreement. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/257078