JERUSALEM (Jul. 31)
Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir told the Cabinet today that the visit to Washington last week by himself and Defense Minister Moshe Arens was a “success story.”
Briefing the Cabinet at its weekly meeting, Shamir described the talks in Washington with President Reagan, Secretary of State Shultz and other top Administration and Congressional leaders as “most positive and friendly.” Basically, Shamir explained, the Reagan Administration now fully supports the Israel army’s redeployment in south Lebanon.
The Foreign Minister made the same point Friday upon his return to Israel. In a statement to reporters at Ben Gurion Airport and in a series of interviews over the weekend Shamir said that he and Arens had set the Reagan Administration’s mind at rest concerning Israeli intentions in Lebanon.
The Reagan Administration ended three days of talks with Shamir and Arens having accepted the Israeli decision to redeploy its troops in Lebanon as “inevitable” and agreeing to Israel’s contention that it would be the first phase of its withdrawal from Lebanon.
In his nationally televised press conference last Tuesday night, Reagan, asked about the redeployment, said: “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.”
He added that if the Israeli redeployment is part of a “phased withdrawal it will certainly give us a better chance for breaking the deadlock that has been established by Syria and persuading them to keep their original promise that when others withdrew, they would withdraw.”
NOT PRESSURED ABOUT A TIMETABLE
Shamir, in his weekend interviews, said the two ministers had not been pressured during their talks in Washington and that they had not been asked to provide a timetable for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon. “There was talk of the possibility of a timetable,” Shamir said, “but we explained we couldn’t do that because we had no idea of Syria’s plans nor those of the PLO.”
He added that he and Arens heard no new American ideas about how to get the Syrians to withdraw from Lebanon. Israel has made it clear that the withdrawal of its forces is contingent on the withdrawal of Syrian and PLO forces from Lebanon.
The Cabinet, at its meeting today, did not discuss an overall timetable for an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon. Following the session, ministers denied a local press report that Israel might consider evacuating Lebanon before the Syrians. One minister said that to the best of his knowledge Israel still insists that the Syrian pull back simultaneously with the Israel Defense Force.
Arens, in an interview on ABC-TV’s “Nightline” last Thursday night, predicted that Israel would complete its deployment of troops “before winter” but could not say when Israel would completely withdraw from Lebanon. (See separate story.)
CITES ISRAEL’S INVITATION TO LEBANON
In his weekend interviews, Shamir said Israel has invited Lebanon to assume responsibility for civilian rule in the areas where the IDF will remain until its total withdrawal. He said Israel wants the Lebanese to take over civilian affairs in those areas while the Israeli force would concern itself solely with defense and security problems. “This requires close cooperation” between the two countries, Shamir said.
While Shamir told the Cabinet that President Reagan supports the Israeli army’s redeployment and while Reagan also reportedly promised Shamir and Arens that the U.S. would consider “positively” Israel’s military and economic aid requests, there was one exception to the rosy picture presented by the Foreign Minister.
There was apparently no progress on the talks between Shamir and Arens and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger on Israel’s decision to go ahead with its plans to manufacture the Lavie fighter jets. Weinberger reportedly tried to pursuade the two ministers to hold off on the plans. The Defense Secretary reportedly argued that America’s aviation industry would suffer if Israel went ahead to build the Lavie.
MCFARLANE SAID TO HAVE A NEW PLAN
Meanwhile, Robert McFarlane, Reagan’s special envoy to the Middle East, who arrived in Beirut today on the first leg of his trip to the Mideast, was carrying a new plan for the settlement of the Lebanon crisis, according to a number of reports in Jerusalem. They suggested that the Syrians would not have to withdraw from Lebanon before Israel, but that the parties would agree in advance on a pull back timetable.
McFarlane was named by Reagan last week to replace Philip Habib who the Syrians had refused to receive in Damascus since the signing of the Israeli-Lebanese agreement May 17 for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon. The State Department continued to maintain over the weekend that it expects McFarlane to go to Syria. “We see no impediment to Ambassador McFarlane’s mission,” Department spokesman John Hughes said.
It is believed that one of McFarlane’s first tasks will be to help the Lebanese government of President Amin Gemayel smooth relations between Christians and Druze in the Shouf mountains to help facilitate Israel’s planned withdrawal from that area. McFarlane is accompanied by his deputy, Richard Fairbanks, another special envoy.