JERUSALEM (Aug. 3)
Robert McFarlane, President Reagan’s special envoy to the Middle East, arrived last night in Israel amidst concern here that the United States is seeking more concessions from Israel to help solve the crisis in Lebanon.
McFarlane’s visit here followed a meeting with Lebanese government officials in Beirut, including President Amin Gemayel. The U.S. envoy is also expected to visit Syria, where the state-run press has been violently attacking America’s Mideast policy for the last two days.
According to political circles in Jerusalem, the U.S. has reportedly told Israel that there is little prospect that Syria will soften its stand on withdrawing its forces from Lebanon without some indication that Israel does not intend to entrench itself on the Awali River line for a long period of time in the process of redeploying its troops in south Lebanon.
The repeated statements by Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Defense Minister Moshe Arens in Washington last week, where they met with Reagan and other top Administration officials, that Israel does not intend to dig in along the Awali River but that its troops’ redeployment there is the first phase of an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, apparently has not been regarded as satisfactory by moderate Arab leaders, particularly the Saudi Arabians who are considered the main U.S. channel to the Syrians.
BASIS FOR ISRAEL-U.S. FRICTION
Political circles in Jerusalem said today that McFarlane would propose a separation of forces between Syria and Israel in Lebanon, which would be followed by a gradual withdrawal of all foreign forces.
The sources said such a proposal might create difficulties between Jerusalem and Washington because Israel insists that it will not withdraw from Lebanon unless the Syrian and Palestine Liberation Organization forces also withdraw. Nevertheless, Israeli political circles said today that the expected proposal by McFarlane would be the only operational solution to the present impasse.
McFarlane met with U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis last night immediately after arriving from Beirut. He met today with Shamir and Arens to brief them on his talks in the Lebanese capital. He is scheduled to meet with Premier Menachem Begin tomorrow. There was no immediate word as to when the envoy would go to Damascus.
LEBANON WANTS WITHDRAWAL TIMETABLE
In his meeting with Shamir and Arens, McFarlane reportedly said that the government of Lebanon demanded that Israel should publish a comprehensive timetable for the total withdrawal of its forces from Lebanon. McFarlane also told the two ministers that President Amin Gemayel is convinced that Israel has no intention of partitioning his country but that Lebanese public opinion needed to be reassured of this.
Both Shamir and Arens rejected the timetable idea, noting that Israel had made it clear time and again that it has no intention of remaining in Lebanon for an extended period. Once the Syrians and the PLO forces leave, the IDF would also, the two ministers told McFarlane.
U.S. SEEN PUSHING FOR WITHDRAWAL TIMETABLE
But it appears that the U.S. is now pushing for a total withdrawal timetable, which would enable McFarlane to work out an agreement with the Syrians on their withdrawal — with the Israelis withdrawing one step ahead. This is exactly what the Begin government fears. Science and Development Minister Yuval Neeman of Tehiya, said today in a radio interview that it was unacceptable that Israel would withdraw from the Awali River as long as there was even one Syrian soldier or one terrorist on Lebanese soil.
Both Shamir and Arens said after their talks in Washington that they had not been pressed for a total withdrawal timetable, and that the Reagan Administration was satisfied that the redeployment of Israeli forces to the Awali was part of a phased withdrawal.
McFarlane, like his predecessor, Philip Habib, has been careful not to make any public statements, either in Beirut or here. The fact that he came to Jerusalem after visiting Beirut rather than going from Beirut to Damascus was seen here as an indication that the envoy felt he needed further assurances from Israel about its plan to withdraw its forces from Lebanon.