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Remarks to Reporters About the Assault on Israeli Athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany

September 05, 1972

GENTLEMEN, I had the opportunity this morning before I left San Clemente to call Prime Minister Meir on the phone. I reached her just before we left. I talked with her about 7 or 8 minutes.

I expressed sympathy on behalf of all of the American people for the victims of this murderous action that occurred in the Olympic village in Munich. I also told her that she could expect total cooperation from the Government of the United States in any way that would be helpful in obtaining the release of the hostages.

In addition to that, I raised with her the problem of what we could do in the future in this respect. I asked her whether or not Israeli intelligence had any information with regard to the possibility of this happening. They did not have any information.

Incidentally, Israeli intelligence, we have found, is one of the best in the world. She said that, perhaps, the reason was that while the Olympic Games were being held there in Munich, there just weren't any expectations that this kind of a group would be able to get in and engage in the kind of activities that they have engaged in. However, we are dealing here with international outlaws of the worst sort who will stoop to anything in order to accomplish their goals, and who are totally unpredictable.

Under the circumstances, I said to the Prime Minister that I thought that, looking to the future, we had to anticipate that Israeli citizens traveling abroad would be subjected to such activities in the future. Naturally, we cannot do anything with regard to what happens in other countries--that is their responsibility primarily--except to indicate our interest from the diplomatic standpoint. But I said in the United States that we would try' to do everything we could with regard to groups of Israeli citizens traveling in the United States to see that where there is any information at all with regard to a possible attempt of this sort, that adequate security measures are taken.

Finally, as you know, the games, as I understand, are being postponed until the hostages are released and the people who are guilty are apprehended, or those charged with the guilt. There is very little that words can say to indicate the concern we have for the families of the victims. But to have this happen in an international event that has an unblemished record--this being the 20th Olympiad going back over 80 years--an unblemished record of no incidents of this sort, this is indeed a great tragedy, and I know the whole world shares the views that I have expressed to Mrs. Meir.

Q. Are you satisfied about the security of American athletes, particularly American Jewish athletes at the Olympic Games?

THE PRESIDENT. I am never satisfied with security when you see incidents like this, but I believe that we have adequate security measures and, as I have indicated, or at least implied by my remarks here, since we are dealing with international outlaws who are unpredictable, we have to take extra security measures, extra security measures to protect those who might be the targets of this kind of activity in the future. That might include Americans of Israeli background, American citizens. It is more likely to be directed, however, against Israeli citizens, because what they want to do is get leverage with the Israeli Government with regard to people that are held by the Israeli Government. However, we are not taking any chances. We will do everything we can to protect our own citizens, whatever their background.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 1 p.m. at the Golden Gate Pier, San Francisco, Calif.
Early in the morning on September 5, 1972, eight Arab terrorists, members of the Black September group, entered the dormitory which housed the Israeli Olympic athletes, killed two Israelis, and took nine others hostage. After hours of negotiation with German officials, the terrorists and their hostages were flown in three helicopters to nearby Furstenfeldbruck airport where, shortly before midnight, five of the terrorists, all of the hostages, and a German policeman were killed during an exchange of gunfire.

On September 6, the President asked Secretary of State William P. Rogers to meet with Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin concerning the assault on Israeli Olympic athletes, and also to consult with other governments on an urgent basis to determine what collective measures by the international community could be brought to bear on the problem of terrorism.

Richard Nixon, Remarks to Reporters About the Assault on Israeli Athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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