WASHINGTON (Jul. 25)
When Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Defense Minister Moshe Arens arrive here tomorrow they are expected to begin three days of intensive talks with the Reagan Administration that will concentrate on Lebanon, particularly Israel’s recently announced troop redeployment plan.
State Department deputy spokesman Alan Romberg said that while bilateral issues will be discussed, he expects that Lebanon will be the principal topic with the redeployment issue “an obvious” part of that discussion.
Arens and Shamir are scheduled to meet with Secretary of State George Shultz Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It is expected that they will meet with President Reagan on Wednesday, although the White House meeting has not yet been officially scheduled. Shamir will return to Israel Thursday night but Arens will stay over for a meeting with Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger on Friday.
The Israeli officials are also expected to meet, either separately or during the meetings with Shultz with Robert McFarlane, the deputy National Security Advisor who Reagan named last Friday to replace Philip Habib as his special representative in the Middle East.
DENY ISRAELIS WERE ‘SUMMONED’ TO WASHINGTON
A State Department official today rejected Israeli press reports that Arens and Shamir were “summoned” to Washington to replace Premier Menachem Begin in order to hear the results of Administration meetings last week with Lebanese President Amin Gemayel. The official said that Reagan accepted Begin’s reasons for not coming which were “personal” and had invited the two senior Cabinet ministers.
Romberg refused to comment on the U.S. position on the proposed redeployment of Israeli troops in Lebanon. But the Administration is believed ready to ask Israel to postpone the redeployment to give Gemayel a chance to consolidate his country and to allow McFarlane to try his hand at getting Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon.
U.S. CRITICAL OF NEW LEBANESE ‘FRONT’
Gemayel made his opposition to the redeployment known last week but it seemed to be based chiefly on his fear that it would give the Lebanese people the impression that it would allow the country to be partitioned. On this point, the Administration took aim today at the decision by three Syrian-backed Lebanese — Walid Jumblatt, the pro-Palestine Liberation Organization Druze leader, former President Suleiman Franjieh, a Maronite Christian, and former Prime Minister Rasid Karami, a Moslem — to form what they call the National Salvation Front in opposition to the Gemayel government.
“We hope that parties in Lebanon recognize the importance of national reconciliation behind a strong central government in the pursuit of common national goals,” Romberg said when asked about the new group.
“We also emphasize again our hope that senseless violence in Lebanon will end in the interests of furthering the worthy goal of a united, independent and sovereign Lebanon, free of all foreign forces. Continued strife and bloodshed serves no one’s interests.” Jumblatt has admitted that it was his forces which shelled Beirut International Airport last week.
NEW FACES RATHER THAN NEW PLAN
Gemayel’s strongest words last week were reserved for Syria as he accused Damascus of reneging on its promise to withdraw its troops once Israel had
The new face was necessary because Syrian President Hafez Assad refused to allow Habib to come to Damascus after the Israeli-Lebanese agreement was signed May 17. A State Department official noted today that Habib was seen as a “symbol” by Syria of its opposition to American support of the Israeli-Lebanese agreement.
He noted that when Shultz went to Damascus in June he wanted to take Habib along but Habib convinced him that it would be better if he did not accompany him. However, all Shultz obtained from Damascus was continued rejection of the agreement accompanied by the willingness to continue the “dialogue” and the agreement for Syrian-U.S. working teams which have not yet met.
The Administration’s hope that Syria will eventually agree to withdraw its troops is based on what they see as Syria’s willingness to continue the dialogue. Although McFarlane himself admitted Friday that he has not yet received assurances that he will be welcome in Damascus, Administration officials stressed today that McFarlane expects to go to Syria when he goes to the Mideast, probably next week. When Romberg was asked about whether Syria would welcome McFarlane, he replied, the Administration does “not expect that to be a problem.”