JERUSALEM (May. 16)
The Knesset voted 55-8 with 46 abstentions tonight to approve the agreement with Lebanon calling for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from that country. The accord was unanimously ratified by the Lebanese Parliament earlier today and the two countries are expected to sign it tomorrow.
The voting, which took place after prolonged debate, found Premier Menachem Begin’s Likud-led coalition almost solidly behind the agreement. One coalition partner, the ultra-nationalist Tehiya faction which has three Knesset seats, voted against as did the four Communist MKs and one Labor Alignment MK, Raanan Naim. Minister-Without-Portfolio Ariel Sharon and Science Minister Yuval Neeman, both of whom opposed the agreement in the Cabinet, were absent.
Most of the abstentions were by Labor Alignment MKs. Hai Druckman, an ultra-nationalist who recently quit the National Religious Party and formed his own Knesset faction, Matzad, also abstained.
Government officials said the document to be signed tomorrow consists of the agreement covering the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon, an annex dealing with security matters, an appendix and minutes. Israel and Lebanon have also exchanged letters with the United States covering “certain understandings.” These and an annex dealing with the future status of Israel’s ally in south Lebanon, Maj. Saad Haddad, will remain secret.
The Knesset did not vote today on the agreement and its various appendages but on a resolution affirming the government’s decision to sign the accord. Knesset approval was not required by law but the government sought the widest possible parliamentary backing for its decision.
ARENS AND RABIN DIFFER
In the course of the debate, Defense Minister Moshe Arens, speaking for the government, described the agreement as “an important political progress.” But former Premier Yitzhak Rabin, a Labor MK, said it was an admission of the failure of the political and security concepts which guided the government into the Lebanese war. Rabin said he would abstain because, under the circumstances, the agreement was the least of possible evils.
“But I shall not be able to vote for it because it is an expression of a conception which I reject,” Rabin said. He expressed hope that the lesson has been learned not to use the Israel Defense Force to achieve far reaching political objectives.
Yossi Sarid of the Labor Party and Dov Zakin of Mapam contended that there was nothing in the accord not provided for by the armistice agreement Israel signed with Lebanon in 1949. They noted that 34 years ago, Lebanon had promised that no attacks on Israel would be mounted from its soil.
Arens rejected that argument. “Listening to the debate, especially to statements by the opposition members, one could have gotten the impression that we have already signed tens of political agreements with Arab states and that we do it every Monday and Thursday,” he said. The Likud government has depicted the agreement as an important step toward a formal peace treaty with Lebanon.