JERUSALEM (Feb. 16)
President Amin Gemayel’s abrogation of Lebanon’s May 17, 1983 withdrawal and security agreement with Israel is considered virtually certain by Israeli officials and his announcement to that effect is believed to be imminent.
Although apparently reconciled to the cancellation of what was the second formal accord between Israel and a neighboring Arab state, Israel’s mood is one of anger. Interviewed on Israel television’s Arabic program tonight, Premier Yitzhak Shamir warned that an abrogation of the pact would “hurt Lebanon more than Israel.” He reiterated that with or without the agreement Israel would take all necessary steps to protect its northern borders. (See related story.)
Reports from Beirut today said that Gemayel has signed a peace plan, worked out by Saudi Arabia, which calls for abrogation of the May 17 agreement and for the replacement of the multinational force in Beirut by a United Nations force. The eight-point plan has been sent to Damascus for approval by Syria, which is expected.
(In Washington, Administration officials confirmed that Gemayel agreed to the new plan but according to White House spokesman Larry Speakes. “We have problems with certain elements of the plan.” He would not elaborate.)
NO OPPOSITION TO FRENCH PROPOSAL
Earlier today, Shamir repeated what he told the Knesset yesterday — that Israel would not oppose the French efforts for a new UN force in Lebanon to replace the MNF. He stressed, however, that the UN would not protect Israel’s northern border. Israel would require better means for that and did not consider a UN force equipped or motivated to prevent the return of Palestine Liberation Organization fighters to south Lebanon.
According to Shamir, however, a UN force could be helpful as a buffer between the Israel Defense Force and the forces of Syria and its allies now concentrated further north.
WARNING TO LEBANESE DRUZE
Shamir sent a stern warning to the Druze in Lebanon not to act counter to Israel’s interests unless they wanted to find themselves in direct conflict with the IDF and their Israeli Druze brethren serving in the IDF.
There is also concern in government circles over reports that a considerable number of PLO fighters are incorporated in the Druze forces which are winding up their successful offensive against the Lebanese army.
The Druze have joined up with Shiite Moslem militias in the southern suburbs of Beirut. According to some reports, PLO elements have deployed in villages only a few kilometers north of the IDF lines along the Awali River in south Lebanon.
Israeli sources have reported, however, that the Druze renewed their pledge that the PLO would not be permitted to operate freely in the area and that once the fighting ceased, the PLO units would be transferred further north to the Bahamdoun-Aley district in the Shouf mountains.
(In Washington today, State Department deputy spokesman Alan Romberg said the U.S. has heard reports that PLO units have re-infiltrated into Beirut. “We are aware of reports of such re-infiltration, can’t confirm it from here, but the reports are very disturbing and we take the matter very seriously,” Romberg said.)