JERUSALEM (Sep. 21)
The Cabinet today agreed to accept President Reagan’s proposal for the return of a multinational force to Beirut, including U.S. marines. Officials said after the Cabinet meeting that the Knesset would meet in special session tomorrow to debate the massacre of Palestinian refugees and its repercussions.
Cabinet secretary Dan Meridor said after today’s session that the ministers had proposed the creation of a “coordinating committee” of Israel, Lebanon, the U.S. Italy and France to discuss “ways to prevent a return of bloody terror to Beirut.” Sources here stressed however, that the creation of such a body was not a condition for Israel’s withdrawal from west Beirut.
Meridor said the government intended to withdraw its forces from all of Beirut very soon and that the Cabinet had been informed today that a large part of Israel’s armor and other forces have in fact already pulled out of the city. He said Israeli troops were still collecting weapons left behind by the PLO — according to Meridor a violation of the withdrawal agreement negotiated by U.S. special Ambassador Philip Habib. But he said the complete recovery of the arms was not a condition of Israel’s withdrawal.
Sources here said that contacts with the Lebanese army were proceeding to Israel’s satisfaction for the gradual handover of areas of Beirut occupied by Israeli troops to Lebanese forces. They said that those informal contacts would continue even if the Lebanese government refused to join with Israel in a “coordinating committee.”
REAGAN SENDING MARINES BACK TO LEBANON
Reagan announced yesterday, in a brief nationally televised address, that the U.S., France and Italy have decided to send back their contingents which last month supervised the evacuation of PLO and Syrian forces from west Beirut. Reagan said the U.S. and its European allies were acting at the request of the Lebanese government, in the aftermath of the massacre of Palestinian civilians in two refugee camps near Beirut last Friday.
The President assigned no blame to any party for the massacre which he described as “among the most heart-rending in the long nightmare of Lebanon’s agony.” But he emphasized, several times in his address that Israel must withdraw its troops from west Beirut as a first step to the early withdrawal from Lebanon of all foreign forces.
“Unless Israel moves quickly and courageously to withdraw, it will find itself ever more deeply involved in problems that are not its own and which it cannot solve,” the President said. He said the U.S. position was conveyed to the Israeli government “on my behalf” by Secretary of State George Shultz.
Reagan also said, “I re-emphasize my call for early progress to solve the Palestinian issue and repeat the U.S. proposals, which are now even more urgent.” At another point in his address, he said “I am determined to press ahead in the broader effort to achieve peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The events in Beirut of last week have served only to reinforce my conviction that such a peace is desperately needed and that the initiative we undertook on September 1 is the right way to proceed.”
The President acknowledged that both Israel and Syria have asserted they have no territorial ambitions in Lebanon “and are prepared to withdraw.” He said there were lessons for all in recent events.
“The people of Lebanon must have learned that the circle of massacre upon massacre must end. Children are not avenged by the murder of children. Israel must have learned that there is no way it can impose its own solutions on hatreds as deep and bitter as those that produced this tragedy. If it seeks to do so, it will sink more deeply into the quagmire that looms before it,” Reagan said.
He also warned that “Those outsiders who have fed the flames of civil war in Lebanon for so many years need to learn that the fire will consume them too, if it is not put out.”
The President said that “the multinational force will return to Beirut for a limited period of time” and that “its purpose is not to act as a police force but to make it possible for the lawful authorities of Lebanon to discharge those duties for themselves.”