Government officials and Knesset members indicated today and over the weekend that Israeli forces will have to remain in south Lebanon indefinitely in view of the probable collapse of the government of President Amin Gemayel and abrogation of the May 17, 1983 Israel-Lebanon withdrawal and security agreement which seems inevitable whether or not Gemayel remains in office. But there is also strong opposition to the Israeli presence in Lebanon.
Interior Minister Yosef Burg said last night that the probable outcome of events in Lebanon could be the de facto partition of that country. Communications Minister Mordechai Zipori suggested that Israeli troops may have to be deployed in Lebanon for a long time, possibly until 1990. Ehud Olmert, a Likud MK, told a Hebrew University symposium yesterday that an immediate withdrawal of the israel Defense Force from south Lebanon was impossible.
Premier Yitzhak Shamir, who left yesterday on a three-day visit to Brussels to confer with officials of the European Economic Community (EEC), told reporters prior to his departure that Israel will never agree to the unilateral abrogation of the May 17 pact.
He accused Syria of precipitating the crisis in Lebanon in an attempt to gain total control over that country. For that reason, he said, Damascus rejectes the eight-point Saudi Arabian plan which, while it would cancel Lebanon’s accord with Israel, called for the withdrawal of Syrian as well as Israeli forces from Lebanon.
SCENARIO FOR DE FACTO PARTITION
Burg spoke in Jerusalem to the Israeli chapter of the Rabbinical Council of America, an association of Orthodox rabbis. He said Israeli forces should remain in Lebanon until the security of Israel’s northern borders was assured. But he gave no deadline. Speaking of de facto partition, he said that in the long-run, the Christians would retain an enclave around Beirut while other areas of the country would be under Syrian or Israeli control.
Zipori, who spoke of Israeli forces remaining in Lebanon through the end of this decade, said last week that there was a national consensus in favor of pulling out. The differences, he said were over how long the pull-out should take. Zipori was a participant in a day-long symposium on Lebanon at Tel Aviv University’s Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies.
CRITICISM OF WAR IN LEBANON
Most speakers were critical of the war in Lebanon, how it began and how it was pursued by the Israeli government. Former Premier Yitzhak Rabin, a leader of the opposition Labor Alignment, castigated the government for “leading to the present mess by the Gordian knot it tied for itself with Beirut following an incorrectly planned war for the wrong ends.”
Former Chief of Staff Mordecai Gur, a Labor MK, said Israel should negotiate with all parties — the Maronites, Druze and Shiltes and indirectly with the Syrians — on a pullback within six weeks and complete withdrawal after another six weeks.
Although most of the participants said the May 17 agreement is a “dead letter,” Eliahu Ben-Elissar, chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, said every effort should be made to preserve it. He noted that the Americans were cosigners of the agreement and warned that if Washington acquiesced in its cancellation, that might set a precedent for other agreements in which the U.S. had a major role, such as Camp David and the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.
KIRYAT SHEMONA RESIDENTS OPPOSE WITHDRAWAL
The Cabinet met yesterday under the chairmanship of acting Premier David Levy to hear a detailed briefing by Defense Minister Moshe Arens on the situation in Lebanon. No details were released. However, residents of Kiryat Shemona, once a regular target of terrorist rocket attacks from across the Lebanese border, demonstrated outside the Prime Ministers Office yesterday demanding no withdrawal from Lebanon until there northern borders are secure.
The demonstrators were led by the mayor of the town who told reporters, “For the first time in many years we have tasted a normal life in a quiet region.” They were joined by Science Minister Yuval-Neeman, leader of the ultra-nationalist Tehiya Party, who urged that Israeli forces remain in Lebanon indefinitely. “There is no faction to which we can hand over the territory,” he said referring to south Lebanon. “If we leave it is clear that the terrorists will take over.”
A short distance away, several hundred kibbutz members protested Israel’s continued presence in Lebanon, chanting “Bring the boys home.” There was no confrontation between the two groups.
Meanwhile, some 1,500 refugees from the latest fighting in Lebanon streamed across the Awali River into Israel-held territory Friday. More than 16,000 are estimated to have crossed the river last week. Israeli soldiers dubbed them “Mercedes refugees” since many were driving expensive cars. The IDF civilian aid unit provided them with food and blankets. Those without family or friends in the region were allowed to stay in shelters provided in schools and public buildings.
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.