TEL AVIV (Jan. 10)
Defense Minister Moshe Arens said here last night that the Israel Defense Force might be withdrawn from the Awali River line in south Lebanon even if the Beirut government is unable to enforce its sovereignty in the vacated area.
Arens, addressing a Herut youth rally, did not indicate when such a pull back would fake place or where the new IDF lines would be. But he mode it clear that if and when a decision was taken, it would not depend on whether the government of President Amin Gemayel was able to implement the May 17, 1982 Israel-Lebanon agreement to guarantee against terrorist attacks.
He cited as an example Israel’s unilateral withdraw at from the Shouf mountains region last fall where the Lebanese army is still unable to assert its authority.
There have been persistent reports in recent week; of Israeli plans to pull back from the Awali River and possibly from all of south Lebanon regardless of whether the Syrians withdraw their army from Lebanon. But that was vigorously denied by Cabinet secretary Dan Meridor Sunday. He said there were no plans for redeployment of the IDF from its present lines in Leban on.
ISRAELI SOLDIER WOUNDED IN SIDON
In Sidon, meanwhile, an Israeli soldier was slightly wounded yesterday when his vehicle came under small arms fire on the outskirts of the town. A French paratrooper serving with the multinational force in Beirut was killed and two others were wounded today in an exchange of fire between the Lebanese army and Druze militia in the hills overlooking Beirut airport.
The IDF opened a fourth bridge across the Awali River to facilitate the flow of traffic between south Lebanon and the rest of the country. The bridge will be limited to northbound traffic. Another bridge, about a half mile to the west which crosses the river where it empties into the Mediterranean, handles southbound traffic. Security measures are much more stringent there to prevent the infiltration of terrorists and explosives into the Israel-occupied zone of Lebanon.
EFFORTS TO RESCUE ISRAEL’S ECONOMY ARE STALEMATED ON ALL FRONTS
Stalemate was reported on all fronts today in the government’s urgent efforts to rescue Israel’s foundering economy from impending disaster.
Finance Minister Yigal-Cohen Orgad still sounded optimistic that his austerity program would be adopted and spoke of cooperation. But the economic summit he has been holding with leaders of Histadrut and the Manufacturers Association ended today without agreement. Its sole result was to establish a joint committee to study ways to encourage exports and economic growth and prevent unemployment.
The Ministerial Economic Committee was scheduled to meet later today to discuss implementing the decision taken last Friday to reduce government expenditures by nine percent. Each ministry has been asked to submit a list of budget cuts aimed at that goal.
But Aharon Uzan of Tami who is Minister of Labor and Welfare, served notice in advance that his ministry could not possibly absorb the required cutbacks. Defense Minister Moshe Arens is also expected to fight cuts in the defense establishment. Arens told Voice of Israel Radio today that the proposed cuts would limit the procurement of military equipment and reduce manpower in the armed services. But he said they would not limit policy options in Lebanon.
Despite these obstacles, Cohen-Orgad said, “I assume that cooperation between these three factors –and this cooperation is a continuing process — will contribute to the rehabilitation of the economy.” The factors he referred to are labor, management and the government.
With inflation now running at an annual rate of nearly 200 percent, exports down and foreign currency reserves dangerously low, a leading business man has called on the entire public to demonstrate readiness for economic sacrifices.
Avner Ben-Yokar, president of the National Chambers of Commerce Association, warned that “The present economic and social situation necessitates a comprehensive agreement in the entire economy and unless this is achieved, the entire economy and society might enter a severe crisis.” His warning, so far, seems to have gone unheeded.