WASHINGTON (Jul. 31)
Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Arens said today that it will take a “concerted and continued effort” by the United States, Israel, Lebanon, other Arab states and West Europe to get the Syrians to withdraw their troops from Lebanon.
Answering question on ABC-TV’s “This Week with David Brinkley,” Arens, while not optimistic that a Syrian withdrawal will come quickly, said there are certain “incentives” that can be pressed on the Syrians. First he noted that the Syrians are “sensitive” to the charges that their presence in Lebanon is “illegitimate” since Syria claims that it is in Lebanon on the request of that country and the “okay” of the Arab League.
If the government of President Amin Gemayel is “unequivocal and straightforward in their demand that the Syrian forces get out, if some of the other Arab leaders join that chorus and say that this is an infringement of Lebanese sovereignty that the Arab world will not put up with, if the Western European countries and certainly the United States push that plan I think the Syrians are going to begin to be somewhat uncomfortable,” Arens maintained.
In addition, the Israeli Defense Minister said that the Syrians want “influence” in Lebanon and if they see that their “obdurancy” in continuing to control 50 percent of Lebanon is losing Damascus influence by creating “a closer relationship between Lebanon and Israel, closer relationship between Lebanon and the United States, they may find themselves better off getting out.”
ISRAELI WITHDRAWAL CONTINGENT ON SEVERAL FACTORS
Meanwhile, Arens, at the conclusion of the three days of talks he and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir had with the Reagan Administration last week, predicted that Israel’s redeployment of its troops in Lebanon would be completed “before winter.”
But in an interview on ABC-TV’s “Nightline last Thursday he could not say when Israel would completely withdraw from Lebanon. “That depends on the ability of the Lebanese armed forces to take control of the areas we evacuate, keep law and order in those areas, keep the PLO and the Syrians out,” Arens said. He said it also depends on the agreement of the PLO and the Syrians to withdraw from the parts of Lebanon which they now “occupy.”
Arens denied Israel would be “digging in” at its new lines behind the Awali River. He said it would be building “minimal logistical fortifications” at a cost of about $30 million.
The Defense Minister stressed that the Israeli army is an “army of reservists” who want to get back to their civilian occupations. He said for that reason the government “is under very great pressure, and for good reason, to pull our army out of Lebanon at the earliest possible moment consistent with protecting the physical security of the population of Israel.”
At the same time, Arens said that Israel’s reason for its surprise move Thursday in ordering the Phalangist militia out of southern Lebanon was that it is “not healthy” to have independent military forces in an area that tends to antagonize parts of the population.
While Maj. Saad Haddad’s Christian militia will continue to operate, Arens stressed, “we want to be sure that whatever military forces are in our area are under our control.” He said that when the Lebanese government takes over the area, he is sure it will have the same requirements.
Arens denied there was anything “hasty” in President Reagan’s invitation to him and to Shamir to come to Washington last week on a few days notice. He said it was “natural” that after Reagan met with Gemayel, he would invite the Israelis to exchange information.
He noted that in the past that while Israel and the United States had shared “common objectives,” their views had been different and so their tactics had been different. But Arens said that, after the three days of meetings which ended Thursday, the Israelis and United States views were similar and that he believed “we are coming up with a coordinated concerted strategy whose objective is to make Lebanon free, get the Syrians out and make sure that there are no further terrorist attacks from Lebanese soil against Israel.”