Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Habib Returning to Washington After Failing to Bridge Gap Between Israel and Lebanon on Security Arr

April 1, 1983
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

U.S. special envoy Philip Habib flew back to Washington today after two weeks of unsuccessful efforts to bridge the gap between Israel and Lebanon over security arrangements in south Lebanon.

Habib held a final meeting with Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Defense Minister Moshe Arens here yesterday. Israeli sources said afterwards that the American diplomat offered “no new ideas” and the impasse has not been broken. Habib is expected to return to the region in about a week to resume his efforts.

Israeli officials made it clear that Israel will not relent in its demand that Maj. Saad Haddad and his 2,000-man Christian militia police the security zone north of the Israeli border after Israeli forces withdraw from Lebanon. Israel is willing to have the militia integrated into the Lebanese army as the nucleus of a “territorial brigade” but insists that Haddad remain in command.

Beirut has refused to assign him any such role and reportedly has offered Haddad a diplomatic post abroad. Lebanon has said however that it would agree to absorb the militia into its regular army.


The tension generated by the continuing deadlock was evident when the Israeli, Lebanese and

American delegations met for another round of talks at Kiryat Shemona today. Israeli spokesman Avi Pazner said it was “inconceivable” that Lebanon would fail to take into account Israel’s vital security interests in the border region.

According to the Israelis, those interests hinge on Haddad. But there was no softening of the Lebanese government’s position with regard to the Israel-backed militia leader. Habib, who represents President Reagan, supports the Lebanese position.

At today’s meeting in Kiryat Shemona, David Kimche, head of the Israel delegation, praised the Lebanese army. But he said Israel did not believe that in its present state, after six years of civil war, it was capable of policing the border region and ensuring that Palestine Liberation Organization forces would not return.

At the meeting with Habib yesterday, Shamir argued that the Lebanese army had proved ineffective for 15 years in preventing terrorist attacks on northern Israel and asked why it should be relied upon now to police the border region.

He said no Israeli leader would take responsibility for withdrawing the army from south Lebanon without first establishing effective security arrangements. Shamir and Arens both contended that Haddad and his men represented for Israel a force of proven trustworthiness and effectiveness.


Official Israeli sources have told reporters in recent days that there will be no concessions over Haddad. “We have made enough concessions one well-placed source said. He was apparently referring to Israel’s willingness to abandon its demand for Israel-manned surveillance outposts in south Lebanon for an indefinite period after the bulk of its forces withdraw from that country. “We have reached the limit of our flexibility,” the source said.

It is clear now that the entire structure of the evolving agreement with Lebanon depends on the future status of Haddad. Some non-official observers have pointed out that Israel’s publicly stated determination not to abandon him is a test case that will be watched carefully by other local Arab leaders.

Ever since the civil war broke out in Lebanon in 1976, Israel has armed and financed Haddad. His militia has been described by some observers as virtually a part of the Israel army. To abandon him now, the observers say, would seriously affect the attitude of the Village Leagues leaders and other West Bank moderates the Israelis are trying to build up to counter PLO influence in the occupied territories.

Recommended from JTA