Richard Nixon photo

Toasts of the President and King Hussein of Jordan at a State Dinner in Amman

June 17, 1974

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, and all of your distinguished guests:

First, Your Majesty, may I express my deep gratitude on behalf of the Nation I represent for the award you have just presented to me. And I can assure you that it will be on display at the White House for the thousands of visitors to see, who come through those rooms and who, when they see it, will recognize how important we in the United States consider friendship with Jordan to be. And I am grateful for the fact that this award, which I understand goes only to heads of state, is one that you have seen fit to present on this occasion.

Also, I would like to tell you how touched Mrs. Nixon and I have been by the reception we have received in our visit to Jordan. As you know, this is the first time I have been to this country. It is not because of a lack of desire on the part of either of us not to have come sooner, because we would have liked to, but it is only because our schedules did not permit at an earlier time.

And I can only say that never have we had what we thought was a warmer reception from the hearts of the people as we drove through the streets of Amman, a city with a great past and a city and a country with an equally great future. It is called the City of the Seven Hills, and I only wish that we had a chance to explore more than just three, which has been our lot to date.

And so, we will have to come back some day so that we can go to those many places of historical interest which I know attract tourists from all over the world, come back so that we can see them and perhaps again enjoy another visit with you.

And let me also, on behalf of your American guests particularly and, I think, perhaps all of your guests tonight in the diplomatic corps and your guests from Jordan, express appreciation for the splendid musical entertainment that we have had. As I listened to it, I could not believe my ears. I thought that some way we had imported the United States Marine Corps Band which plays, as you know, Your Majesty, in the White House for the state dinners which you have attended so often while we have been there. And as they played favorites from all nations, but several from American musical comedies, I can assure you that their ability as musicians, but particularly their ability to play in any idiom, and particularly ours, in a way that we understood it, was enormously impressive. And you made us feel very much at home, and they did with that splendid performance, which incidentally we could hear but not see, but it is right out that door, I understand. It was not a record player.

Your Majesty, you have spoken of your first visit to the United States, and I remember it well. I have mentioned on the occasions of your visits since I have been President what President Eisenhower thought of you at that time. Nineteen hundred and fifty-nine, 15 years ago, when you were a very young king-you still are a very young king,' but very mature and very wise because of the years you have been a king, a king all of your adult life--but you were only 23 then, and I remember that President Eisenhower afterwards told me and he has been known to be a very good judge of men--he told me that he was enormously impressed with what he called the quiet inner strength that the King of Jordan had. Little did he know or did we know at that time how often that inner strength would be called upon to save this country. And I know, however, that before his death he saw that evaluation vindicated.

I have seen it vindicated, and I can say tonight, looking through the pages of history since you have been King of this country, that but for the strong courageous leadership of His Majesty, the King of Jordan, this country would not be in existence today. And we in the free world are all proud and respectful of the leadership you have given. And that is one of the reasons why in our friendship with Jordan it is one that does not just begin now, it is one that goes back to the time that Jordan became the state that it presently is. It is one that has continued throughout the period of your reign as King, and it is one, I can assure you, Your Majesty, that will continue now and in the future.

Because as we travel abroad in these years and make what we hope will be new friends, new friends, for example, in mainland China, the People's Republic of China, Soviet Union, and new friends in this part of the world, in the Mideast, let us always remember that we do not forget our old friends. We remember that the friendship that has bound us together has served us both well, and you can be sure that that friendship will always continue as long as we have an opportunity to have the kind of discussions that have characterized our relationships since I have held this office and, I am sure, will characterize them whoever may be the President in the years to come when, I trust, you will still be the King of this country.

You have spoken of the journey that we have taken, and, Your Majesty, you have very properly and, I may say, in very good grace have mentioned some difficult problems that remain unsolved. And I wish this evening that I could have brought with me a briefcase full of solutions and I could have laid them out on this table, because there is nothing in my heart that I want more, nothing that the American people want more than a solution to these problems that not only have brought war four times to this troubled area of the world in the last 30 years but also these problems which have divided the United States from many of its traditional friends in what is called the Arab world.

And so, while I cannot tonight, and will not be able tomorrow in the meetings that we will have to discuss these situations in more detail, offer solutions at this time, I can tell you that, just as you said in every conversation that I have had, the problems that you have raised have been discussed with me and in great detail--the problems of the Palestinians, the problem of Jerusalem, the problem of borders, the problems that we could go on and list, perhaps, at even greater length.

But the fact that all of these problems do not have solutions at this time is no cause for despair. What would be cause for despair would be if the people in these nations and the leaders of the nations in this area were to go back to the old ways, and the old way was to dig in, freeze into place, and wait for another conflict to break loose.

There is one thing that the last 25 years or 30 years have proved, and that is that another war will not solve the problems to which you have referred. That has been tried and it has not succeeded--and I am not suggesting who tried, where or why or how the fault might have been, but war is not a solution and cannot be a solution to problems as intricate as this, not at this period in the history of this area.

And that is why we feel on our part, and I know, Your Majesty, from our discussions that you share this view, that we must try another way. We must try the path of peace.

You have urged this upon me from the time you first called upon me as President back in 1969. And the United States, I must say, has not played a decisive and, in some cases, has not played an effective role in the Mideast in attempting to move on the path of solving these problems through peaceful means.

But the new element that has been added, the new element that has been symbolized by this journey which you have referred to, the new element that certainly was not only symbolized but showed actual results in addition, in the long negotiations which were undertaken by Secretary Kissinger in the Mideastern area-one leading to the disengagement on the Israeli-Egyptian front and another on the Syrian-Israeli front--the one new element is that the United States now has made a decision that we will undertake not to impose a settlement because we are not the best ones from the outside. No one from the outside knows what is best as far as a settlement is concerned. But we will undertake, where the nations in the area-and this seems to be the case at this time--. where the nations in the area want us to, we will undertake to use our influence and use it effectively to bring leaders of nations who have disagreements on such critical issues as you have discussed tonight, bring them together and try to find fair and just solutions to these problems.

And so tonight, I do not tell you where this journey will end. I cannot tell you when it will end. The important thing is that it has begun.

You said earlier, Your Majesty, that this was the last stop. Let me tell you, it is the last stop on this trip, but it is only the beginning of the journey for peace, because what we have found is that despite the important first steps that we have taken, they are only a beginning. We have a long way to go, and this trip is simply another step, a step in which understanding has been created where there was misunderstanding before, where new relations have been created where there were no relations before and where an American presence, where it is desired by both parties concerned or all parties concerned, is there to be used and used effectively.

And so, as I look to the future, I would say this is no time to be certainly Pollyannaish about what the future may be. These problems are difficult. The divisions are deep, and some of them go back over many, many years. But also, this is a time when there can and must and should be hope--hope because of this new element that has been brought into it, not simply because it is the United States, but because our particular role in the world at this time in the world's history is one that I think we have demonstrated is a peacemaker role, whether in Asia or in Europe or anywhere else.

To me the greatest challenge to American foreign policy, even greater than ending the war in Vietnam in an honorable way, which was essential for our further foreign policy successes, even greater than the challenge that was confronted when we had the opening to the leaders of those who led over one-fourth of all the people of the world, the People's Republic of China, even greater than opening a new dialog with those who led the great super power, the Soviet Union, is this very complex and difficult problem which we find here in the Mideast, because it is not one nation, it is several. It is not one single problem, there are several.

And there are differences of opinions among the people, among the leaders, among the nations on so many of these problems. And it is this reason, therefore, Your Majesty, that I do not talk tonight simply with that easy optimism that will lull everyone into a false sense of security, but that I do talk with a confidence based on what I think are some new developments that have reason to give us hope.

And I can assure you that we on our part will do all that we can to keep the momentum going, because it must continue until we come to what we might term the end of the journey. And the end will not be reached until we are satisfied that a just and durable peace, one that will last, has been established in this part of the world.

Finally, Your Majesty, let me say that I look forward to our talks tomorrow. This is a small nation, but it is headed, as I indicated earlier, by a very courageous leader and also, I have learned, by a very wise leader. Your Majesty has proved to be, in every talk I have had with him, one who is understanding of the problems of those who oppose him, one who understands the issues of the whole area, one who is fair, one who sees things not simply from one side but from the other side as well.

Sometimes the word "moderate" is used, and it is used in a condemning way. But I would say it is this kind of responsible leadership--strong, responsible, call it moderate if you want--that is going to lead to that peace that both of our nations and all the nations in this area seek.

And so with that, I know that all of you will want to join me in responding to the toast which has been given by His Majesty, by speaking, first, of the traditional Jordanian-American friendship which was strong already and will be even stronger after our meetings and speaking, second, of the new relationship of friendship which has been established between the United States and what is called the Arab world, although that is a statement that perhaps oversimplifies a more complex area than that. But there is a new relationship and a good and positive one that has developed with Egypt and with Syria that was not there before.

And finally, and above all, to a man who has had the vision from the time he was a very young king, a man who has kept that visions-even when in the year 1970 it seemed that his whole world and his whole nation was coming down around him--a man who had the vision of a permanent and just peace in the Mideast. I know that we would want to raise our glasses and drink to the health of His Majesty, the King, and to the Queen.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 10:20 p.m. at Basman Palace in response to a toast proposed by King Hussein.

King Hussein's remarks were as follows:

Mr. President:

I am sure you know, sir, how happy I am personally to welcome you and Mrs. Nixon to Jordan and to return, if only briefly and inadequately, the hospitality that you and the American people have extended to me over the last 15 years.

As you may remember, we met for the first time in 1959, when my friend and your very great and good friend, the late President Eisenhower, first invited me to the United States. It was an experience of his kind, person-to-person relationship that I shall never forget and will always cherish. And each succeeding visit to the United States has not only intensified my affection for the American people but has strengthened, I believe, the friendship between our two countries.

I hope, Mr. President, that you have also been aware of the obvious warmth of feeling the Jordanian people want to express to you and, through you, to the American people. It is a feeling borne, in part, of gratitude for the support you have given us and for the inspiration you have been to us. The support helped us to surmount enormous difficulties, and the inspiration helped us and many small nations to survive in a free world.

Mr. President, we join with you in all the hopes and expectations you must have for this memorable "Journey for Peace" that you are undertaking, and we in the Arab world are grateful that you have made it. Although you know better than anyone else, perhaps, that a journey for peace seems to have no ending, your coming to us at this time has been perfectly timed to preserve the momentum that American initiative had begun under your inspired and inspiring leadership.

The dispatch of your Secretary of State, the world now knows, ranks with the most celebrated diplomatic missions of all time, and your insistence that he pursue his course to the end has undoubtedly led to a turning point in Middle East history that will long be remembered.

Dr. Kissinger's skill, patience, and determination in negotiation has brought us closer to peace in the Middle East than we have been in a quarter of a century. At no time has the will to peace been stronger or the opportunity greater. But this opportunity will be lost, perhaps forever, if we do not take courageous advantage of the chance for peace that lies before us.

The separation of forces agreements between Egypt and Israel, and between Syria and Israel, were major milestones on the road to peace. Another lies ahead. But we must not lose sight of, we must keep within our vision, the final goal that it is still many milestones away. The next one, of course, is the separation of forces between Jordan and Israel. That is an essential prerequisite to any discussion of a permanent settlement if Jordan is to contribute its full share in the efforts leading towards a just and lasting peace. Once that has been accomplished, with again the strong and friendly hand of America, we must then press forward with reason and firm determination toward the final goal.

If the initiative launched by the United States under your leadership, Mr. President, is lost and the momentum slowed down, the days of "no peace, no war," will be with us again in a potentially more dangerous and explosive situation.

I am grateful, Mr. President, that this is the last stop on your current "Journey for Peace." I am sure there will be others. But your visit here, before returning home, gives me the opportunity to express to you, before your departure tomorrow, four thoughts which we hope you will take home with you and which, I am sure, you have heard from my brothers, the heads of state in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.

The first is our great satisfaction over the new era of good will that is opening up between the United States and the Arab world. As a friend of longer standing, I may be permitted to say how gratified I am by the new relationship that has developed between you and President Sadat, and between you and President Asad. Possibly nothing that has happened in these last momentous months will contribute more to a lasting peace in the area than this new understanding between you.

A second thought that I know has been presented to you in Cairo, Jidda, Damascus-and now in Amman--is the absolute unity of position of the four countries in firmly backing the implementation of the principles of Resolution 242 as the basis for any peaceful settlement. No nation, it is written into the United Nations Charter, shall acquire territory of another nation by armed force. And that principle, among others, is given specific interpretation in the '67 resolution by calling for withdrawal of Israeli forces from Arab territory occupied in the war of 1967.

Only when Israel abides by the spirit of the United Nations Charter and only when Israel obeys the letter of the Security Council resolution can "secure and recognized borders" come into being. It should now be clear to Israel that security and territory are not synonymous, that true security rests on the recognition by her neighbors of her right to live in peace within those borders. So long as Israel continues to occupy Arab territory, there will neither be peace nor security in the Middle East.

Third, disengagement of forces can be arranged, truce lines can be drawn, and political settlements can be negotiated, but there can be no peace until the major issue in the conflict between Israel and the Arab world is resolved and resolved justly. That is the problem of Palestine. There can be no peace until the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people are recognized and restored. The Palestinian problem has never been a refugee problem, but one of the inherent rights of a people to return to their homeland and to determine their own future. Once the occupied territory has been evacuated by the Israelis, only Palestinians can decide what its future is to be. They can choose continued union with Jordan, a new form of federation, or the creation of a separate state. The choice is theirs and theirs alone, and whatever their choice, it will enjoy our full acceptance and support.

And finally, Mr. President, I would now like to speak, in the name of all Arabs, Moslems, and Christians alike, these same thoughts I am sure you also have heard from President Sadat, His Majesty King Faisal, and from President Asad. I want to speak of the city of Jerusalem. The Arab world, and the world of Islam stretching far beyond the Arab world into Africa and Far East Asia, will never allow the Arab city of Jerusalem to remain under the control of Israel. Arab sovereignty over the holy city must be reinstated. This--the return of Arab sovereignty over the Arab city of Jerusalem-is the cornerstone for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. Only thus can Jerusalem become the city of peace for all those who worship the One God--Moslems, Christians, and Jews.

Mr. President, your visit to Jordan on your "Journey for Peace" is an inspiring occasion for us. We hope you will take back with you a memorable picture of what your great and dedicated leadership, and the initiative that America has taken, have done to move the heart and raise the hopes of the Arab world. As America continues--as surely it must--on its "Journey for Peace," not only in the Middle East but throughout the world, please tell your people that you go with the gratitude and confidence of the Arab people and the blessing of all mankind.

My one regret, and that of the Queen, is that you and Mrs. Nixon will not be staying with us for a longer time. We sincerely hope that you will both come back to see us again.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, may I ask you to rise and join me in a toast to the President of the United States and to Mrs. Nixon, a toast from the people of Jordan to the people of America and to the fervent hope that the friendship that exists between our two countries will continue to prosper under the peace we are all so earnestly seeking.
The President and Mrs. Nixon.

Now, Mr. President, I have the honor of presenting to you the Order of the Hussein ben All Kilada, the highest order in Jordan.

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President and King Hussein of Jordan at a State Dinner in Amman Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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