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White House Briefing on Administration Policies Remarks to a Group of Civic and Community Leaders From New York.

March 11, 1980

I'm really delighted to have you here and hope that you've had a good day meeting some of my chief advisers and partners in the management of the Federal Government affairs.

New York has a special place for me. You had one of the most delightful and well-considered and fruitful conventions in 1976 that I've ever known- [laughter] —and you were very nice to me not only in the general election but since then. We've formed a good partnership. I think the attitude and the prospects for New York City and indeed the whole State 3, 4 years ago, compared to what it has been the last year or two, has shown a remarkable improvement. I'm very grateful that the partnership that has been formed—with State officials, with the congressional delegation, and with your city officials in New York City and otherwise.

I thought I might outline, very briefly, four or five things—or maybe three or four things that are important to me at this point, kind of give you an update on what I'm working on this week, and then spend what time we have available after that answering your questions. And then, perhaps, at the end, if you would honor me by doing so, I'd like to stand and let each one of you come by and shake hands and have a photograph made individually. Then, if I don't do well in the future, you can throw it away. [Laughter]

Yesterday, I spent most of my time—as I have frequently during this last 3 or 4 months—working on and assessing the situation in Iran. We had high hopes that the United Nations commission, which we helped to evolve, would be successful in their trip to Iran—that they would be able to see all of the American hostages, account for them individually and determine their condition, and to achieve their release from the militants, and then to come back with some resolution of the crisis that has been so all-possessive of me in the last few weeks.

We have 220 million Americans who are deeply concerned about 53 people-not famous people, but human beings-and we are not only concerned about their lives, but we are concerned about their freedom. I think it's a good characteristic of a great nation to show this deep concern. And, in my opinion, we have just as much a crisis today as we did on November 4, when the hostages were first seized. And I have refrained from business as usual and partisan campaign activities that would indicate that our Nation was out of a crisis stage and returning to business as usual.

I can't give you any prospects for immediate success, but we are ever constantly aware of this deep concern and the need for me, as the President, to address it as best I can. We've been interested in preserving the principles and ideals of our country, protecting our interests, protecting the lives and seeking the freedom of our people, and in marshaling worldwide opinion on our side to strengthen our position now and in the future.

A second foreign affairs matter which concerns me very deeply is the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. I know Dr. Brzezinski has talked to you earlier. But this is a major challenge to world stability, to world peace, and ultimately to our own security. This invasion of Afghanistan directly threatens one of the most vital and strategically important regions of the world.

Every action that I have taken has been designed to preserve peace, and every action I have taken has been peaceful in nature. We obviously have a wide range of options—economic, political, military-but we've chosen to exercise only those economic and political options that would preserve the support of other nations on Earth, keep our Nation at peace, and not violate, again, our principles or our best interests.

It is a delicate situation. We are resolved to stand firm, and I think we've made good progress, because 103 other nations in addition to us have condemned the Soviet invasion, called for the immediate withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan. And, of course, the Moslem countries, many of whom have been dependent upon the Soviet Union or closely allied with the Soviet Union, have also joined in a much stronger condemnation of what the Soviets did.

Another very important question for me is the Middle East peace. I consider this to be one of my most serious and difficult obligations as a President. There is no other single issue on which I have spent more time or more effort. On occasion, as you know, I have abandoned, to a major degree, my other duties to go into relative seclusion at Camp David for 13 days, and later to go to the Mideast, to visit in Israel and in Egypt, to hammer out the Camp David accords and to hammer out the Mideast peace treaty, that was signed less than a year ago.

Crucial negotiations are ongoing now. Sol Linowitz heads up our own effort. We are equal partners with the Israelis and the Egyptians in trying to have a just and lasting peace based upon the addressing of difficult issues. And we had to address difficult issues at Camp David to make progress, and also in the peace negotiations for a treaty in order to make progress.

Our American policy and the principles on which we have based that policy have not changed. First and foremost is the security of Israel, its integrity, a nation to be at peace with her neighbors, protected behind recognized and secure borders; secondly, Jerusalem to be undivided and with access by all to the holy places; third, the agreed basis for present and future negotiations to be United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338; fourth, to resolve the Palestinian problem "in all its aspects," to use the words that were adopted by Prime Minister Begin, President Sadat, and myself; fourth, to hammer out, through negotiations, a self-governing authority for the West Bank and Gaza area for a 5-year transition period, at the end of which time the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza would be determined through those negotiations; and, to use again the quotation from the Camp David accords, to "recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people."

This is our desire. This is the desire of the Israeli Government and, I think, the Israeli people. And it's certainly the desire of those who live in the Arab countries, particularly in Egypt. We do not favor an independent Palestinian state. We have consistently opposed this prospect, and we will not negotiate with nor recognize the PLO until they adopt U.N. 242 and recognize Israel's right to exist. Those principles, in brief outline form, guide us day by day, in the past, at the present time, and in the future.

The policy of our country is shaped by me as President. My understanding with Prime Minister Begin, with President Sadat, is clear, and we will not deviate from it. If there is one viable prospect for peace, it depends upon the mutual trust that exists between myself, Begin, and Sadat, or perhaps our own successors, following a change in government.

I might address quickly this settlements issue, because it is a very serious difference between myself and Prime Minister Begin. And we have discussed this for hours and hours—even weeks and weeks—in seclusion and sometimes in public.

We consider that the establishment of new settlements in the West Bank area during a time of negotiations is a genuine obstacle to peace. It is a serious problem for the completion of these negotiations. Our policy has not been to demand the dismantling of existing settlements; our policy has been that this issue and the future status of the West Bank and Gaza should be determined through negotiations.

The recent vote in the United Nations was a genuine mistake, a breakdown in communications. I'm sure that's been explained to you in the past. I'm responsible for the Government; Cy Vance is responsible for the State Department. He has addressed this issue frankly; I accept my part of the responsibility. It was a deviation from our policy, which is set by me, and we will be much more careful, I assure you, in the future.

One thing I'd like to add: I need the support of the American people. The future negotiations in the Mideast, in Iran, addressing the Afghanistan question, are not going to be easy. And to the extent that I am observed and known among foreign leaders and among our own people as speaking accurately for the American people and having your support—to that extent, it makes it much easier for me to achieve those goals which I share with you.

Domestically, energy is a constantly improving situation, but a very serious matter. The Congress has now been trying to hammer out a comprehensive energy policy for our country for 3 solid years. We have made good progress. I hope within the next few days or the next few weeks we will have completed that process.

We have made some changes already, based on an increasing awareness of the problem, based on the results of legislation already passed. The first year I was in office, we imported 8.8 million barrels of oil per day from overseas. That has already been slashed more than a million barrels per day of imports. And we hope to make more progress this year.

Inflation is heavily impacted by the energy question. In the last 12 months, the price of international oil has increased 109 percent—in 12 months. And last month alone, the price of energy increased 7 1/2 percent in 1 month, which is a 90-percent inflation rate for energy alone.

The cutting down of an excessive dependence on foreign oil is a major goal for all of us. It can only be done in two ways—and this is the last thing I'll say before I answer your questions: One is to save energy—to cut out waste, to conserve—and secondly, to increase production of energy in our own country. That's the only two options. And all of our policy efforts have been designed to achieve those two goals.

We do not have a dismal prospect in the future on energy. I understand that the total OPEC nations have about 15 percent of the world's energy resources. Our country alone has about 24 percent, and it's a broad-based energy resource: coal, oil, natural gas, geothermal, shale oil-obviously, there are replenishable supplies—growing crops, forests—derived indirectly or directly from the Sun.

These are the kinds of things that we must assess: the strength of our country and the challenges that we've faced and how we can work in unity to achieve the goals that are important to us all.

Note: The President spoke at 5:06 p.m. in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building.

Jimmy Carter, White House Briefing on Administration Policies Remarks to a Group of Civic and Community Leaders From New York. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249964

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