JERUSALEM (Mar. 31)
A Cabinet minister was quoted by the Army Radio today as saying the Israel Defense Force’s withdrawal from south Lebanon is now planned to be completed by the end of May.
If correct, this would be the first public confirmation on the ministerial level that such a timetable is in place. The source, Communications Minister Amnon Rubinstein who heads the small, dove-ish Shinui faction, was quoted by other reporters after today’s Cabinet session to the effect that he hoped the withdrawal would be completed by the end of May — within the 8-10 weeks mentioned earlier this month by Premier Shimon Peres.
CABINET DEBATE SCHEDULED IN TWO WEEKS
The Cabinet convened today as a Ministerial Defense Committee, the deliberations of which are classified. Rubinstein and three other ministers were pressing for a debate on a speedy withdrawal, the Army Radio said. Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin responded that a debate would be held in two weeks, probably at the first Cabinet meeting following the Passover recess.
Other Cabinet sources indicated that by then stage two of the three-stage pull-out would be all but completed. Cabinet Secretary Yossi Beilin seemed to confirm this when he told reporters after today’s session that the debate two weeks hence would concern implementation of the third stage and the related issue of a security zone along the international boder after the IDF departs Lebanon.
Rubinstein, who has been urging that stages two and three be combined to hasten the withdrawal, was quoted by the media today as saying he was “partially satisfied” with the outcome of today’s discussion in the Cabinet. Chief of Staff Gen. Moshe Levy was present to report on the situation in Lebanon and the progress of the withdrawal.
The future situation in northern Galilee was discussed today by the Mapam Party’s Central Committee, meeting in the border town of Kiryat Shemona. The party’s Secretary General, Eliazer Granot, said Mapam would support any efforts made by the IDF to ensure the safety of Galilee after the IDF is out of Lebanon.
But he said expressions such as “scorched earth” should be avoided. He was referring to a recent statement by Rabin that the IDF would resort to a “scorched earth” policy in Lebanon if Israeli towns were attacked from Lebanese soil after the IDF pulls back across the international border.
PARENTS APPEAL FOR SPEEDY WITHDRAWAL
Representatives of “Parents Against Silence,” an organization of the parents of IDF soldiers serving in Lebanon, met with Premier Peres Friday morning. They appealed to him for the speediest possible withdrawal from Lebanon. Peres reiterated his promise that all Israeli soldiers would be out of Lebanon in 8-10 weeks.
The parents told him that almost every night they saw on television the dismantling of large concrete blocks and other defenses in Lebanon which are loaded on trucks for transportation back to Israel. “But the bodies of our sons are also being brought back,” they said. “We would rather the soldiers were alive and the concrete blocks left there.”
The parents also told Peres that their sons had told them the “iron first” policy in Lebanon is not halting attacks on the IDF. Peres replied that “iron fist” is not an accurate term for an operation which is aimed at safeguarding the lives of soldiers serving in Lebanon.