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Navon Calls for Independent Inquiry into Beirut Massacre

President Yitzhak Navon called tonight for an independent inquiry by a “credible” body into the massacre of Palestinian civilians in two refugee camps in west Beirut Friday. He said, in a prepared statement, which he read personally to the media that Israel owed an inquiry to itself, to its self-image and to its image “among those civilized countries of which we see ourselves a part.”

The President’s call echoed in effect the Labor Alignment’s demand earlier for a judicial commission of inquiry into events in west Beirut. It also marked one of the rare occasions when the President of Israel has personally intervened in a matter with far-reaching domestic political ramifications. By constitutional convention, the Presidential office generally remains outside of politics.

Navon’s statement called for an “early and thorough investigation by credible and independent people into what happened in this awful affair; and if necessary, as a result of the inquiry, to draw conclusions — then those conclusions must be drawn to the full.”

In Hebrew, the idiom “to draw conclusions” is often used as a synonym for “to resign” or “to dismiss” someone. Labor has demanded that Premier Menachem Begin and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon resign for having ordered Israeli forces into west Beirut last Wednesday without prior consultation with the Cabinet.

Navon’s remarks raised speculation as to his future plans. Political observers immediately recalled that he announced on television only last week that he would consider returning to politics when his Presidential term expires. His sudden and unexpected intervention in the west Beirut crisis was expected tonight to create a political stir, if not a storm.

Navon observed in his statement that Israel has a long heritage of morality and justice and he was sure that if it stuck to its age-old principles it could emerge from this episode “strengthened seven-fold.”

“We cannot simply ignore what has happened and move an to other things,” he declared. He said it was difficult for him to express the “honor and revulsion” at the massacre of “helpless men, women and children” and was sure that all Israelis felt the same.

He added that Israel also condemned the attempts by Arab and some other states to lay guilt for the massacre at the door of the Israeli army. “These attempts will fail,” Navon said.

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