LONDON (Jun. 18)
Visiting Israeli President Chaim Herzog and Irish Premier Garett Fitzgerald clashed sharply today over the situation in south Lebanon where Irish troops play a prominent role as members of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
They also differed over the Palestinian issue with Fitzgerald insisting on the need for the Palestine Liberation Organization to be involved in a settlement.
At a luncheon in honor of Herzog and his wife, Aura, Fitzgerald said, “our people have neither understood nor been able to accept the manner in which Israeli forces, and militias supported, armed and advised by the Israeli Army, have harassed and at times physically attacked the UNIFIL forces, including the Irish contingent. “He urged Israel to use its influence with the local Lebanese militias to enable UNIFIL to carry out its mandate unhindered.
SEES ROLE FOR UN
Fitzgerald dissociated Ireland from the virulent rhetoric and unjustified attacks mounted on Israel at the United Nations, but affirmed that the UN properly used could make a significant contribution to peace.
On Arab-Israeli relations, he declared Ireland’s backing for the policy of the European Economic Community of which it is a member. This supported the rights of all the states in the region including Israel, to exist in peace and security.
It also maintains that all the peoples of the Middle East have a right to justice. This applies to the Palestinian people and includes their right to self determination.
Describing the PLO as the acknowledged voice of the overwhelming majority of the Palestinians, particularly those in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, he added that the PLO was showing increasing interest in negotiations and that the PLO-Jordanian accord was a most helpful development.
HERZOG DEFENDS LEBANESE MILITIAS
In his reply, circulated before the luncheon, Herzog defended the role of the local militias, who have been involved in clashes with UNIFIL forces and said that many incidents would have been avoided had not Lebanon, incited by Syria and the Soviet Union, rejected Israel’s proposal for UNIFIL to be given a wider and more flexible role.
Nevertheless, while defending the South Lebanese Army, Herzog said that Israel deeply regretted a number of incidents that occurred in the area.
“I want to emphasize again,” he repeated, “how deeply our government regrets some of the incidents which occurred and which are the result of a cruel atmosphere of suspicion and hate. They in no way reflect an attitude towards the countries providing the various contingents in UNIFIL.” He also praised Ireland’s role in UNIFIL and described Lt. Gen. William Callaghan, its Irish commander, as a personal friend. (See related story, P. 3.)