Israelis Express Mixed Feelings About the Cease-fire in Lebanon

Israelis have mixed feelings toward the cease-fire in Lebanon, now officially in its second day. While there was sporadic shooting after the cease-fire went into effect, Beirut Radio reported this afternoon that heavy fighting again erupted in the southwest area of the capital. According to the report, Shiite Moslem militia were shooting at Lebanese army positions and Lebanese soldiers were returning fire.

But insofar as the cease-fire appears to be holding in the main, there are expressions of satisfaction in Israel that the government of President Am in Gemayel will have the opportunity to negotiate with dissidents for a stable regime.

At the same time, there is growing awareness in Israeli circles that the cease-fire may lead to a weakening and possible cancellation of the withdrawal and security agreement Israel signed with Lebanon last May 17 after laborious negotiations in which the United States played a major role, Syria, a pivotal factor in the current cease-fire arrangements, has long been demanding that Gemayel abrogate the accord with Israel.

U.S. SAYS MAY 17 AGREEMENT NOT ALTERED

The U.S. for its part, made it clear that the cease-fire in no way alters the Israel-Lebanon agreement. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert Pelletreau, was asked at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday if there was any change.

He replied, “We’ve never given the Syrian government any such indication, ” adding that the U.S. supports the agreement as “the basis on which Israel agreed to withdraw its forces from Lebanon,” Israeli withdrawal is conditional on Syrian withdrawal.

Pelletreau also thought that President Gemayel was prepared to accept “reasonable results of any conference aimed at settling Lebanon’s internal strife. But Israelis are concerned that the cease-fire terms seriously weaken Gemayel’s freedom of action and the influence of the Syrian-backed Druze and leftwing Moslem militias are growing to a point where he may be forced to renege on the agreement.

Israeli circles point out that Gemayel was not in a strong position to begin with. Lebanese residents in Israel have been quoted as saying that he “may be President of Lebanon by title but in actuality he is little more than the Mayor of Beirut.”

NEXT STORY