JERUSALEM (Jun. 15)
Premier Menachem Begin, who flew to the U.S. today, may face strong American pressure to pull back Israeli forces in Lebanon when he meets President Reagan and Secretary of State Alexander Haig in Washington early next week. Some officials here expect the Administration to urge Israel to withdraw to positions 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of its border, the line that Begin told Reagan was the objective of Israeli forces when they invaded Lebanon June 5.
If the Americans ask for this, Begin intends to reject it, the officials said. Government sources reiterated, after today’s special Cabinet meeting and just before Begin’s departure that Israel is determined to continue its strategic blockade of Beirut as a strong bargaining position in the difficult political and diplomatic negotiations to come over the future of Lebanon.
At the same time, the officials indicated that Begin’s line with the Administration will be that there is a basic confluence of interests between Israel and the U.S. for a long-term political solution in Lebanon. They are confident, moreover, that U.S. sympathy with Israel’s assault on the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon remains intact.
BEGIN ADDRESSES UN FRIDAY
Begin is due in New York tonight and will address the United Nations Disarmament Conference Friday morning. He is due to meet with Reagan at the White House next Monday. He hopes to be able to tell Reagan and Haig by then that the fighting in Lebanon has ended. Israel stopped its air raids on PLO positions following reported strong remonstrances from Washington over the weekend.
Israeli policymakers say that both Israel and the U.S. benefited from the success of American-supplied arms in Lebanon against the Soviet-supplied weapons of the PLO and the Syrian army. Both countries aspire to the restoration of a pro-Western, stable central government in Lebanon and would like to see a total withdrawal of Syrian forces from that country, or at least a diminution of Syrian central in Lebanon, the Israelis say.
According to these sources, the shared objectives ensure a successful round of talks for Begin in Washington and a fundamental coordination between Israel and the U.S. in the political moves ahead. It is understood that when Begin meets with the American leaders he will have in hand several option papers prepared by a high level Israeli back-up team, headed by David Kimche, Director General of the Foreign Ministry, for a political and security solution in Lebanon.
Israel’s “preferred arrangement,” it was said here today, would be a multinational force and observers, such as MFO presently patrolling Sinai, with a strong American component, to keep the peace in south Lebanon and permanently prevent the PLO from returning there. But Washington seems reluctant to commit American forces to such a task in Lebanon and Israel may eventually agree to an expanded role for an enlarged United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), sources here said.
They pointed out that Israel’s close ties with the Christian Phalangists in northern Lebanon and with Maj. Saad Haddad’s not inconsiderable Christian forces in the south put Israel in a strong position to influence a political settlement in Lebanon. Israel has been supporting both Christian elements with weapons and money for years. Israeli ministers continue to stress however that Israel has no desire to impose a political settlement in Lebanon by force of arms.
Coincidentally, the UNIFIL mandate comes up for renewal by the Security Council this Friday. Israeli sources said they expected the Council to authorize an interim renewal for about 2-3 months instead of the regular six month period. The Council is said to want to avoid a full-fledged discussion of Lebanon while the situation there, especially around Beirut, remains unstable.