JERUSALEM (Jun. 14)
Deputy Foreign Minister Yehuda Ben-Meir said today that the U.S. has not applied any pressure on Israel to hold to its present lines in Lebanon. Speaking on Voice of Israel Radio of his recent meetings with Administration officials in Washington, Ben-Meir said he was not “aware of any American opposition to a possible –I stress possible — redeployment of Israeli forces in Lebanon.” (See story, P. 3.)
There has been considerable speculation in recent weeks that Israeli forces might be pulled back to the Awali river line, defining the 28-mile security zone in south Lebanon, in order to reduce casualties.
Maariv reported today that Premier Menachem Begin and Defense Minister Moshe Arens have already decided to redeploy the army within a matter of weeks. Ben-Meir said he was unaware of any such decision and stressed that it would need the approval of the entire Cabinet. The Cabinet is scheduled to discuss the issue shortly.
He repeated the statement he made during his visit to Washington: “The government of Israel did not ask American permission when it sent the IDF into Lebanon and it doesn’t need anyone’s permission if it wants to bring the IDF back from any part of Lebanon.” He added however that if and when Israel decided on a possible redeployment, it would be done with prior consultation and coordination with the governments of the U.S. and of Lebanon.
The U.S. reportedly has been urging Israel to stand fast in Lebanon and not remove any incentive for Syria to agree to pull its own forces out of that country. The Americans were said to be playing on Israel’s concern that any area evacuated by its troops would be occupied by the Syrians and the Palestine Liberation Organization.