WASHINGTON (Jul. 27)
The Reagan Administration has apparently decided not to press Israel to postpone its planned troop redeployment but instead is urging that it be seen as the first phase of the withdrawal of all Israeli troops from Lebanon.
This was indicated last night after Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Defense Minister Moshe Arens met for some five hours at the State Department with Secretary of State George Shultz and Robert McFarlane, President Reagan’s new special envoy to the Middle East.
“There was no pressure on Israeli deployment,” Arens was quoted as saying after the meeting. “The Americans did not ask the Israelis to delay.”
This position was also mode clear by Reagan when he was asked about the redeployment at his nationally televised press conference last night. “I am very hopeful that if this partial withdrawal takes place that it will be recognized and admitted to be by the Israelis as one phase of their agreement to withdraw,” the President said.
He noted that he would be discussing the issue with Shamir and Arens at the White House tomorrow. The deployment issue is also expected to continue to be at the center of talks the two Israeli ministers will have at the State Department with Shultz and others today and tomorrow. Arens has also been conducting separate meetings with Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger at the Pentagon.
Reagan said last night that if Israeli redeployment is part of a “phased withdrawal it will certainly give us a better chance for breaking the roadblock that has been established by Syria and persuading them to keep their original promise that when others withdrew, they would withdraw.”
But Reagan warned that there is a “fear” that if the Israeli move is “simply a withdrawal to another line and then a digging-in and fortifying along that line, that this would be what it looks like Syria is doing, and that is simply trying to partition Lebanon, reduce Lebanon and grab off some territory for themselves.”
However, Reagan quickly added that since Israel has signed an agreement with Lebanon for the withdrawal of all Israeli forces. “I don’t think Israel has that in mind.” When the two Israeli ministers arrived here yesterday, Shamir stressed that the redeployment is in the “context” of the May 17 Israeli-Lebanese agreement.
WILL NOT STAND FOR ‘FOREIGN OCCUPATION’
Reagan also stressed that the U.S. would consider the partition of Lebanon as “foreign occupation” of that country and the U.S. will do all it can to help prevent this from occurring. “We set out to help Lebanon after all these years of strife, regain sovereignty of its own land, protection of its own land, protection of its own borders, and we’re helping in every way we can to bring that about.”
When Lebanese President An in Gemayel was here last week, he expressed the belief that neither Israel nor Syria want to partition his country. But he said he opposed the Israeli redeployment because it could be perceived by the Lebanese people as leading to partition. It is this fear that was addressed by Reagan last night and is apparently being stressed by Administration officials in their meetings with Shamir and Arens.