JERUSALEM (Nov. 18)
Communications Minister Mardechai Zipori contended today that Defense Minister Ariel Sharon did not have retroactive approval of the Cabinet when he allowed Christian Phalangists to enter the Subra and Shatila refugee camps in west Beirut last September 16.
Zipori’s testimony before the commission of inquiry into the refugee camps massacre contradicted Premier Menachem Begin’s assertion before the commission two weeks ago that decisions taken at a June 15 Cabinet meeting were sufficient authorization for Sharon to act three months later without prioconsultation with the full Cabinet.
Responding to a question from Gen. (res.) Yona Ephrat, the military member of the three-member panel, Zipori said the Cabinet decided on June 15 that the Israel army should not enter west Beirut.
NO ‘WARNING LIGHT’
But according to Zipori, that could not and should not be interpreted as a mandate for sending in the Phalangists, as Sharon later did. Zipori elaborated on the June 15 Cabinet meeting when the commission went into closed session. However, he testified at the open hearing that news of the Phalangists’ entry into the refugee camps did not trigger a “warning light” in his mind or in the minds of most of his Cabinet colleagues when they met in emergency session the night of September 16.
Zipori said he was out of the Cabinet room briefly when Deputy Premier David Levy expressed his fear that the Phalangists would wreak vengeance on the Palestinians in the refugee camps.
Zipori said he first learned of the massacres from a pumalist friend on September 17 but was unable to contact the heads of military intelligence and general security services to confirm the reports. He said he telephoned Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir suggesting that he check the reports himself, to which Shamir replied, “I heard you,” Zipori said.