WASHINGTON (Jun. 23)
Mosbe Arens, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, said today that Israel’s military operation in Lebanon may provide a basis for movement on Palestinian autonomy on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“I think there is reason to hope that we may be able to move more expeditiously than we thought we could before in the negotiations for autonomy for Palestinian Arabs living in Judaea, Samaria and the Gaza area,” Arens said in a speech to the National Press Club here today.
According to Arens, the participation of local Palestinians in autonomy was severely inhibited by the Palestine Liberation Organization which, he said, murdered moderates willing to cooperate with Israel.
“We hope this impediment in the foundation of the peace making has now been removed,” Arens stated, referring to the military setback of the PLO in south Lebanon. He said that the Israelis “may have taken a step forward towards that comprehensive peace in the Middle East that we are working for and hoping for. “
PEACE TREATY WITH LEBANON FORESEEN
He predicted that the day may not “be far off” when Lebanon, like Egypt, will sign an independent peace treaty with Israel, “and then almost inevitably the other Arab states will have to follow suit.”
In his address, Arens outlined the background of the Lebanese situation, engulfed in violence,” and with over 60 percent of its land occupied by the PLO and Syrian forces. He said Israel had found a situation over the years where the settlements on the northern border became “hostages” to the PLO artillery and rocket fire launched from southern Lebanon.
He said today, the PLO presence in southern Lebanon has been “effectively eliminated… they are not there anymore.” He pointed out that for the first time in eight years, since the 1975-1976 civil war, Lebanese ‘President Elias Sharkis has succeeded in putting together a Cabinet, in the form of a Committee for National Salvation which includes representatives of all major ethnic and religious groups in Lebanon.
HUGE PLO ARMS SUPPLY FOUND
Arens said the Israeli army found in southern Lebanon a quantity of PLO weapons and ammunition that was ten times as large as Israeli intelligence estimated prior to the operation, a quantity the envoy said was “beyond our expectations and almost beyond our belief.” Furthermore, documents found in Palestine terrorist emplacements proved beyond a doubt a close “almost organic interconnection” between the PLO and the Soviet Union, he said.
There were also membership cards in the PLO not only for Palestinians, Iranians and Syrians, he said, but also for people who came from the Phillipines, Vietnam and East Germany. He described this as a “conspiracy of international dimensions.”
According to Arens, the number of lives that have been reported lost in south Lebanon From the Israeli invasion has been “grossly exaggerated” by the American media. “It was not difficult to assume that in many cases it was not deliberately exaggerated, ” Arens said.
“Ofcourse, Arens said, “we are concerned and are doing everything possible to bring relief to the victims,” He said Israel has already mounted a large scale effort of assistance in the medical fields and providing food and shelter, most of it voluntary and organized by the Israeli government. He said a minister in the Israeli government has been appointed to deal with this relief help.