JERUSALEM (Oct. 17)
There is an air of optimism in Jerusalem over the situation in Lebanon following the talks between Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz at the end of last week in Washington and following Israel-Lebanon contacts in Beirut.
Officials spoke today, after the weekly cabinet meeting had heard reports on these diplomatic developments, of a “not unfavorable” reception by both the Americans and the Lebanese for Israel’s withdrawal-and-security proposals for Lebanon.
The officials said Washington had seemed to accept the Israeli ideas as a “reasonable” basis for discussion. The U.S. would apparently put forward its own proposals only after Lebanese President Amin Gemayel’s visit to Washington this week. But said the Israeli officials, certain key elements of the Israeli proposal appear to have gained American support.
Above all, the officials said, Israeli’s demand for direct talks between itself and Lebanon on security arrangements in south Lebanon seemed to have won understanding in Washington.
DIRECT TALKS ALREADY UNDERWAY
Such direct talks are already underway, on an unofficial level. Thus, Foreign Ministry Director-General David Kimche was presenting the Israeli security-and-withdrawal proposals to key officials in Beirut Thursday as his boss, Shamir was presenting them to Shultz at the State Department.
But Israel wants the contacts with Lebanon to be formal and official, just as it wants a formal and official agreement between Jerusalem and Beirut at the end of the process.
Ostensibly, Israel is still aspiring to a full peace treaty, but in practice the immediate Israeli goal is a formal accord on security arrangements plus, hopefully, practical elements of normalization on the ground. These would be encouraged to evolve with time into broader and more formal peace relations.
U.S.-ISRAEL DIALOGUE RESTORED
Israeli officials said the Shamir-Shultz talks on Thursday had helped restore substantive dialogue between the two countries and gone a long way to easing the tensions that have arisen over recent weeks. The officials firmly denied reports by Israeli correspondents in Washington and in Jerusalem that Shultz hinted, by juxtaposing the two issues, that there could be cuts in U.S. aid if no progress were made on the overall settlement as outlined by President Reagan September 1.
Media reports spoke of some tough talk between Shamir and Shultz over the Reagan plan and West Bank settlements. But Israeli officials are playing down this aspect of the meeting, and are stressing rather the “constructive” dialogue over Lebanon.
They acknowledge, though, that there are still looming differences over Lebanon, too:
* Israel is flatly opposed to any continued role for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in policing the southern border zone. The U.S. wants to keep this option open.
* Israel wants a special role for the Christian militia forces of Maj. Saad Haddad. The U.S. opposes this — although Israel sources say Shultz did not say so specifically in his talk with Shamir.
* Israel is calling for the PLO to be removed from all of Lebanon even before the simultaneous Israeli-Syrian withdrawal begins. The U.S. does not see this as a realistic proposition.
Last night, Israel TV showed a film of the Foreign Ministry’s permanent office in Baabda, a suburb of east Beirut, terming it an embassy-in-the making. Israeli officials denied today that the U.S. had urged Israel to withdraw this office. They said the Foreign Ministry was anxious to maintain it even after the IDF pulls out of the area, provided satisfactory security arrangements can be made.