JERUSALEM (Nov. 18)
The commencement of talks between Israel and Lebanon over withdrawal, security and normalization is still hamstrung over procedural problems. A meeting between Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and U.S. special envoy Morris Draper here yesterday failed to break the deadlock. Israeli sources said they were hopeful nevertheless that the talks with Lebanon would get under way before long.
President Reagan’s newly appointed special ambassador to the Mideast, Philip Habib, who was involved in working out the plan for the evacuation of the PLO forces from west Beirut, left the U.S. for the Mideast last night. He will apparently focus first on the question of the withdrawal of the Syrian, Israeli and the PLO forces from Lebanon but is also expected to lend his weight to the effort to launch talks between Israel and Lebanon.
Shamir stressed to Draper yesterday that Israel insists the agreement it plans to sign with Lebanon be political in character and provide for elements of normalization across the border, in the absence of a formal peace treaty which Israel no longer considers a realistic possibility at this time. For that reason. Shamir said, Israel demands now, at the outset, that the format of the talks be political, with civilian officials, not military men heading the two delegations.
So far, Lebanon is proposing a military man, a veteran of past mixed armistice commission talks with Israel, to head its delegation. But it is willing to include civilian diplomats and a judge in its negotiating team.
Israeli sources noted there have been frequent, ongoing unofficial talks between Israel and Lebanon on various levels. “The problem,” as these sources define it, “is to poll the talks out from under the table and put them on the table,” meaning a formal, political-military negotiations format to result in a signed accord. Draper will return to Beirut to submit Israel’s position on this issue once again to government leaders there.