Menu JTA Search

Israel-lebanon Talks Timetable Upset by Death of Aliza Begin

The timetable for talks between Israel and Lebanon over the withdrawal of Israeli and other foreign forces from that country and future security arrangements have been upset by Premier Menachem Begin’s return to Jerusalem from the U.S. today for the funeral of his wife, Aliza who died early this morning. Funeral services will be held tomorrow.

Officials here could not offer a possible timetable for the impending talks. They have been delayed until now because of wide differences between the Israelis and Lebanese over the character and level of the negotiations. A breakthrough had been expected after Begin’s meeting with President Reagan in Washington this week. That meeting, scheduled for next Friday, has been deferred and no new date was announced.

Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir told the Cabinet today that because of the turn of events, Reagan’s special envoy to the Middle East, Philip Habib, will not come to the region immediately. He had been scheduled to leave immediately after Begin’s discussions with the President and Secretary of State George Shultz. It is not known now when Habib will arrive, Shamir said, but meanwhile talks continue with special envoy Morris Draper who has been mediating between the Israelis and Lebanese for the past two months.

ISRAEL MODIFIES DEMAND

Shamir briefed the Cabinet on what he called “intensive preparatory contacts” with Lebanese officials through Draper. Energy Minister Yitzhak Modai told reporters later that Shamir had indicated “progress” was made.

According to reports here, Israel is now ready to drop its earlier demand that the talks with Lebanon be held on the ministerial level so as to accentuate their political nature. It is prepared to have both delegations headed by senior civil servants. The Israeli choice, in that case, would probably be David Kimche, Director General of the Foreign Ministry.

But as of last week the Lebanese were insisting that military men head the delegations though they were willing to appoint some ranking civilians to their negotiating team. There is speculation meanwhile over whether or not the explosion which demolished Israeli military headquarters in Tyre with heavy loss of lives last Thursday would have any affect on Israeli policy toward Lebanon.

The disaster, which may have been accidental or an act of sabotage, has reenforced opposition demands that Israel pull its forces out of Lebanon immediately and concentrate in negotiating a 40-45 kilometer security zone north of its border. That would mean foregoing, for the time being, hopes for “political” gains from the war in Lebanon. Government spokesmen, particularly Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, have rejected such proposals and are calling for resilience in the aftermath of the Tyre tragedy. (See separate story.)

NEXT STORY