Highlights of the Year 5743

In the latter half of the year 5743, some of the highlights within the Middle East situation included: the Israeli commission of inquiry released its final report on the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps massacre; Ariel Sharon was relieved of his post as Defense Minister, as was Philip Habib of his post as special U.S. mideast envoy; King Hussein of Jordan backed away from President Reagan’s September 1 peace initiative; Secretary of State George Shultz tried his hand at Mideast shuttle diplomacy and PLO factions fought each other in Lebanon.

THE MIDDLE EAST:

JANUARY 1983 — The U.S. acknowledges that long-range sophisticated Soviet made SAM-5 anti-aircraft missiles are being “deployed” in Syria, the first time the weaponry is provided by the Soviets to an ally outside the Warsaw Pact countries.

The UN Security Council, by a vote of 13-0 with the Soviet Union and Poland abstaining, extends the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for another six months.

The Financial Times of London reports that Israeli exports to Lebanon have “taken a quantum leap” since the invasion last June and quotes an Israel army spokesman as estimating that Israel’s trade with Lebanon is averaging $20 million a month.

FEBRUARY — The commission of inquiry into the refugee camp massacre of Palestinians calls for the resignation of Sharon or his dismissal by Begin for willfully ignoring the obvious danger of “vengeance and bloodshed” against civilians when it allowed armed Christian Phalangists to enter the west Beirut camps last September.

The panel’s recommendations are approved by the Cabinet and Sharon resigns from his Defense Ministry post only to be retained in the Cabinet as Minister-Without-Portfolio. Moshe Arens, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., is appointed Defense Minister. While the Cabinet is meeting, a hand grenade is thrown into a group of Peace Now demonstrators opposite the Prime Minister’s Office killing Emil Grunzweig and injuring nine others.

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford declare in a jointly written article in Readers Digest that Israel’s settlement policy on the West Bank is the “major obstacle” to moderate Arab countries joining the Mideast peace process.

The Palestine National Council meeting in Algiers adopts a resolution supporting the Arab League’s Fez proposal calling for a Palestinian state on the West Bank, but appears to fall short of providing Hussein with a mandate to negotiate for the Palestinians.

MARCH — Carter visits several Mideast nations, including Egypt where he meets with two PLO officials, and Israel where his visits to East Jerusalem and the West Bank are marred by incidents of violence.

Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Lebanese Foreign Minister Elie Salem meet separately with Shultz in Washington in an effort to restore momentum to the three-month-old negotiations between Israel and Lebanon for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon.

The Israel Cabinet decides to convert eight military encampments on the West Bank to civilian settlements. One of the planned new settlements, called Bracha, is to be situated on the peak of Mt. Grizim, overlooking Nablus, the largest Arab city on the West Bank.

Arens discloses that Israel has decided to provide the U.S. with information about war materials obtained in the Lebanon war without demanding anything concrete in return. The nature of the information is not revealed.

The U.S. announces the sale to Israel of 200 Sidewinder missiles at a cost of about $16 million “as part of the long standing U.S. policy of assisting Israel to ensure that it has the means of defending itself within secure borders.”

APRIL — The Jordanian Cabinet issues a communique following talks with PLO chief Yasir Arafat saying that it has abandoned its efforts to seek agreement with the PLO to negotiate for the Palestinian people because the PLO’s position is incompatible with its own.

PLO moderate Issam Sartawi, who has met frequently with Israeli leftwing representatives, is gunned down by a lone assassin in the lobby of a hotel in the Portuguese town of Albufeira where the congress of the Socialist International was meeting. The extremist Palestinian Abu Nidal gang claims responsibility.

At least 60 persons, including as many as 15 Americans, are killed and more than 100 injured when a powerful explosive device virtually destroys the American Embassy in Beirut.

Shultz departs to the Mideast on his first trip to the region since taking office in an all out effort to break the deadlock in the negotiations between Israel and Lebanon for a troop withdrawal agreement.

The Reagan Administration decides to lift restrictions on American companies supplying Israel with the technical assistance needed to develop Israel’s second generation jet fighter plane, the Lavie.

MAY — Israel and Lebanon sign an agreement providing for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon, security along Israel’s northern border and bilateral matters. However, the accord becomes operational on condition of a simultaneous Syria and PLO troop withdrawal from Lebanon.

Two 21-year-old Israeli soldiers captured last summer in Lebanon by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, a PLO breakaway faction headed by Ahmed Jabreel, are visited for the first time by representatives of the International Red Cross.

The Reagan Administration officially notifies Congress of its intentions to proceed with the $2.7 billion sale of 75 F-16 jet fighter aircraft including additional support equipment to Israel, with deliveries to begin in December, 1986. Washington has held up with the sale since Israel’s invasion of Lebanon.

JUNE — Motivated by steadily mounting casualties in Lebanon — Israel army fatalities surpass the 500 mark — and with the apparent realization that Syria and the PLO have no intention of pulling out of Lebanon one year after the war began, the Israel government indicates that it is ready for a redeployment of its troops in Lebanon.

Heavy fighting erupts in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa valley between pro-Arafat loyalists and anti-Arafat Syrian backed elements of Arafat’s mainstream Al Fatah unit who accuse their leader of vacillation and demand a new war to the end against Israel.

Egypt’s Ambassador-designate to Israel, Omar Sirry, says in Geneva that he will not be going on to his post in Tel Aviv as long as there is no timetable for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon.

JULY — Shultz makes an unexpected stopover in the Mideast on returning from a visit to the Far East and Pakistan, and after a five hour meeting with Assad and meetings with Israeli officials, candidly admits that he could not “claim any substantive achievement by way of withdrawal” of Syrian troops from Lebanon.

The long delayed visit to Washington by Begin is cancelled when Begin telephones Reagan to say that for “personal reasons” he would not be making the trip. Their last meeting was in June, 1982.

The Israeli Cabinet unanimously approves a plan for the redeployment of the Israeli Defense Force in Lebanon without revealing details of the plan or saying when it would be implemented.

The Reagan Administration concludes three days of intensive talks with Arens and Shamir in Washington having accepted the Israeli decision to redeploy as “inevitable” and agreeing to Israel’s contentions that this would be the first phase of its complete withdrawal from Lebanon.

The Security Council votes 13-0 with two abstentions by Poland and the Soviet Union to extend for three months the mandate of UNIFIL. Robert McFarlane, Deputy National Security Advisor, is named by Reagan to replace Philip Habib as his personal representative in the Middle East.

Israel’s new Ambassador to the United States, Meir Rosenne, officially presents his credentials at the White House to Reagan.

AUGUST — Shultz reiterates U.S. opposition to new Israeli settlements on the West Bank, but stresses that the Jews who live there now have the “right” to remain in Judaea and Samaria.

Egyptian Minister of State Boutros Ghali tells Arab journalists in Paris that Syria’s refusal to withdraw from the Bekaa valley is “natural and justified,” adding that Damascus “is worried by Israel’s intentions.”

(Continued Tomorrow)

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