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Background Report Speculation That Gemayel’s Links to Israel and Leanings Toward a Peace Treaty Led

September 16, 1982
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President Reagan last night condemned the “cowardly assassination” of President-elect Bashir Gemayel of Lebanon, saying it is a “shock to the American people and to civilized men and women everywhere.”

“We condemn the perpetrators of this heinous crime against Lebanon and against their cause of peace in the Middle East,” Reagan said in a strongly worded. White House statement. “The tragedy will be even greater if men in countries friendly to Lebanon permit disorder to continue in this war-torn country.”

According to observers in Washington, Gemayel, the 34-year-old Christian Phalangist leader who was elected August 23 to succeed Elias Sarkis and was to be sworn into office next week, may have been assassinated for his close economic and military links to Israel and his leanings toward eventually signing a peace treaty with the Jewish State.

The son of Pierre Gemayel, founder of the Christian Phalangist Party in Lebanon, Bashir Gemayel rose to prominence when his forces fought a bloody civil war against armed Palestinians and their Lebanese Moslem and leftist supporters in 1975-1976. During this time, Gemayel received military and economic support from Israel for his forces which grew to nearly 25,000 troops at the time the Israeli military operation began in June.

Gemayel’s image as a ruthless military warrior seemed to tone down in recent months to a position of moderation and reconciliation. This was indicated by his meeting last Sunday with Moslem leaders in an attempt to reverse the years of bitterness between Moslems and Christians and to reunite the country under a central ruling government. Many Moslem leaders had boycotted the parliamentary vote, terming Gemayel as an Israeli “collaborator.” He was the only announced candidate in the elections.

Ambassador Moshe Arens of Israel said last night in an interview on ABC-TV’s “Nightline” program that he could not place specific blame for the assassination on a specific organization in Lebanon’s factional political structure. However, he said a possible motive behind the assassination might have been Gemayel’s eventual goal of signing a peace treaty with Israel.

No group has as yet claimed responsibility for planting the high explosive device which ripped through the Phalangist Party headquarters in east Beirut and buried the ‘President-elect amid rubble for some six hours before his body was recovered.

Responding to a suggestion that Israel might seek to assume some role in Lebanon to fill a “vacuum” left by Gemayel’s assassination, Arens told the TV interviewer that Israel has no intention to fill the void. He said, that Israel’s objective in Lebanon, as has been stated previously, was to see a united and democratic Lebanon. He said Israel would do what it can to help Lebanon achieve this goal.

Gemayel remained initially hesitant in his views about relations with Israel and his view of a Lebanese-Israeli peace treaty. The Lebanese leader feared such a move would isolate Lebanon from the rest of the Arab world and would create difficulties domestically between Moslems and Christians.

Gemayel, according to reports, wanted time to rebuild a central Lebanese government which could maintain rule over all of Lebanon before entering into a peace agreement with Israel. He indicated just last week that he was being pressured by Israel to conclude a peace treaty with the Jewish state.


Gemayel reportedly complained last Saturday in a meeting with Sen. Arlen Specter (R.Pa.) that “I’m being pressured” by the Israel government to conclude a peace treaty. He made this point, according to a report from Jerusalem, with the clear intention that the Senator convey his concern to Israeli leaders.

It was the late President-elect’s feelings that he was being pressured which led to a caustic meeting between Geymoyal and Premier Menachem Begin, Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir two weeks ago. Begin at that meeting, according to reports, urged Gemayel to commit himself to sign a formal peace treaty with Israel once he had assumed office.

Specter, in a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Yehuda Ben Meir, was told that Israel was not pressing and “not interfering in Lebanon’s internal affairs.”

According to a report in Maariv in August, Gemayel met with an Israeli personality and urged the Israelis not to rush things and push him into an early peace treaty. Gemayel reportedly expected the personality, who was not identified and was said to have met with Gemayel several days before his election to understand the difficulties he was facing with rival factions and communities in Lebanon and with the neighboring Syria which opposed his candidacy and election.

Just last Thursday, Secretary of State George Shultz said the United States would support a treaty arrangement between Lebanon and Israel only if it was achieved freely and not through military pressure.

Speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Shultz said that if a peace treaty is in the interests of Lebanon’s ruling government and does negotiate it, “that’s a real peace treaty and that is highly desirable.” But he added, “a peace treaty that is signed at the point of a gun is not, in the end, a long lasting peace treaty.”

In an interview with Israel Radio after his election, Gemayel said: “It is a big achievement for our democracy, it’s a great day. I hope that what we achieved until now — to reunite the country and to free the country will continue — and sovereignty would be reinstituted.” On relations with Israel, Gemayel would not be specific at that time, but said: “We will have a new government, and this government will decide about all steps to be taken concerning the outside world.”

Gemayel’s view toward Lebanon’s future was firm. He said in interviews with western news media and Israel Radio that all foreign forces should leave Lebanon and the time has come for the Lebanese government to “take on the responsibility for security on Lebanese soil and ensure that never again will our neighbors be in danger from actions launched from Lebanon.”

Gemayel said in an interview with Time magazine this week that “we have no more room for little private armies … only (the) Lebanese army … This is the only guarantee for our defense, so that the Israelis or the U.S. marines or United Nations forces won’t have to be coming in all the time.”

In a recent article published in the Washington Post, Gemayel issued several guidelines that should be followed if Lebanon was to pursue a new “destiny.” He said that any solution to the Lebanese crisis must include the recovery of Lebanese sovereignty over its entire territory and the restoration of the Lebanese state of its full authority; that Israel and Syrian forces must depart from Lebanon and a Lebanese army must emerge strong enough to preserve the territorial integrity of Lebanon; and that all Palestinians continuing to reside in Lebanon must submit to and respect the authority of the Lebanese government in Lebanon.

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