NEW YORK (Jan. 10)
Two Quaker International representatives in the Middle East asserted yesterday that the United States must seek an alternative to the May 17 Israel-Lebanon security and withdrawal agreement, primarily because it has been deemed unacceptable to Syria.
The Mideast representatives, Carol Jensen and Ron Young, also called on the U.S. to open a dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization and emphasized that more pressure should be exerted by the U.S. on Israel in order to obtain a freeze on the construction of new settlements in the West Bank.
Speaking to a small group of reporters at the Quaker House, Jensen and Young said that after discussions with Syrian leaders, it became clear that Syria would never agree to the establishment of normalization of relations between Lebanon and Israel, a central element of the May 17 accord.
The accord, which also provided for a small Israeli military presence in south Lebanon after an Israeli troop withdrawal, was never implemented because of Syria’s objections. Jensen and Young criticized the Administration for not seeking an alternative to the May 17 accord.
Young said that while the United States and Israel had pinned their hopes on the implementation of the May 17 accord for the withdrawal of forces from Lebanon, Israeli public opinion was less concerned with the accord.
“Ironically, at the time that that agreement was being worked out Israel? (public) opinion was shifting in the direction of encouraging and supporting Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon only on one condition: that the northern border of Israel be guaranteed,” Young said.
Jensen and Young serve as Mideast representatives for the American Friends Service Committee. Based in Amman since April, 1982, they have traveled throughout the region and held extensive discussions with a wide variety of persons, including government officials, peace activists, soldiers and community leaders in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon.
On the Issue of Israeli settlements, Jensen said she thought “it was pathetic” that the Administration did not discuss a settlement freeze when Israeli Premier Yitzhak Shamir and Defense Minister Moshe Arens were in Washington last November and instead reached agreement on a strategic cooperation accord.
In touring the U.S. for the past two months, speaking to groups in some 20 cities, Jensen and Young said many Americans support the withdrawal of the U.S. marine force from Lebanon.
But a withdrawal, the Quaker representatives said, should be coupled with its replacement by a neutral peacekeeping contingent. Jensen and Young said they did not believe that the continued U.S. presence provided any incentive for Lebanese President Amin Gemayel to seek a genuine agreement among all the warring factions for a more representative form of government.
“Our fear is that there is a tendency among supporters of the present government in Beirut … to believe that as long as U.S. marines are there … that when push comes to shove the United States marines will save the Beirut government/1 Young said. “We don’t think that is necessarily true and, move over, that it is a good idea. “
The American Friends Service Committee says that “while wholeheartedly supporting Israel’s right to live in peace within secure boundaries,” it “believes that the United States should also support the right of Palestinians to self-determination in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”