Jerusalem (Jun. 18)
Premier Menachem Begin said after a two hour meeting with U.S. special envoy Philip Habib this morning that he would give the American diplomat “ample time” to find a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Syrian missile crisis. The “diplomatic efforts continue,” Begin said.
His meeting was the first with Habib since the envoy returned to the Middle East from consultations in Washington to resume the shuttle diplomacy he began more than six weeks ago. Begin described it as “interesting, important and friendly” and intimated that subjects other than the Israeli-Syrian dispute were discussed although the focus was on the missile crisis. But he said there were no positive results to report.
Begin said he explained to the American envoy that he had implied no ultimatum when he told an election rally in Netanya last Sunday that he planned to demand from Habib a definite answer whether or not Syria was prepared to remove the SAM-6 anti-aircraft missiles it has placed in Lebanon. “I merely said in Netanya that we insist that Mr. Habib undertook the mission to get the Syrian missiles out of Lebanon. If he does not get them out we shall see to it that they get out,” Begin told reporters today. While insisting there was no ultimatum, he repeated that Israel could not give the Habib mission unlimited time.
Nevertheless, he was giving it a chance to continue, Begin said. He said he had promised President Reagan and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt that he would give the mission “ample time.” “I promised and of course, I shall keep my promise,” Begin said.
He said Habib had not complained that Israel’s destruction of Iraq’s nuclear reactor in a June 7 air
attack made his mission more difficult. But the American envoy quoted Arab representatives — apparently Saudi Arabian — who said the Israeli raid made it more difficult “from their point of view,” Begin said.
Habib visited Riyadh and Damascus before returning to Israel yesterday. He is due to leave Israel today for Riyadh. Begin said he did not know if or when Habib would go to Damascus again.