TEL AVIV (Nov. 14)
The Lebanese government apparently has agreed to resume talks with Israel, aimed at the withdrawal of the Israel Defense Force from south Lebanon. Officials here confirmed reports to that effect from Beirut this morning and the Israeli and Lebanese military delegations are expected to meet tomorrow at Nakura.
The talks opened there on November 8, just a week ago, under the auspices of the United Nations and had been scheduled to continue on November 12. But the Beirut government summarily suspended the talks last weekend to protest Israel’s arrest of four leaders of the Shiite Moslem militia, Amal, which is believed responsible for the mounting incidence of attacks on the IDF in south Lebanon.
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, replying to questions in the Knesset today, sharply criticized the Lebanese government. He said it offered no proposals to halt terrorist attacks on Israel when the talks were on but then halted the talks when Israel arrested the suspected terrorists.
Rabin, speaking before the word came through that the talks would probably resume tomorrow, told the Knesset that he “would not be surprised” if one or more of the detainees are released. This may have been a hint of a quid pro quo arrangement between Jerusalem and Beirut.
LEBANESE GOVERNMENT UNDER PRESSURE
The Lebanese government is believed to have acted under severe pressure from its Moslem components when it suspended the talks, especially Shiite leader Nabih Berri who was backed by Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Lebanese Druze. Some observers believe the arrest of the Amal militiamen was used as a pretext to derail the talks which are opposed by Berri. Israel has offered the Shiites a cease-fire in south Lebanon for the duration of the talks. Berri’s initial response was negative. But if the talks are resumed tomorrow it would indicate that some deal has been struck.
Whatever it is may have involved U.S. and UN diplomats who have been working behind the scenes all week. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy, presently in the region, has been shuttling between Jerusalem and Beirut as has a UN political aide, Claude Aimee.
The Israelis are anxious for the talks to resume. They seek mainly iron-clad security arrangements that will guarantee the safety of Israel’s northern borders once the IDF pulls out of south Lebanon. Israel wants the South Lebanese Army (SLA), a largely Christian militia commanded by Gen. Antoine Lehad to maintain security along the border and an expanded United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to police the region further to the north.
Meanwhile, Rabin warned that the apparent thaw in relations between Jordan and the Palestine Liberation Organization may bode ill for Israel. At a meeting with the heads of local town councils in northern Israel yesterday, Rabin heard their expressions of concern over recent Katyusha rocket attacks on Israel by terrorists operating from Jordanian territory. The attacks caused no casualties or damage but were a worrisome break in the peaceful conditions that have long prevailed on the Israel-Jordan border.
Rabin said, “I would not say (the attacks) are not worrying, especially considering improved Jordanian-PLO relations and the return of PLO elements to Jordan. I hope their return will not be reflected in Jordanian policy which has more than anything else prevented attacks against us,” he said.