Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at a Reception With New York Jewish Community Leaders in New York, New York

October 20, 1980

I hope with an adequate degree of modesty, I can say that's one of the most beautiful statements I've ever heard.

The first time I came to New York City as a candidate for President I met with Mayor Beame, and after that conversation with him in the privacy of Gracie Mansion, I went back to see my wife at the end of that week's campaigning. I said, "Rosalynn, I've just met the most unselfish and dedicated public servant that I've ever known," and I can say that from the bottom of my heart.

I have never known him during that campaign and since I've been in office to make any request of me that was not for the well-being of other people, not himself, his city—which is also my city. Every person who lives in New York City is my constituent just as acutely and just as personally as it could be in the case of a mayor or Governor or member of the city council. I feel the responsibility of New York City's future on my shoulders.

After the 1976 election was over and I had been successful—with the help of many of you—Mayor Beame, Governor Carey, some of the Senate delegation and Congressmen came down to Georgia to talk to me about what we needed to do during the 4-year interval that lay ahead. We made an agenda then, because if you think back 4 years, New York was in absolutely desperate straits. We haven't succeeded in all our endeavors. The Congress has not yet adopted all the legislation we've put forward. But we have never ceased trying.

And many of the achievements have been very crucial in the life of New York City. There's a different spirit here now. There's a different confidence here now, a different unity here now, a different incorporation and appreciation among the rest of the people of this Nation for New York City now than was the case 4 years ago. I'm grateful to have played a small part in it, and after this election I intend to go through the same process to plan for the next 4 years.

I feel very heavily on my shoulders the responsibility to carry on the tradition of the brother of Senator Edward Kennedy and of Lyndon Johnson and of Franklin Roosevelt and of Harry Truman and of Woodrow Wilson and others down through the past years who have served our Nation as Democratic Presidents. All those men on occasion, and myself, have at times made mistakes, because it's easy to judge what should have been done in retrospect, but when you look to the future-an uncertain future—from the point of view of the Oval Office, you cannot always anticipate what is going to happen. Sometimes the future news is worse than you had anticipated; sometimes it's better.

The first time I met with the Prime Minister of Israel, Prime Minister Rabin, [Begin], and shortly after met with the President of Egypt, President Sadat, I outlined to them what I wanted to accomplish during my 4 years as President. "During this first term," I said, "I want to see direct negotiations, not negotiations through the United Nations or other intermediaries. I want to see the recognition of Israel's right to exist by its major Arab neighbor. I want to see a recognition that Israel must be a secure, democratic bulwark in the Mideast as an asset to the security not only of Israel, but of Egypt, her neighbor, and obviously our own country, which I lead. And I want to see open borders, and I want to see diplomatic recognition, and I want to see tourists going back and forth across those borders, and I want to see diplomats exchange at the normal trade and an end of the boycott, that at that time, as you know, stopped many timid Americans from even trading normally with Israel. And Sadat said to me, "That's a beautiful dream, my friend, but it will never happen in my lifetime."

That dream, all the elements of that dream: have come true. We still have responsibilities and duties to perform and dreams to make come true. But I tell you that the obstacles that I see ahead of me now pale into insignificance compared to the obstacles that seemed to be apparent early in 1977, when I had those first meetings. There is a new tone, a new attitude among the people of Israel and Egypt. I have walked the streets and I have ridden in parades and I have seen the love that exists and respect that exists between those neighbors, formerly filled with hatred.

Seven years ago, the fourth war was taking place between Egypt and Israel in the short span of 25 years. We haven't had war since. And the progress in carrying out the most difficult possible terms of the Camp David accords and the Mideast peace treaty, that was signed in the presence of some of you on the north side of the White House, has been remarkable. We've not had a default in carrying out those commitments. It has been very difficult for Israel to meet some of those obligations that they themselves took on.

The future is my responsibility and it's yours. I've only got one life on this Earth to live. My integrity, my honesty, my word. of honor—it's precious to me. And there would be no way that I could hope for success in bringing Israel and Egypt and Israel's other neighbors to an agreement if I ever lied. If I ever violated a commitment that I've made to Prime Minister Begin or any of his cabinet members, they would no longer trust me, and my voice would be ineffective.

And the same thing applies in my hope to bring the Arab nations, all the Arab nations into a recognition that a democratic and free, peaceful and strong Israel is necessary for their own benefit, as it is for ours. I am not going to change my policy after the election, except to renew my efforts, and anyone that claims that is not doing this Nation a good service. For someone to deliberately plant a false statement in the minds of any innocent people is bad and wrong; it's contrary to the best interests of all. It causes doubt to be engendered among people in Israel who trust me, and it causes doubt to be engendered in the minds of leaders who still look upon the United States as the only possible avenue of a common agreement that would realize the dreams that we share.

I will never recognize nor negotiate with the PLO until after they recognize Israel's right to exist and recognize Resolution 242 as the basis for the resolution of the differences in the Middle East. I do not favor a PLO state in the West Bank of Israel. I think it would be a dangerous thing. And I have told this not only to Prime Minister Begin, not only to President Sadat, but to the leaders of the other Arab nations as well, including Syria, including Lebanon, including Saudi Arabia. They know exactly where I stand. There's no reason for me to equivocate or to mislead anyone.

I know the special sensitivity of Jerusalem. When we were at Camp David, in the seclusion of those grounds, Prime Minister Begin, President Sadat, and I agreed on an acceptable paragraph to be put in the Camp David accords about Jerusalem. Toward the end, they both agreed, mutually, that it might be better not to put it in. It was their decision, not mine. I wanted it in. I've still got a copy of it. It hasn't been lost. But I believe in an undivided Jerusalem forever, and I believe in a Jerusalem that has the right, that respects the right of worshippers to go to their own holy places. And I can tell you that no ultimate resolution of the legal status in international law concerning Jerusalem, through negotiations, will be imposed on anyone. It can only be concluded with the agreement of the Government of Israel.

These are the facts. Obviously, this is a very complicated and very delicate subject. I have .never had a secret agreement with Begin or Sadat. I think it would be contrary to my status as a trusted partner with them. And I can tell you that all I've done in trying to ensure a better life for the people in Israel and for the people who love Israel has not been done out of generosity for others. It's been done because I know that it is best for the security and the strategic interests of the nation that I lead, the United States of America.

And finally, let me say that we will continue the quiet, diplomatic, military consultations that have been going on, even recently, between our Nation and Israel, searching for common ground to ensure that our mutual strategic interests in preserving a strong and secure and peaceful Israel and peace in the Middle East are carried out.

Now, to change the subject: We've only got 2 weeks left. I tell you that the election is in doubt. In many States in this country it is very close. It could go either way. Your voices, heard in Miami, in Philadelphia, in Chicago, in Cleveland and Los Angeles and San Francisco, can make the difference. And I hope that you will not be reticent in letting your voice and your influence be heard and felt. Financial contributions, yes, they're important, and your generosity will always deserve and have my thanks. But this next 2 weeks is crucial. They are crucial. And I ask you to go a second mile, to let your friends and your neighbors, other rabbis, Hasidic Jews, anyone that will listen to your voice know the importance of this election. I feel that you are my partners in accomplishing common goals of importance to the Nation that I love here and the nation that I love in Israel.

Thank you very much. God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 8:05 p.m. in the Princess Ballroom at the Sheraton Centre Hotel. In his opening remarks, he referred to the introductory remarks of Theodore Mann, former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at a Reception With New York Jewish Community Leaders in New York, New York Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251424

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