TORONTO (Oct. 21)
Israel’s incursion into Lebanon was defended here by Eliahu Ben-Elissar, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee and Israel’s first Ambassador to Egypt. He told some 1,400 delegates and guests attending the B’nai B’rith international convention that Israel’s military action in Lebanon was necessary for the elimination of the PLO infrastructure and gaining the security of Israel.
Ben-Elissar stated that the Israelis now want to leave Lebanon as soon as possible. Complete withdrawal will take place as soon as the remnants of the PLO forces and Syrian army depart, he said. Ben-Elissar, who said his address was a message from Israeli Premier Menachem Begin, stated that Jews have learned painfully from a long history that all Jews are responsible for the survival and well-being of each other.
“We had to enter Lebanon for one main reason,” he said. “The PLO had turned Lebanon — which used to be an independent sovereign state — into a PLO state, not to make it a new Palestine, but to make it the base for attacks on Israel.”
Citing the huge caches of arms and miles of tunnels discovered under and around Beirut, Ben-Elissar asked: “Should Israel have left to the PLO the opportunity to choose the time of attack?” He added that he did not believe that the PLO could have defeated Israel but it could have caused many casualties. “How many casualties should there have been before, we should have responded?” he asked. Israel, he said, cannot afford the luxury of gambling with its security.
Ben-Elissar criticized the Western press as biased, dishonest and unprofessional in reporting the Lebanese war. He accused the press, by its reporting, of provoking outbursts of terrorism against Jews in Europe and elsewhere. “I don’t accuse the world of anti-Semitism but how do you explain what is happening?” he asked.
Ben-Elissar told the B’nai B’rith audience that the Begin government wants to adhere to the Camp David agreements and opposes any plan that alters them. Israel cannot give any territory to Jordan or PLO leader Yasir Arafat, he said. “Seeing what the PLO has done in Lebanon, just imagine what it would do in an area completely under its control,” he declared.
In response to a question from a B’nai B’rith delegate he said that Begin stands ready to go to Damascus or Amman to discuss peace with Syria or Jordan, once those nations recognize Israel.