WASHINGTON (Sep. 28)
Israeli Ambassador Moshe Arens stressed today that the restoration of Lebanese sovereignty cannot be achieved without the “close cooperation” of the governments of Israel and the United States.
Answering questions by reporters at a meeting sponsored by the American Enterprise institute, Arens said that the goals that the Reagan Administration seeks in Lebanon cannot be achieved if there is a perception, especially in Lebanon, that the U.S. and Israel are “working at cross purposes.”
The envoy noted that the U.S. goals in Lebanon, as outlined by President Reagan, are the same that Israel wishes to achieve there. This includes the restoration of Lebanese independence, the departure of all foreign forces, including thousands of Palestine Liberation Organization terrorists from north Lebanon and the Bekao valley, the Syrian forces and the Israeli army; and the assurances for the security of northern Israel. “We want to be sure … that south Lebanon cannot become once again a base for terrorist attacks against Israel,” Arens said.
In addition to these goals, Arens said Israel had two other goals that had not been articulated by the U.S. They are assuring that Lebanon be part of the Western world and that it sign a peace treaty with Israel.
Arens rejected charges that Israel had “misled” the U.S. since the start of the “Peace for Galilee” operation last June. He said that since he arrived in Washington last February, he and visiting Israeli officials have made it clear to the U.S. that Israel could not continue the situation in which its “population in northern Israel was held hostage to the PLO terrorists” and that eventually some type of military action would have to be taken. He said Israel delayed the military action to allow special U.S. envoy Philip Habib to carry on his negotiations aimed at removing Syrian anti-aircraft missiles from the Bekao valley.
Arens conceded that there may have been a perception in the U.S. that Israel would stop at a line some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from its borders as had been stated by Premier Menachem Begin. He said the line on the eastern front with Syria was about 40 kilometers from the Israeli border because once Israel “unilaterally” declared a cease-fire, the Syrians accepted it.
But Arens noted the PLO never accepted the cease fire and continued firing at the Israeli forces. However, he pointed out the line at Beirut at which Israel ended up is only about 51 to 53 kilometers from the Israeli border.
EXPLAINS IDF’S ENTRY INTO WEST BEIRUT
The Israeli envoy denied that his government had broken a commitment not to enter west Beirut under any circumstances when Israeli troops moved into that part of the Lebanese capital September 15 after the assassination of President-elect Bashir Gemayel of Lebanon. “I personally do not feel that any kind of commitment of that nature was made or was ever even asked for,” he said.
Arens maintained that Israel entered west Beirut because the PLO had violated the commitment in its departure by leaving men and vast stores of arms behind. He said the multinational force left Beirut without turning over military positions and arms to the Lebanese army as they were supposed to do by the departure agreement and the Lebanese army in turn refused to move into west Beirut.
He said that when the Israeli army entered, it found more than 1,000 PLO terrorists still there and vast supplies of arms, including such heavy equipment as tanks and rocket launchers. He said the amount exceeded the estimates of intelligence services, including that of Israel. In the first two days, the terrorists fought back against Israel and six Israeli soldiers were killed and 50 injured, Arens said.
VIEW OF CABINET DECISION
Arens noted that the Cabinet decision today to hold a commission of inquiry came after “painful process” in the Israeli political scene and a week of much “soul searching, agony and anguish” within the Israeli society. “I don’t know if there are many parallel examples of this willingness for soul searching, for self interrogation,” Arens said. “I think this is probably a pretty good example of how this kind of situation would be handled in a free and democratic society.”
Arens also discussed the Reagan peace initiative, stressing that Israel did not refuse to discuss the U.S. President’s proposals, but rejected them as a framework for the autonomy negotiations because of “significant deviation from the Camp David peace process.” He said that even though this is not Reagan’s intention, the proposals would mean a return for Israel to the pre-1967 borders and a division of east Jerusalem due to the U.S. insistence that the Arab residents of that part of the city by allowed to vote for self governing authority which would be established under the autonomy agreement for the West Bank and Gaza.