WASHINGTON (May. 15)
Former Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon maintained that the Soviet Union is not seeking a new war in the Middle East but is supporting the return of terrorism and shelling as a means of getting the United States to leave Lebanon.
“Their target is to bring the Americans to pull out of Lebanon, ” Sharon said, in response to questions during a luncheon at the National Press Club last Friday. But at the same time, Sharon rejected the suggestion that Israel would use force against the Syrian troops and Palestine Liberation Organization terrorists that have been increasingly moving into the Bekaa valley.
“Why should we do something?” he asked. “We have achieved what we thought was and is important to us.” This, he explained, was the removal of the terrorist threat to Israel’s northern border and to “prevent any possibility for the terrorists re-group, restore or to reorganize themselves.”
He said as a “by-product” of the Israeli action in Lebanon last year, Israel destroyed in Beirut the military and political headquarters for terrorism not only for the area but worldwide.
CITES TASK OF THE U.S.
But as for removing the Syrians and the PLO now from the 40 percent of Lebanon which he said they control, Sharon stressed that this should be the task of the United States, He said it was a “failure of American diplomacy” not to have pressed for the removal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, instead of just concentrating on Israel. “Israel was under heavy pressure for being stubborn, “he said. “Nobody said a word about Syria. Nobody even asked them.”
But he noted that after Secretary of State George Shultz got Israel and Lebanon to reach an agreement on the Israeli troop withdrawal. Shultz went to Damascus and it took less than half an hour for him to get a Syrian rejection.
Sharon said there should have been two parallel negotiations all along, one for the removal of all foreign troops, and the other between Israel, Lebanon and the United States on security arrangements and normalization of relations.
Sharon, who was one of two Cabinet members to vote against the Lebanese-Israeli agreement, said he opposed it because the security arrangements were not effective. He called it a “beautiful” political agreement except that he noted Lebanon does not exist politically, and controls only 10 square kilometers of Lebanon’s 10,000 square kilometers of its territory.
Once security arrangements are in place and the area is “stabilized” then the other issues can be worked out, Sharon said. He noted that he had personally tried to seek an agreement with Lebanon for a long time, meeting secretly in Beirut five months before Israel went into Lebanon last June.
FORMULA FOR A STABLE LEBANON
The Former Defense Minister gave his own formula for providing stability in Lebanon. He said the first step was not to weaken Maj. Saad Haddad’s forces in south Lebanon, an area which covers one-third of the country, and which, he said, is the “only place in Lebanon where life is normal.”
All Lebanese army units should be concentrated in the Beirut area and, together with the multinational force, they should go into the Shouf mountains and clean out the terrorists who are now shelling Beirut, Sharon said. He predicted that if this was not done, the United States marines would soon come under heavy shelling from the terrorists.
A third step urged by Sharon was that the 6,000 troops in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, who he said are now “suffering unemployment” in south Lebanon, be moved into lines separating Israeli and Syrian troops.
Sharon also said there were two steps the United States had to take. The first was to stop withholding promised arms to Israel. “Every situation where Israel is weakened incites Syrian-PLO, backed by the Soviets’ aggression,” he said. He added that the U.S. must let the Soviets know “in very clear words” that it will not allow any Soviet action against Israel.
At the end of the luncheon, Don Byrne, president of the National Press Club, presented Sharon with a hardhat since he had come to the luncheon through the extensive renovation that the National Pressing building is undergoing. “I got such a warm reception in the states I do not know why I need it,” Sharon quipped.