Behind the Headlines; Murder of Lebanese Premier Most Likely to Affect Syria: Israelis

The murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rashid Karami Monday will not affect Israel directly. But it could have repercussions with respect to Syria, which for all practical purposes controls most of Lebanon and has managed, if not to achieve peace, to reduce the level of violence there, Israeli pundits observed.

Karami, a Sunni Moslem who had been Lebanon’s Premier 10 times in the last 32 years, was killed when a bomb exploded in his helicopter while he was travelling from his home in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, to Beirut Monday morning.

He was known as the “Syrian man in Lebanon” and as such doubtlessly made many enemies, according to Uri Lubrani, Coordinator of Israel Government Affairs in south Lebanon. Therefore, it is difficult to pinpoint his killers, Lubrani said. The Syrians have lost a key element in their Lebanese policy and Israeli experts will watch with interest whatever moves Damascus makes in the weeks ahead, he said.

The consensus here is that Karami’s death will not loosen Syria’s grip on Lebanon. It is unclear whether an alternative to the Syrian presence in Lebanon would not work against Israel’s interests.

Premier Yitzhak Shamir, commenting on the assassination, said it would affect events in Lebanon. But Israelis seemed not to be surprised by the assassination, as murder has become part of everyday Lebanese life. French Foreign Minister Jean Raymond, who is visiting Israel, said at a press conference here Monday that Karami’s tragic death underscored how hard it is to reach a national accord in Lebanon. However, Raymond added, that remains the essential goal.

There was little reaction in south Lebanon, where the majority Moslem population is Shiite.

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