JERUSALEM (Apr. 24)
Israel is preparing for what Cabinet sources here called a “critical week” in its drawn-out effort to obtain a withdraw-al-and-security agreement with Lebanon. U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, is due here Wednesday, anxious to wrap up the agreement.
Meanwhile, Lebanon has noticeably hardened its positions over the last few days and there are an increasing number of voices within the Israeli Cabinet urging a unilateral pullback by the IDF to the Awali River, the boundary of the 28-mile security zone in south Lebanon.
This pullback proposal was aired at the weekly Cabinet meeting today but there was no decision. Most ministers felt it would be inadvisable for Israel to make such a decision on the eve of Shultz’s visit.
At the same time, the prevailing sentiment in the Cabinet was that the current setback in the talks with Lebanon could not be allowed to develop into a long deadlock. Ministers heard from Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir that Lebanon has gone back on understandings reached in the talks on key security and normalization issues.
GEMAYEL TAKES HARD LINE POSITION
This hardening on Lebanon’s part began at the negotiating round in Khalde last Thursday. It was echoed in a briefing by President Amin Gemayel to media editors in Beirut which was widely publicized over the weekend.
The Lebanese President insisted that there would be no Israeli dictation regarding the future role of its ally, Maj. Saad Haddad. Nor would there be normalized relations between the two countries –merely an end of belligerency agreement. “We also reject the concept of mutual patrols,” Gemayel said, He said there would be U.S.-Israel-Lebanon supervisory teams, but not military patrols to oversee security in south Lebanon.
On many of these points, Israeli negotiators say they had reached understandings with their Lebanese counterparts which have now been thrown into question. Cabinet sources insisted that Israel “will not renegotiate these matters.”
If, during the four or five sessions to be held this week it turns out that last Thursday’s backsliding and remarks represented a new Lebanese policy, “then that will be that,” a top source said. His implication was that the talks would in effect have reached a point of stalemate and Israel would look to other options.