A number of Cabinet ministers have expressed “grave displeasure” over the decision by Premier Menachem Begin and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon to order Israeli troops into west Beirut following the assassination of Lebanon’s President-elect Bashir Gemayel Tuesday, without prior consultation with the full Cabinet.
Begin, meanwhile called an urgent special session of the Cabinet for later tonight to brief the ministers on the situation in Lebanon and apparently to explain that events in Beirut were too rapid to allow time for consultations.
He and Sharon are expected to argue that Israeli forces had to move swiftly into west Beirut to prevent Moslem leftists and a residual PLO force there from stepping into the vacuum created by the assassination and to prevent Gemayel’s Christian Phalangists from wreaking bloody vengeance for their leader’s death.
But there is deep concern, at least among some Cabinet ministers, that Sharon exploited Gemayel’s assassination to do what he had wanted to do all along in the Lebanese war–occupy west Beirut. He had been restrained only by strong opposition within the Cabinet.
The ministerial critics, who have chosen to remain anonymous, and who apparently do not constitute a Cabinet majority, also seem conscious of a widespread feeling among the Israeli public that Israel is becoming ever more deeply enmeshed in Lebanon’s internal conflicts while the connections between it and Israel’s security are growing more tenuous.
Before convening the Cabinet meeting, Begin said in Tel Aviv that Israel had been “tricked and misled” by the PLO which had not taken all its fighters out of Beirut as was promised to Israel by U.S. special envoy Philip Habib who had worked out the plan to evacuate the PLO and Syrian forces from west Beirut.
Addressing the central committee of the Liberal Party, now a faction within the Likud alliance, Begin said the events of the past few days had shown that a considerable number of PLO terrorists had remained in west Beirut, together with their weapons.
Begin appealed to the Lebanese people to establish an independent government which would represent all the people and ensure Lebanon’s territorial integrity. He said Israel had no interest in taking over “even an inch of Lebanese soil,” and called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, according to a timetable which could be worked out by all parties.
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.