JERUSALEM (Sep. 7)
Repeated statements by Defense Minister Ariel Sharon implying that Israel would occupy or otherwise control southern Lebanon indefinitely if the Beirut government failed to sign a peace treaty with Israel have not been clarified by officials here. There is speculation as to whether Sharon is speaking for himself or is enunciating a policy shared by Premier Menachem Begin if not the entire Cabinet.
Sharon warned in Kiryat Shemona last night that in the absence of a peace treaty with Lebanon, Israel would insist on controlling a security belt of up to 50 kilometers of Lebanese territory north of its borders. According to Sharon, Israel has made it clear to the Lebanese authorities–apparently including President-elect Bashir Gemayel–that if a peace treaty was signed, Lebanon’s territorial unity would be guaranteed. If there is no treaty, Israel would control a 40-50 kilometer zone “whose status would vary from the rest of Lebanon,” Sharon said.
He added that Israel did not view a peace treaty with Lebanon as merely a gesture but as a “security necessity of prime importance.” He insisted however, that Israel had no territorial aspirations in Lebanon and was vitally interested in a unified Lebanon under a central government.
Official sources here said today that it was too early to spell out the kind of security belt envisaged by the Defense Minister. Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir told the Ambassadors of the European Economic Community (EEC) countries that security arrangements on Israel’s northern, border would best be worked out by the, Lebanese and Israeli armies, assuming there was a peace treaty between the two countries. A key question is whether the kind of security Sharon seeks would be feasible without the presence of Israeli troops in Lebanon.
GEMAYEL UNDER INTENSE PRESSURE
From the outset of the Lebanese campaign, Begin predicted that an Israeli victory would result in Lebanon becoming the second Arab country to conclude a peace treaty with Israel. But Gemayel is reportedly under heavy pressure not to sign a pact with Israel. The pressure comes mainly from Lebanese Moslem leaders. But a Christian leader, former President Camille Chamoun, has been quoted as saying a treaty with Israel at this time would be “premature.”
Begin, who met with Gemayel last week, reportedly was disappointed that the President-elect failed to come out openly in favor of a peace treaty. The Lebanese leader also declared that his government would try Maj. Saad Haddad as a “deserter.”
Haddad, who commands the Christian militia in south Lebanon, has been supported for years by Israel and recently expanded the area he controls from a narrow strip along the Israeli border to a point just south of Sidon. Israel is said to regard his presence as an important security element.
Begin also was reported to have been “insulted” by Gemayel’s cool attitude inasmuch as the leader of the rightwing Christian Phalangists owed his election in large measure to Israel’s army in Lebanon.
Political pundits here assume that Sharon’s remark on Israel’s security plans in Lebanon had Begin’s personal approval. Although the Cabinet has not yet discussed future relations with Lebanon, Begin, Sharon and Shamir consult frequently together. It is assumed here that the three senior Cabinet ministers are in agreement and that Sharon’s statements reflect this.
ISRAEL NOT IN A HURRY TO GET OUT OF LEBANON
Whatever agreements are reached with respect to a long range relationship with Lebanon, Israel has indicated it is in no hurry to withdraw its forces from Lebanon, including the northernmost points to which Israeli troops advanced.
In that connection, Sharon reportedly told Morris Draper, the senior U.S. diplomat in Lebanon, that Israel would not withdraw from the environs of Beirut until Sharon and his family “could spend a weekend at the Commodore Hotel in west Beirut,” the Moslem quarter of the Lebanese capital. Draper is Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs and was special Ambassador Philip Habib’s deputy in the negotiations which led to the evacuation of the Palestine Liberation Organization from west Beirut.
Israel is insisting furthermore that no anti-Israel elements must be allowed to remain in Beirut which could facilitate the return of the PLO. But sources here have denied a report that Israel, issued an ultimatum for the evacuation of 2,000 leftist militiamen from west Beirut. Israel continues to regard this as the responsibility of the Lebanese army, the sources said.