Israel to Consider Unilateral Withdrawal from Lebanon if No Agreement is Reached but Would Hold Posi

Israel is determined to withdraw its forces from south Lebanon regardless of whether an agreement is reached with the Lebanese government and has apparently abandoned the idea of using the Israel Defense Force to attain political goals in Lebanon, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin indicated today.

He told the Knesset that if no agreemnet is reached, Israel would have to consider unilateral steps to pull the IDF out of Lebanon. But in that case it would continue to hold positions essential to Israel’s security and the Beirut government would have no control over the situation in south Lebanon, Rabin said.

Israel is using the threat of exclusion to induce the Lebanese to negotiate. Talks on withdrawal that were to have begun yesterday under United Nations auspices, were postponedat the request of Beirut. They are now scheduled to begin Thursday.

Rabin stressed that he favors “exhausting the military and political negotiations with Lebanon” before Israel decides on unilateral withdrawal. He reiterated the government’s position that security for Israel’s northern borders is the sole element in these negotiations. Not one Israeli soldier will be left in Lebanon for one extra day for goals that are not purely military, he said.

ISRAELI GUIDELINES FOR NEGOTIATIONS

Israel will come to the negotiations with Lebanon with certain guidelines, Rabin said. These stipulate that no foreign soldiers, including soldiers of the Lebanese army, will be deployed south of the line presently held by the IDF. Positions in the south will be occupied by the Israel-backed South Lebanon Army (SLA) and those to the north of the line by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Rabin said.

The Knesset debate was marked by angry exchanges between members of the rightwing Tehiya Party and the leftist Mapam and Civil Rights Movement. Victor Shemtov of Mapam and Yossi Sarid of the CRM expressed satisfaction that the government no longer seeks political goals in Lebanon by military means.

Yuval Neeman and former Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan of Tehiya claimed that the government’s plans would result in the return of terrorists to south Lebanon and Katyusha rocket attacks on Israel.

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