Menu JTA Search

Begin’s Intended Resignation is Highlight in West Europe

West European radio and television stations highlighted today Premier Menachem Begin’s intention to resign often interrupting news programs and even feature films. The West European governments followed diplomatic practice and refrained from any official comments but the press commentators said Begin’s departure might spell a “fresh start” for the Mideast and help solve the Lebanese crisis.

West European Prime Ministers and Presidents were informed of Begin’s decision often while they were far from their offices, vacationing, on weekend rests or campaigning.

The one West European leader who will be most affected will be West Germany’s Chancellor Helmut Kohl who was to go to Israel this week for a long expected and often postponed official visit. West German officials believe the visit will nevertheless take place as scheduled.

TRIPARTITE TALKS BREAK OFF

In Paris, the tripartite talks on Israel’s redeployment from the Shouf Mountains broke up rapidly after the announcement of Begin’s decision. American diplomats said the talks between envoy Robert McFarlane, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and President Amin Gemayel’s National Security Adviser Waddi Haddad were to end today in any case.

Jumblatt told McFarlane yesterday that his forces would not give up their arms and allow Lebanese army units in the Shouf area after the Israeli forces leave, nor would the Druze withdraw from their positions.

Shortly after the announcement from Jerusalem that Begin intended to resign, the various delegations’ cars drove up to the building where the tripartite talks were being held and the various representatives drove away. McFarlane left for London for talks with British officials and possibly with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

McFarlane was in Paris as part of a European tour for talks with officials of Italy, France and Britain, which have supplied troops, along with the United States, to the 4,800 member multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon. He visited Italy last week.

American diplomats here and in Washington refused to immediately comment on Begin’s intended resignation, saying they needed time to study the development. But the Druze delegation here said they hoped his departure “would speed up the search for a solution to the Lebanese crisis.”

FEW FRIENDS AMONG WEST EUROPEAN LEADERS

Begin did not have close personal relations with most of the West European leaders, many of whom had never met with him and others who privately, like France’s President Francois Mitterrand, or publicly like Austri’s former Chancellor Bruno Kreisky or West Germany’s Helmut Schmidt, regretted his policies and blamed part of Israel’s international isolation on Begin’s personality.

Paradoxically, Western diplomats attending the United Nations-sponsored conference on Palestine which opens tomorrow in Geneva, said that some Palestinian and hardline Arab diplomats “regret Begin’s resignation. He was their favorite whipping boy and his departure will force them to change tactics during the forthcoming meeting.”

NEXT STORY