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Reagan Sees Begin’s Statement on West Bank As Israel’s Opening Gambit on President’s Plan

September 10, 1982
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

President Reagan said yesterday he believed that Israeli Premier Menachem Begin’s Knesset statement that Judaea and Samaria will always remain part of Israel was just Israel’s opening gambit on the President’s peace initiative.

“Because I stressed negotiation in the settlement of many these troublesome issues there, I think that we have to understand sometimes that maybe positions are being staked out with these negotiations in mind,” Reagan said in response to a reporter’s question after a half-hour meeting with his special envoy, Philip Habib.

The President, speaking on the White House Lawn, flanked by Habib, Secretary of State George Shultz, and Morris Draper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs, stressed that the “security of all the states” in the Middle East “can only be guaranteed through full negotiated peace treaties between Israel and its neighbors.”

Habib answering questions after Reagan and Shultz went inside the White House, stressed that there are going to be negotiations and in the Mideast, “you are not going to get anywhere unless you talk about it and talk about it in great depth.” Habib stressed that he rejected any nation that the U.S. cannot talk to Israel about the President’s peace initiative, saying that the “channel” to talk with Israel is always open.

Habib also stressed that there is no way the U.S. can play a “secondary role” in Mideast peace negotiations. He said in his talks with Mideast leaders he has found the U.S. is considered as the “harbinger of peace in the Middle East.”


On the situation in Lebanon itself, Reagan called for continuing the cessation of hostilities so the diplomatic efforts can continue. He said that the multinational force which made possible the evacuation of the PLO from Beirut will begin leaving tomorrow. Reagan said that the U.S. marine contingent should be among the first out, thus keeping his promise that they would not be in the Lebanese capital more than 30 days.

The President announced that Draper was being named a special Ambassador and would head an interagency committee on the situation in Lebanon. Draper will return to Lebanon in a few days. Habib, who is now going on vacation, said he will go back to Lebanon for the inauguration of the new President, Bashir Gemayel, and may “trot around the track” for a few days there with Draper. He said he is at the President’s disposal.

Habib said that the continuing negotiations will “try to build upon the initial progress” that has been made in Lebanon. He said there “is a fairly good chance that we can see a sovereign, integral, free and pluralistic Lebanon, one once again sovereign within its own territory.”

But Habib noted that if Lebanon is going to restore its own sovereignty, “it is imperative that external military forces leave Lebanon.” These external forces he defined as Syrian, Israeli and Palestinian combatants.

Asked how it was to negotiate with Begin, Habib said it was like with “any elected head of a democratic government.” He said Begin pursued his country’s policies with “vigor” and “great intellectual capacity.” He said that Begin never forgets anything that Habib had told him, but the envoy added, he also keeps in his “pocket” things he remembered Begin had told him.

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