TEL AVIV (Feb. 8)
A senior Israeli official sent to Washington last week to impress the U.S. with the seriousness of cease-fire violations on the Lebanese border, returned to Jerusalem with a stern warning from Secretary of State Alexander Haig that Israel take no action or initiative against the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon.
This exchange of views was reported today. The identity of the Israeli official sent to Washington was not disclosed. But he reportedly received personal briefings from Premier Menachem Begin, Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon before he left and was to emphasize to the American Administration that the ceasefire on the Lebanese border was in imminent danger of breakdown.
The envoy was dispatched after Israel expressed grave concern over the attempted infiltration of the West Bank by a band of Palestinian terrorists from Jordan a week ago. Although three of the terrorists were captured before they could inflict casualties or damage, the vehemence of Israel’s reaction raised speculation that the ground-work was being laid to prepare public opinion for a new Israeli strike against the Palestinians in south Lebanon.
Top Israeli officials insisted that the infiltration attempt, though made via Jordan, was a major violation of the cease-fire which ended fighting on the Lebanese border last July 1. The army and other information sources flooded the media with a long list of alleged violations of the cease-fire by the PLO in recent months, and made it clear that Israel would not tolerate the situation.
CONCERN ABOUT ARMS SUPPLIES TO PALESTINIANS
Haig was quoted as telling reporters in Washington last Friday that the recent upsurge of arms supplies to the Palestinians in south Lebanon was an “aggravation” that could strain the cease-fire. He was commenting on press reports that the Soviet Union was supplying the Palestinians with weapons. Israel has been complaining for some time of a military build-up by the PLO in south Lebanon.
NO COMMENT ON MAGAZINE REPORT
Officials here refused to comment on a report in the latest issue of Time magazine that Sharon met last month with the Lebanese Christian Phalangist leader Bashir Gemayel aboard an Israeli missile boat in the harbor of Junia, north of Beirut. Junia is the chief port of supply for Christian armed forces in northern Lebanon. According to the report. Sharon and Gemayel discussed Phalangist support for Israeli armed action inside Lebanon, including the possible take-over of part of south Lebanon by Israeli forces.
The report in Time magazine also stated that an expected Israeli assault against PLO strongholds in south Lebanon “was narrowly averted last week” when Begin, “in a last-minute decision,” rejected a plan by Sharon and Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan to mount a “modest” attack on the PLO bases.
Senior Israeli officials have also reportedly discussed the situation in Lebanon with Brian Urquhart, the Under Secretary General of the United Nations, who is on an inspection tour of UN forces in the Middle East. He has appealed for restraint by all sides.