Defense Minister Moshe Arens has urged the United States to agree to close liaison between Israeli and American forces in the Beirur area to avoid future misunderstandings and incidents.
Arens pressed that point in a telephone call to Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger Friday in which he informed Weinberger that he has issued strict orders to Israeli troops to avoid confrontations with U.S. marines in the multinational peace keeping force.
Arens made the call after visiting the Beirut area to investigate the situation which was the subject of a letter Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Barrow sent to Weinberger recently and was released to the American press last Thursday.
Barrow complained that Israeli troops were deliberately threatening the lives of American military personnel in Lebanon for “political purposes” and urged “firm and strong action” to put an end to the incidents, several of which were cited in the letter and in accompanying documents.
Israel immediately blamed the U.S. for its alleged refusal to establish close liaison with Israeli forces in Lebanon. Arens, said to be deeply concerned over the total lack of communications between the two forces and what could happen as a consequence, proposed several measures to ease the tension.
NATURE OF THE LIAISON
He reportedly suggested that an American liaison officer be based at forward Israeli headquarters and that an Israeli officer be posted to U.S. marine headquarters. He called for the opening of direct communications between the two forces and a written agreement establishing the demarcation line between the areas patrolled by the Israelis and Americans and details of procedures to be followed for the line to be crossed by either party.
Israel had proposed much earlier the establishment of a liaison office and a “hot line telephone between the local commanders. Those proposals were made following an incident last February 2 when a marine captain, brandishing a pistol, forced the retreat of three Israeli tanks that allegedly were attempting to cross into marine-patrolled territory. Israel claimed the tanks were operating on the Israeli side of the line and that the marine had overreacted.
Nevertheless, the Americans rejected the Israeli proposals and insisted that all contacts be maintained through diplomatic channels rather than between local commanders at the scene. It was not known how Weinberger received Arens’ proposals but sources said the Defense Secretary was cordial in his conversation with Arens.
TIMING OF BARROW’S LETTER
The newspaper Maariv claimed today that Barrow’s letter was written six weeks ago and suggested that it was released to the press only last week by the Pentagon to “balance” incidents in which five marines were wounded last week in the Beirut area. According to Maariv, the marines were attacked by Palestinian terrorists.
American sources reported that Barrow’s letter was written only a few days before it was released to the press. The Jerusalem Post claimed today that the letter was leaked “by an individual interested in exacerbating U.S.-Israel relations” and was not published officially by the Pentagon. The letter appeared in the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain last Wednesday and was given to the rest of the media Thursday.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.