JERUSALEM (May. 5)
The Cabinet will meet in special session tomorrow to decide whether to accept a draft agreement for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon worked out by Secretary of State George Shultz in a week of intensive shuttle diplomacy between Jerusalem and Beirut.
Acceptance of the draft apparently will entail a degree of compromise by Israel. Officials here explained that a special Cabinet meeting was necessary because the ministers will be asked to amend certain previously held positions. This means, in effect, they will have to authorize Israeli concessions.
Because of the crucial nature of these decisions, the meeting, which would have been held today, was postponed until tomorrow to allow ministers presently abroad time to return home. The latter include former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, a hardline opponent of any concessions, who cut short a speaking tour in the U.S. and is expected here later today.
Political observers expressed confidence that a majority of the ministers would endorse whatever decision Premier Menachem Begin supported. The decision to convene the Cabinet was announced late yesterday after a hectic round of meetings between Shultz and Begin and his senior ministers. Begin told reporters that there were still a number of differences between the parties but that he would summon the Cabinet to make “important decisions.”
Begin’s caution contrasted with the jubilation American reporters said prevailed among members of Shultz’s party who appeared confident yesterday that a breakthrough has been achieved. Shultz is expected to fly to Damascus Saturday and then to Paris for a NATO meeting early next week. American sources said he does not plan to return to the Middle East from Paris but will go directly to Washington with an Israeli-Lebanese agreement in hand.
Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir also appeared optimistic when he spoke to reporters here last night. He would not reveal details of the draft agreement to come under Cabinet scrutiny tomorrow. It appeared from statements by Shultz and Begin that agreement has been reached on most crucial points, including the future status of Israel’s ally. Maj. Saad Haddad, and the nature of the joint supervisory units to monitor security on Israel’s northern border.
UNCONFIRMED VERSION OF THE DRAFT
Unconfirmed reports broadcast by Voice of Israel Radio yesterday said the draft calls for an end-of-belligerency agreement between Israel and Lebanon and a variety of security measures along the Israeli-Lebanese border. The accord affirms the right of both countries to take self-defense measures if the agreements are violated, the radio reports said.
It provides further that the two countries will begin normalization negotiations six months after the last Israeli troops are pulled out of Lebanon. One of the obstacles holding up an agreement was Israel’s insistence that it be signed by the Foreign Ministers of the two countries and by the U.S. as guarantor.
The Lebanese want the signatories to be the heads of the negotiating delegations who rank below the ministerial level.
According to the unconfirmed radio reports, the U.S. circumvented that issue by agreeing to circulate letters of guarantee to both parties by the end of this week. The Americans also believe they have solved the key question of joint supervisory teams in south Lebanon to prevent the return of Palestinian terrorists to the region.
American officials spoke of Israeli soldiers acting as advisors to Lebanese units but not participating in hot pursuit of terrorists, should any be encountered.
The draft agreement apparently contains a formula for Haddad’s future role. Israel had insisted that he be placed in supreme command of security forces in south Lebanon. The Lebanese government balked. The nature of the American formula is not known. Haddad said today he would “wait and see.”