Begin: Blaming Israel for Massacre is ‘totally Despicable’

Premier Menachem Begin of Israel has sent a letter to Sen. Alan Cranston (D. Cal.) replying to the solon’s criticism of Israel’s recent actions in Lebanon and Israel’s rejection of President Reagan’s Middle East peace initiative. Begin charged that “the whole campaign over the last 10 days” to blame Israel for the massacre of Palestinians in refugee camps in west Beirut was “unbelievable, fantastic and totally despicable.”

The Premier’s letter, released by the Israel Embassy here last Friday, was in reply to a letter Cranston, the deputy Democratic leader in the Senate, wrote to Begin September 22. A spokesman for Cranston said that the Senator has received Begin’s letter, dated September 29, and had no comment since he felt that both his letter and Begin’s reply spoke for themselves.

At the outset of his letter to Cranston, Begin noted that the Senator has “a perfect right, even from afar, to criticize Israel’s actions or proffer advice because you are a real friend of our people and country.”

Explaining why Israel went into west Beirut September 15, Begin wrote that after Lebanese President-elect Bashir Gemayel was assassinated, he told the Israel Cabinet there was a need to prevent “a revenge on the Moslem population by the Christians.” Begin added:

“It never occurred to anyone dealing with the Lebanese military units, which subsequently entered the Shatila and Sabra camps, that they would perpetrate a massacre.” He noted that it would have been “morally untenable and sinful” to make the “assumption that a disciplined military unit will behave like beasts.”

CITES THREE TRUTHS

Begin also wrote that “the first horrific truth is that Arabs murdered Arabs. The second simple truth is that Israeli soldiers stopped the carnage. The third simple truth is that if the current campaign should go on, without a reaction of outrage — indeed outrage –by decent men, then, within a matter of a few weeks or months, everyone everywhere will have gotten the impression and will begin to believe that it was an Israeli military unit which perpetrated the horrible killings.”

Begin stressed that Israel has now decided to hold a commission of inquiry, adding that the delay in establishing such an inquiry was due to “several factors which could not possible be known even to our best friends living thousands of miles away from the scene of the tragedy.” But Begin stressed that, now that an inquiry will take place, “nothing will be hidden. Everything will be clarified.”

CRANSTON’S LETTER TO BEGIN

In his letter to Begin, Cranston said while he had initially supported Israel’s efforts in Lebanon, it now appeared to both friends and critics of Israel that Begin and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon “have substituted naked military force for a balanced foreign policy which should reflect a decent respect for the opinion of mankind.”

Cranston urged Israel to cooperate in achieving the swiftest withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon and “to return to Israel’s traditional concern over only immediate threats to its own borders” while abandoning “its reliance on military force for the solution of essentially diplomatic problems. “

Cranston said also that “though I myself have a reservation about elements of President Reagan’s proposed peace plan” for the Middle East, “I urge your government to reconsider promptly its outright, precipitous rejection of his entire proposal.”

BASIS FOR REJECTING REAGAN’S PLAN

In replying to the last point, Begin said Israel could not accept the President’s proposal because it would result in a “mortal danger” for Israel. Begin listed some of the various points that Israel has made before in rejecting the Reagan proposal.

Begin also pointed out that both he and Reagan have agreed that Israel and the United States are friends and allies. “Between friends and allies, there should be complete candor,” Begin stressed.

“How, then, could we, the Israelis, say that the ‘positions’ are negotiable if we feel with all our heart and analytical reasoning that we see in them an ultimate danger to our children, to our future, to our very existence? Are we going to be asked for the sake of any interest whatsoever, to give up our innermost convictions, put in jeopardy our independence and sacrifice our most vital interests?”

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