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Shamir Hints at Possible Softening of Israeli Demand for Warning Stations in Lebanon

January 31, 1983
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Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir has hinted at a possible softening of the Israeli demand for IDF-manned warning stations in Lebanon. In a weekend radio interview Shamir said such stations would be designed to prevent a reinfiltration of PLO terrorists into south Lebanon.

“They are one of the means of achieving this. If there are other means we shall study them. So far, no one has offered us any other means”, he said. Shamir did not explain what he might be thinking of by “other means”.

This was the second time the Foreign Minister had referred to a possible — but unspecified — alternative to the IDF-manned stations, which have become the key issue of dispute between Israel and Lebanon, and between Israel and the U.S. Shamir made a similar remark in an interview on Israeli-Arabic television earlier last week.

In his weekend radio interview Shamir said no one in the Cabinet wanted a confrontation with the U.S. There had been differences between Jerusalem and Washington virtually ever since Israel was established. But Israeli governments had succeeded in maintaining close ties despite such differences — and this was the purpose of the present government, too.

The Foreign Minister was plainly seeking to lower the intensity of current tension between the two governments over the Lebanon negotiations.


His tenor and tone were markedly different from public and private statements by Defense Minister Ariel. Sharon. In press interviews Friday, Sharon said Israel needed the warning stations even if this meant that Syria would have similar facilities in the east of Lebanon.

He also reiterated that the term, “early warning stations,” which he himself had used, was really a misnomer. The intention was not to set up electronic stations, such as had been established in the Sinai desert, but Israeli bases, manned by Israeli soldiers, to provide advance warning of any PLO infiltration or buildup of a new infrastructure for attacks on Israel.

Sharon appealed in his press interviews to the Soviet Union to open talks with Israel. “Let us meet together and talk, We have a lot to talks about”, Sharon said. This was seen by many as a move to counter current American pressure on Israel.

The Defense Minister, in his interview, accused the U.S. of seeking to impose its will on Israel as a way of impressing King Hussein and drawing him into peace negotiations over the West Bank. He added that were it not for U.S. lack of enthusiasm, there could already be an accord between Israel and Lebanon.

(In Washington, the State Department rejected any role for the Soviet Union in the efforts to resolve the situation in Lebanon. “We do not think any purpose will be served by that on the basis of the Soviet record, or lack of a record, in achieving any constructive breakthrough in the Mideast,” Department spokesman John Hughes said in response to Sharon’s call to the USSR to open talks with Israel.)


Sharon, last week, maintained that there is no confrontation between Israel and the U.S., only disagreements. He said Israel requires a broader intelligence gathering system than electronic surveillance alone can provide in order to make sure that terrorists do not again infiltrate south Lebanon Only those who know the terrain can do so, he said.

Sharon’s views — and his insistence on the warning stations — are clearly not shared by other Cabinet ministers. Chief among his critics is Deputy Premier David Levy (Likud-Herut). Shamir, with his veiled and diplomatic formulations, is apparently seeking to take a middle course between the two schools within the Cabinet.

The U.S. view, it is reliably understood, is that Israeli insistence on warning stations would mean that the Syrians will refuse to withdraw from Lebanon. The U.S. angrily denies that its diplomats have persuaded Lebanon to adopt a negative position in the talks with Israel.

The Lebanese take their stand because they, too feel IDF-manned stations would mean a refusal by Syria to withdraw. Similarly, the U.S. and Lebanon assess that the Syrians would regard a role of Maj. Saad Haddad’s militia in post-with-drawl policing of southern Lebanon as in effect an extended IDF presence in the area — and hence the strong U.S. and Lebanese opposition to this Israeli proposal. Haddad’s militia is supported by Israel.


Premier Menachem Begin, whose position is crucial in any Cabinet division, seemed to back Sharon’s line in a public speech to an Israel Bond Organization group in Jerusalem last night.

Begin recalled the long years of bombardment and harassment across the northern border to explain Israel’s “just cause” in the negotiations now proceeding. He urged “patience” and expressed confidence over the eventual success of the talks.

At the Cabinet meeting last Sunday, Begin appeared to back Sharon’s position, telling the Ministers there would be “no change” in Israel’s stand in the talks with the U.S. and with Lebanon

There have been well-founded reports here this weekend of a feeling in Washington that Israel — and especially Sharon — was guilty of double-talk in regard to the warning stations, because what had been labelled “early warning stations” were not in fact electronic intelligence-gathering facilities, as the label implies, but garrison bases each manned by a sizable unit of troops.

Several Cabinet ministers have let it be known that they, too, were taken aback last Sunday to learn from Sharon that this was what he had in mind.


Begin said after the weekly cabinet session today that Israel should talk of the security problem in south Lebanon “as a whole” rather than follow America’ lead in singling out the controversial issue of the warning stations as the key issue.

Begin made this remark at the end of a session at which, once again, differences surfaced over the need to press Israel’s demand for IDF-manned stations. Sharon defended the demand, while Levy and Yitzhak Modai were among those who suggested a more moderate approach.

After the session, Begin’s summing-up remarks were variously interpreted: The hardliners insisted that there had been no softening of Israel’s demand for the stations while the moderates claimed Begin had been influenced by the divergence of opinion at Cabinet and was hinting at a possible softening.

By speaking of the “broad perspective” Begin was implying, the moderates contended, that Israel might be able to scale down its demands regarding the warning stations if it obtained other aspects of the withdrawal-and-security package.

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