JERUSALEM (Apr. 21)
The Cabinet decided by majority vote today to implement stage three of the Israel Defense Force withdrawal from Lebanon so that the last Israeli soldier will be out of that country by the first week in June.
The vote, which came after a seven-hour debate, was 17-3 with one abstention. The ministers opposed to the plan were not immediately identified. The army radio reported later that the Cabinet meeting was “stormy” and that there had been sharp exchanges between Communications Minister Amnon Rubinstein of and Industry Ariel Sharon of Herut.
Stage three of the three-stage withdrawal plan approved by the Cabinet last January 14, will bring the IDF behind the international border. But Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who proposed the resolution voted on today, warned at a press conference afterwards that the IDF “will not see itself to be limited by any line” should terrorist threats arise inside Lebanon.
If the threat is “30,40 or 50 kilometers from the border” and Israel considered it to endanger her security, she would act against it, Rabin said. He said the IDF also would come to the aid of the South Lebanon Army (SLA) if any of its units encountered a security problem they could not handle.
He said that in addition, Israel would “from time to time” establish look-out posts in Lebanon, not necessarily within the security belt along the border. The Israeli media reported earlier today that the security belt would vary in depth from eight to 15 kilometers, being widest in the east facing Syrian forces.
Asked about Syria’s intentions, Rabin said Damascus is aware of “certain things which Israel will not tolerate.” He said it would not be beneficial to specify what they are. (By David Landau)