Israel to Press to Hold Direct, Formal Talks with Lebanon
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Israel to Press to Hold Direct, Formal Talks with Lebanon

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Israel will press hard to hold direct, formal talks with the government of Lebanon on security arrangements in south Lebanon following the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country.

Highly placed sources in Jerusalem stressed tonight that Israel regarded the holding of face-to-face talks as an important demand — both in the context of progress towards ultimate peace with Lebanon, and in terms of Israel’s own self-respect.

Israel, these sources explained, has held many and variegated contacts with Lebanon over recent months and years and would feel demeaned if the talks on security arrangements were to be held informally as these previous contacts have always been. The sources said the U.S. would be welcome to participate too in such talks.

After a special Cabinet session today — labelled a meeting of the (secret) Ministerial Defense Committee, a top army general was despatched to Washington apparently carrying the text of Israel’s proposals on the security arrangements. Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir is to submit the proposals to Secretary of State George Shultz tomorrow in Washington and Israeli officials seem optimistic they will meet with U.S. approval.

The proposals call for the Lebanese army to police the envisaged 40-50 kilometer security zone along the border. Israel Radio said this evening that Israel would also seek a continuation of its over flights to ensure no heavy artillery or other offensive weaponry was introduced into the area. The radio also said Israel seeks an ongoing role for its long-time ally Maj. Saad Hadad, within the framework of the Lebanese army, in southern Lebanon.

While Israel aspires — as it announced publicly Sunday — to a full peace treaty with Lebanon, that goal is not presently considered realistic, and instead Israel policymakers will be looking to implement on-the-ground elements of normalization — such as open borders and trade relations — and thereby establish an evolving relationship that could lead to peace.


Meanwhile, Economics Minister Yaacov Meridor pledged to reporters today that there would be “no disaster” in the south Lebanon refugee camps with the advent of winter. At a news conference, Meridor reported on stepped-up efforts both by UNRWA and by the IDF to prepare the bombed out Ein Hilwe and other camps for the installation of tents — UNRWA has bought some 10,000 of them — to house homeless families.

Meridor said all the tents should be up by November-December and that meanwhile homeless families had found refuge in schools and public buildings. They would not be removed from these premises until the tents were ready, he pledged.

Moreover, those who wished to rebuild their houses would be enabled to dose and the IDF — as long as it was in the area — would protect them from “any local authority” that sought to pull down these homes. This was a hint to the Lebanese government’s current activities in Beirut and its environs where Palestinian unlicensed buildings are being pulled down.

Meridor held the press conference amid mounting media criticism here that the government, by inaction, was allowing a situation to develop in the semi-destroyed camps that could turn into a tragedy in the winter — and would cost Israel dearly in terms of world public opinion.

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