JERUSALEM (Nov. 12)
Diplomatic efforts were underway today to salvage the Israel-Lebanon withdrawal negotiations which the Beirut government suspended over the weekend, apparently under severe pressure from its Moslem components.
Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who met with visiting Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D. NY) today, warned that if there was no progress in the diplomatic efforts, Israel would implement “unilateral security steps” and would establish new lines in south Lebanon. Israel will stay put until Lebanon realizes that if it ever wants the Israel Defense Force to withdraw completely, it must negotiate, Shamir said.
The talks, between Israeli and Lebanese military delegations, opened last Thursday under United Nations auspices at the Lebanese border village of Nakura and were to have been resumed today. The Lebanese government declared the talks suspended Saturday following the arrest by Israeli authorities of Mahmoud Fakih and three other leaders of the Shiite Moslem militia, Amal, held responsible for attacks on the IDF in south Lebanon.
ISRAEL OFFERS AMAL CEASEFIRE
The Beirut government acted apparently at the urging of Nabih Berri, a Shiite member of the Cabinet in charge of south Lebanon affairs. He was supported by Walid
Israel rejected this demand but offered Amal a ceasefire for the duration of the talks. An official statement issued here yesterday indicated that acceptable arrangements could be worked out with respect to the Shiite detainees if there was a commitment from Amal that attacks on the IDF would cease. Berri’s immediate response was negative and calls for stepped up action against the IDF emanated from Amal circles in Beirut today.
As south Lebanon simmered today with protest strikes, tire bumings and road blockages, the Reagan Administration’s senior Mideast aide, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy, conferred in Tel Aviv early this morning with Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin. He is due to fly to Beirut later today for meetings with President Amin Gemayel and his Cabinet ministers. Murphy expressed hope that the talks would be resumed soon. A UN political aide, Jeane-Claude Aimee, is also shuttling between Jerusalem and Beirut in a parallel effort to get the talks on track.
The Israelis arrested Fakih and three of his men in Sidon late Thursday, after the first round of talks in Nakura. The Amal leader is linked to a series of terrorist attacks on the IDF which Israeli officials suspect were aimed at sabotaging negotiations with the Beirut government.
ISRAEL SEEKS TO PREVENT SNAGS IN TALKS
At the same time, IDF officials told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Israel is aware of the potential sensitivity of the detention and hoped ways could be found to keep it from hindering the negotiations. According to Cabinet sources, the talks had “gotten off to a good start” Thursday after the “ice was broken.” They are aimed at establishing security conditions in south Lebanon that would allow the IDF to pull out without jeopardizing the safety of Israel’s northern borders.
Some Israeli officials and experts questioned the wisdom of the Amal detentions because Berri was provided with an excuse for halting the Nakura talks. The Shiite leader, paradoxically, is believed less than enthusiastic over the prospects of an IDF pullout because he fears serious new fighting between the various factions in south Lebanon after the Israelis leave.
Other sources here said Fakih’s detention was a mistake that grew out of a lack of coordination between Israeli officials dealing with south Lebanon affairs. Dr. Yitzhak Beiley, a former advisor to the Defense Ministry on Shiite affairs, said that while there may have been good reason to arrest Fakih, the government must learn to live with the Shiites, who are the largest single population group in south Lebanon and not rely exclusively on the Christians in the region.
So far, however, Israel is determined that security in the south will be the responsibility of the Israel-backed South Lebanon Army (SLA), a Christian militia commanded by Gen. Antoine Lehad. Sources here said Israel will not ease up on its own preventive and responsive actions against terrorists and suspected terrorists in the region as long as there is no agreement with the central government in Beirut. The sources stressed that Defense Minister Rabin’s overriding consideration is the protection of IDF soldiers.