JERUSALEM (Jan. 27)
Defense Minister Ariel Sharon insists that there is no confrontation between Israel and the U.S., only disagreements. But those disagreements, he contended concern “crucial questions which are matters of life and death to us.”
Sharon spoke yesterday to a visiting group of Israel Bond officials from the U.S. He explained why Israel considered it crucial that it alone man the early warning stations projected for south Lebanon, once the bulk of Israeli forces withdraw from that country.
Sharon maintained that Israel required a broader intelligence gathering system than electronic surveillance alone could provide in order to make sure that terrorists do not again infiltrate south Lebanon. He said this would include constant liaison with the local population and an important role for Israel’s main ally, Maj. Saad Haddad’s Christian militia.
RATIONALE FOR ISRAELIS MANNING STATIONS
For those reasons, Sharon contended, the early warning stations should be manned “by people who know the terrain,” who are familiar with the local population. He made it clear that he meant Israeli troops.
“They (the local population) have to give us information about any attempt by the terrorists to reestablish their infrastructure in southern Lebanon,” he said. “It’s not certain electronic information that one may get and transfer to somebody else. And it cannot be done by American soldiers or troops or officers or any others from any European countries. That must be done by people who know the terrain, who know the language, who may recognize between Druze and Maronities and the Christians and the Shiites and the Sunnis and all the others.”
Sharon estimated that his plan would require somewhat fewer than 750 Israeli military personnel to remain indefinitely in south Lebanon. The Lebanese government objects on grounds that the continued presence of Israeli troops on its soil would compromise Lebanon’s sovereignty. The U.S. apparently sympathizes with Lebanon’s position and is insisting on the complete evacuation of all foreign forces from Lebanon — Israelis, Syrian and Palestine Liberation Organization.
Sharon repeated his accusation that the U.S. was putting obstacles in the way of Israel’s political aims in Lebanon. He contended that Israel was “closer to peace with Lebanon than with any other Arab country. We could achieve peace within a very short time if we had the backing” of the U.S., the Defense Minister claimed.
Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis rejected charges that the U.S. was exploiting Lebanon for political gains in the Middle East. Addressing the Rotary Club in Haifa yesterday, Lewis declared:
“What U.S. policy is not is a desire to steal the fruits of Israel’s victories (in Lebanon) from it. What U.S. policy is not is a determination, for our own strategic reasons, to take the play away from Israel and establish ourselves, the United States, militarily and politically in Lebanon in a way that would enhance, in some fashion, our influence in the East-West struggle against the Soviets. U.S. policy is not in any way, shape or form designed to prove to anybody that we can bring Israel to heel.”