JERUSALEM (Jun. 2)
Defense Minister Shimon Peres said today that if Israel were to intervene in the Lebanese situation it could be interpreted as Israeli support of PLO chieftain Yasir Arafat “and this is something we do not want.” He explained that such an interpretation was possible because of the Syrian turn-about. Originally, Syria intervened in Lebanon to strengthen the PLO and the Moslem community, but it recently has been supporting the Christian faction in the civil war, for whatever reasons, Peres said.
The Defense Minister, speaking at Tel Aviv University, said that up to now Israel does not face any danger from Lebanon that would oblige it to cross the border. He added, however, that Israel was aware of the “fluid” situation in Lebanon. Foreign Minister Yigal Allon said in the Knesset yesterday that Israel reserves the right to take necessary measures if and when the Lebanese situation conflicts with Israel’s security interests.
The official line here has been to play down the Syrian presence in Lebanon. Peres described it as an effort to achieve a “cease-fire” rather than an attempted take-over of that country. But senior sources stress that Israel will continue to maintain a close watch on developments across its northern border. The new Syrian penetration into Lebanon does not change the basic situation, the sources said. What Israel calls the “Red Line”–the point at which Syrian intervention would engender an Israeli response–appears to be flexible. Israeli circles say it depends not only on the scope of Syrian military involvement but on the deployment of Syrian forces and their ultimate intentions. Israel has maintained that its primary interest is the safety of its northern borders. It is assumed, therefore, that if the Syrians concentrate their activities north of the Litani River, there would be no cause for any Israeli action. (By Gil Sedan)