Radio Address to the Nation on the Situation in the Middle East

August 27, 1983

My fellow Americans:

Last June, the 19th of June to be exact, a well-known TV network producer was the commencement speaker at the high school where he had graduated on that same day, June 19th, 43 years ago. In speaking to this year's graduates, he pointed out some things that should be of concern to them regarding the state of the world. They were items taken from the front page of a June 19th issue of the New York Times, their graduation day.

He said, ``In Washington, the administration is asking for more money, not to fight cancer or educate young people, but more money to build some of the most destructive weapons the world has ever seen.'' Not very reassuring for a high school graduate hoping to live to an old age, and not very reassuring, either, to have a President who is called a warmonger.

He went on to say, ``In Latin America, the Times tells us, the United States is prepared to go to war to keep unfriendly powers out of this hemisphere. If push comes to shove, a young high school graduate could end up fighting there.''

``In Europe,'' he told them, ``a people not much different from you is being crushed in what the Times reports is being called an uncompromising and unrelenting fashion. And in Detroit, the Japanese threat, among other things, is forcing the Ford Motor Company out of the car business.''

He pointed out that it didn't seem like much of a world to look forward to, but there it was on page 1, graduation day, June 19th. Yes, his graduation day, June 19th, 1940. And as he went on to say, ``We're all still here,'' although he wouldn't have bet on it back in 1940.

The President being called a warmonger was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who kept increasing the defense budget. The Japanese threat was military, not economic, and Ford was going into the fighter plane business. And, oh, yes, the European country that was being crushed was France, not Poland.

Well, here it is 43 years later, and as he told that class of '83, ``A good case can be made that the world is better, not worse.'' And the class of 1940 had something to do with that, just as the class of '83 can have a hand in making things better for graduating classes yet to be, even a class 43 years from now.

Young Americans are already doing their share to build a better world. Today our servicemen are participating in multinational peacekeeping forces in Lebanon and the Sinai Peninsula.

In the agreement between Lebanon and Israel, Israel agreed to withdraw its military forces totally. The responsibility now rests on others to negotiate in good faith on their own arrangements for withdrawal. Until this happens, Lebanon will remain a potential trouble spot.

But our current efforts in Lebanon are only a small part of our search for peace in the Middle East, including a compassionate, fair, and practical resolution to the Palestinian problem.

The Middle East peace initiative which we announced almost a year ago is definitely alive and available to those parties willing to sit down together and talk peace. We remain committed to the positions we set forth, and we stand ready to pursue them in the context of the Camp David accords. Those positions are in the best long-term interests of all parties. Most importantly, they're the only realistic basis for a solution that has thus far been presented.

The United States continues to support UN Security Council Resolutions 338 and 242.

The establishment of new Israeli settlements in the occupied territories is an obstacle to peace, and we're concerned over the negative effect that this activity has on Arab confidence in Israel's willingness to return territory in exchange for security and a freely and fairly negotiated peace treaty.

The future of these settlements can only be dealt with through direct negotiations between the parties to the conflict. The sooner these negotiations begin, the greater the chance for a solution.

This administration, like those before it, is firmly committed to the security of the State of Israel. We will help Israel defend itself against external aggression. At the same time, the United States believes, as it has always believed, that permanent security for the people of Israel and all the peoples of the region can only come with the achievement of a just and lasting peace, not by sole reliance on increasingly expensive military forces.

Unfortunately, the opportunities afforded by our initiative have yet to be grasped by the parties involved. We know the issues are complex, the risks for all concerned high, and much courageous statesman -- statesmanship, excuse me, will be required. Nevertheless, those complex issues can be resolved by creative and persistent diplomacy. Those risks can be overcome by people who want to end this bitter and tragic conflict. And in the process, the United States will be a full partner, doing everything we can to help create a just and lasting peace.

Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:06 a.m. from Rancho del Cielo, his ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif.