Tense Relations Between U.s., Israel

The Cabinet convened here this evening in special session to consider the war in Lebanon under lengthening shadows clouding relations between Jerusalem and Washington. A message from President Reagan to Premier Menachem Begin expressing “the absolute necessity of re-establishing and maintaining a strict cease-fire in place” was characterized by Israeli sources as the toughest ever sent by the President to the Premier.

Reagan’s message, and a separate statement by him expressing his “strong conviction” that the PLO must not delay further its withdrawal from Lebanon, followed a two-hour meeting of the Special Situation Group headed by Vice President George Bush and a one-hour meeting of the National Security Council.

Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, just back from Washington, was to report to the Cabinet on his own impressions of growing American anger over the ongoing war in Beirut. The U.S. abstention last night at the United Nations Security Council on a Spanish-Jordanian resolution, which demanded that Israel withdraw its troops and censured Israel for disregarding previous Council resolutions concerning the Lebanese crisis, was seen here as a further portent of Washington’s wrath. (See separate UN story.)

SHARON ACCUSES U.S. DIPLOMATS OF LYING

Israel Radio reported today a “tough” conversation yesterday between Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and the U.S. charge d’affaires William Brown, with Sharon accusing U.S. diplomats in Beirut (U.S. special envoy Philip Habib and the Ambassador to Lebanon) of sending “untrue” reports to Washington on the state of the fighting in the city.

The radio said Sharon had referred to the diplomats using a telephone line to relay the sound of Israeli shells falling — whereas in fact they were Palestinian shells. The radio used the word “lies” in its report which was presumably based on sources close to Sharon.

Sharon and other hardline ministers are known to have all but lost faith in Habib’s efforts and to believe that only Israeli military pressure can still bring the PLO to leave the city without an all-out assault on the terrorist strong holds.

The American position is the precise reverse; Reagan, in his message, reportedly said Habib was on the brink of wrapping up the agreement for the PLO’s evacuation — when Israel’s attacks yesterday thwarted him. Washington believes successful negotiations must be predicated. on a total cease-fire.

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