WASHINGTON (Jun. 22)
Premier Menachem Begin was due to leave Washington for Israel this afternoon following two days of meetings with President Reagan and other top Administration officials. He conferred with Reagan for nearly three hours at the White House yesterday.
He met with Secretary of State Alexander Haig at a working breakfast here this morning, their third meeting since the Israeli Premier arrived in the U.S. last Tuesday: Speaking to reporters afterwards, Begin said the U.S. and Israel were working to achieve the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon and expressed optimism that “the results may be in the offing.”
Haig reported that U.S. special envoy Philip Habib is currently meeting with Lebanese leaders in Beirut and others to help reestablish the authority of the central government in Lebanon. Haig also expressed hope that Habib’s efforts would lead “to a positive outcome in the hours ahead.”
According to a senior Administration official, the meeting yesterday between Reagan and Begin was “frank, bordering at times on direct and even blunt.” The official said the possibility of an increased peace-keeping force in south Lebanon and humanitarian aid for the war-stricken area were discussed. He told reporters that Begin had expressed Israel’s preference for a multinational force outside United Nations control that would include American troops.
The President told Begin he would be “less than enthusiastic” about U.S. participation, the official said, because of problems this proposal would encounter in Congress. But according to the official, the President “will make a final decision at the appropriate time in the best interests of the peace and security of the region.”
1500 RALLY IN SUPPORT OF BEGIN
While Reagan and Begin were meeting in the White House yesterday, some 1,500 hundred persons gathered in Lafayette Park then marched past the White House in a demonstration of solidarity with Israel.
Sen. Alan Cranston (D. Calif.), who addressed the rally which was sponsored by the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, said the Israeli military operation provides an historic opportunity to stabilize the region, including efforts to ensure Israel’s security.
Cranston said that with the military defeat of Soviet-made Syrian weapons by the American made Israeli weapons, the United States will no longer be susceptible to Saudi Arabian or Jordanian threats to buy Soviet military equipment. He also called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces, including Israel, from Lebanon.
Other speakers included Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry; Norman Goldstein, chairman of the Israel Committee of the JCC of greater Washington; Hyman Bookbinder, Washington representative of the American Jewish Committee; and John Steinbruck, pastor of the Luther Place Memorial Church.
CONGRESS SUPPORTS AID FOR LEBANON
In related developments the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee both acted on humanitarian aid for Lebanese civilians affected by the war. The Senate today tentatively approved an increase of the sum for humanitarian assistance from $20 million to $50 million. Democrats on the Committee called the Administration’s $20 million “inadequate” and said they might raise the amount even more when the bill gets to the Senate floor.
The measure is expected to be brought before the full Senate for a vote before Congress recesses Thursday until July 12. The funds will be earmarked for distribution through international and private relief organizations to furnish medical care, food and shelter to the victims of the fighting in Lebanon.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee also voted today to increase the aid sum from $20 million to $50 million and sent the measure to the House floor for a vote. Committee chairman Clement Zablocki (D. Wisc.) said he hoped it would be passed by the House tomorrow.