23. Editorial Note

On March 16, 1977, President Jimmy Carter held a town hall meeting in Clinton, Massachusetts. In response to a question regarding what he believed had to be done “to establish a meaningful and a lasting peace” in the Middle East, he responded that the first prerequisite for peace “is the recognition of Israel by her neighbors, Israel’s right to exist, Israel’s right to exist permanently, Israel’s right to exist in peace.” He defined this as “the borders between Israel and Syria, Israel and Lebanon, Israel and Jordan, Israel and Egypt must be opened up to travel, to tourism, to cultural exchange, to trade, so that no matter who the leaders might be in those countries, the people themselves will have formed a mutual understanding and comprehension and a sense of a common purpose to avoid the repetitious wars and death that have afflicted that region so long.”

President Carter identified the second prerequisite as “the establishment of permanent borders for Israel.” He commented that “borders are still a matter of great trouble and a matter of great difficulty, and there are strong differences of opinion now.” President Carter concluded by identifying the third prerequisite as “the Palestinian problem.”

In addressing this issue, he opened by stating, “The Palestinians claim up ’til this moment that Israel has no right to be there, that the land belongs to the Palestinians, and they’ve never yet give up their publicly professed commitment to destroy Israel. This has to be overcome.” He continued, “There has to be a homeland provided for the Palestinian refugees who have suffered for many, many years. And the exact way to solve the Palestinian problem is one that first of all addresses itself right now to the Arab countries and then, second, to the [Page 165] Arab countries negotiating with Israel.” (Public Papers: Carter, 1977, Book I, pages 386–387)