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Remarks by Prime Minister Peres, Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Shamir and Defense Minister Rabin on the cabinet decision to withdraw the I.D.F. from Lebanon

(January 14, 1985)

The prime minister thought that the withdrawal was in line with the original decision to carry out a limited operation in Lebanon. But he preferred to deal with the future and not with the past. Hence he announced that talks would start at once with the UN dealing with the involvement of UNIFIL in the new arrangements. Mr. Shamir explained his opposition to the cabinet plan, saying that it did not meet the basic minimum security arrangements. He thought that the cabinet plan addressed only the issue of withdrawal and not security. His proposal, which was not adopted, was to resolve on one step at a time and to review each phase after its implementation. Instead the cabinet decided upon a three stage plan. The defense minister said that talks would start with the Lebanese authorities in Nakoura, with or without the UN. The aim of the talks, apart from technical arrangements such as handing over territory to them or to UNIFIL, would be to test the ability of the Lebanese government to maintain law and order. Texts:

Prime Minister Peres

"This decision is not contrary to the resolution adopted when Operation Peace for Galilee began. Don't forget that at that time, we were talking about an operation limited in both time and territory; we were talking about the IDFs going in (a distance of 40 km. so as to clean out the hostile terrorist infrastructure in the area, with the IDF then supposed to come back home immediately. So in fact, yesterday's decision takes us back to the original decision of that time. Now, you should remember one fundamental thing which many people tend to overlook: The plan adopted by the cabinet yesterday deals with the future, not with the past. One cannot constantly go about looking backward. We weighed the risks anticipated for the IDF in Lebanon in the future, [and] the chances of reaching an alternative arrangement; and the decision was made in light of these considerations."

Q: Can you, this morning, tell the residents of the northern settlements: "Your safety will also be assured under the new arrangements, which the government will now work to implement in full?"

A: The government's task is to see to every area every morning, not just this morning. I have no doubt that the government and the IDF will do their best to assure the safety of Galilee. There are several possible methods of defense; the cabinet was presented with four alternatives; we chose that alternative which, in the General Staffs opinion too, was the least bad of all, and relatively speaking, the best.

Q: I am hesitant to mention the price paid in blood in the same breath with that paid in money, but it seems to me that you also had your eyes on the economic question of maintaining the IDF in Lebanon. How much do you think this heavy burden, which we have already borne for over two years, will be lessened now that the IDF is to begin withdrawing to the international border?

A: Your definition may be correct, but that's not the main point. There are at least two subjects which transcend economic considerations: They are, first, immigration, and second, security. Here decisions must be made on the issues - i.e., on an immigration issue, and on a security issue.

Q: Discussions are to commence this morning on the possibility of the U.N.'s participating in arrangements. What tasks are you willing today to assign the U.N. in Lebanon which Israel wasn't previously willing to assign, and how do you see the situation with regard to U.N. participation?

A: When we discussed security measures, the U.N. was one of the components though not the only one, and certainly not the main one. In fact, we were assured of the same security measures, minus one element we couldn't be sure of, because it's not in our power to be so - namely, the U.N.'s deployment. The Lebanese proposal that the U.N. deploy southward, from south of the Litani to our border, represented a refusal to relate to the real problem on the ground. If the U.N. follows the IDF into those areas the IDF is to vacate, well welcome it.

Vice Prime Minister Shamir on Cabinet Resolution to withdraw from Lebanon (Israel Radio morning newsreel, 15.1.85)

Q: Why did you oppose yesterday's decision to withdraw the IDF from Lebanon? Hasn't the time come to leave Lebanon and return to the international border?

A: I couldn't support a resolution on an Israeli withdrawal to the international border that didn't contain the basic minimum of security arrangements for the Galilee settlements.

Q: You don't think that minimum will be maintained with measures which the IDF and the government will institute?

A: As I said, it doesn't contain the basic minimum of security arrangements. Look, the section on Lebanon in the national unity government's policy guidelines has two parts: an Israeli withdrawal, and security arrangements for the Galilee settlements. The resolution adopted last night addresses but one part, the withdrawal, and contains very little on the security arrangement.

Q: You and five of your ministerial colleagues took a stance on the security issue which differed from the rest of the cabinet; yet today, after this resolution has been adopted, you must cooperate and assume responsibility in a government which did not adopt your stance on security. How do you feel now that a decision has been reached with which you do not concur?

A: I am concerned. I don't have any doubts about the IDFs readiness or desire to see to the security of the Galilee settlements; but that desire and readiness were there two and a half years ago, too, yet they didn't prevent Katyusha volleys, nor the necessity for the IDF to go into Lebanon. I don't want these things to happen again. At the same time, my colleagues and I will strive, in the months preceding the final withdrawal to the international border, to see to it that everything possible is done, and that the safety of the settlements and residents of Galilee is assured insofar as possible under this resolution - which, in my opinion, is unbalanced.

Q: Even though this was a decision reached on principle, there were still some partisan overtones: While the Alignment voted unanimously, some Likud members voted with the Alignment, and some whove been considered your allies - Shas, Morasha - also went with the Alignment. Is there a lack of consensus in the Likud bloc?

A: I said from the start that this question (of a withdrawal) was not ideological, not one of ideas; it was a pure security question, and on such questions, security considerations alone should be determinant. So I said, and so the members of the Likud conducted themselves - each according to his conscience, each according to his assessment. Others may not have so conducted themselves.

Q: Nonetheless, on what may be the cardinal issue decided by this government, was everything possible done to attain a unanimous decision? Did the Alignment and the Likud try to coordinate their positions?

A: For my part, I did quite a lot. What we in fact proposed last night was not precisely in line with our desire and our evaluation; we proposed that the cabinet resolve on the first step in this plan, and only afterwards review, consider, and resolve on the subsequent steps. This means that our proposal was not contrary to the overall framework which was decided on. I think that this resolution could have been adopted with the consensus of all the cabinet members.

Q: From your remarks, it appears that you don't believe the peace of Galilee will be maintained. But if that peace isn't maintained, then one of the pillars of Likud policy in recent years come tumbling down. Do you merely express your opposition, and then continue sitting in the national unity government?

A: I would like to believe that the pillar has not yet tumbled down; as I said, we will strive during this period - prior to the execution of the plan which has been resolved upon - to assure, to the best of our ability, the peace of the Galilee settlements. I hope that we will succeed to some extent in righting what was distorted last night.

Rabin: Decision on Lebanon "courageous" (Israel Television's "Mabat" newsreel, 14.1.85)

"I am satisfied with the decision, but I know that there is still a hard road ahead of us in its implementation. The decision is meant to bridge between the government's determination to secure the northern settlements and to prevent the IDPS remaining in Lebanon for a period of time unnecessary for achieving that goal. The alternatives facing us are difficult ones, and the decision, in my opinion, is a courageous one, which was taken after lengthy preparation in the general staff, discussions in the defense establishment, discussions in the ministerial committee on defense, and two

very in-depth discussions which were held by the cabinet. And I must say that the discussion, and the atmosphere were, despite the differences of opinion, characterized by a sincere desire to reach a solution of the double problem facing us in Lebanon - security, and bringing the IDF back home. We will now turn to the implementation of the first stage; in the five weeks remaining until the execution of the first stage, we will be in contact with the Lebanese government, in Nakoura, or by way of the U.N., (and) with other elements, and we will propose to them: Here, you have the time; it will be possible to organize the evacuation of the area, in the first stage, in a proper manner, without it causing confusion, slaughter, disorder, in those areas from which we withdraw. We will propose to receive the area from us in an orderly manner. We will propose to the Lebanese government to prepare for an orderly takeover of the area se army. After all, they see to UNIFIL", he U.N. and the s by the Lebanese contended that the Lebanese army is capable-of-maintaining security in southern Lebanon. Let us put this to the test. In any case, the decision to withdraw will not be contingent on the willingness of the U.N., or the willingness of the Lebanese government and its army, to coordinate activities with us. But, if anything happens in those areas, the world will know, and it will be known in Israel, that we, for our part, provided time, enabled - as the representatives of the Lebanese army and its government demanded at the Nakoura talks - the takeover of the areas in an orderly manner. I don't know what is liable and what is not liable to take place. I would hope that in the areas we will vacate in the first stage, law and order would be maintained by two elements - the U.N., should they be willing to accept the areas from us and to hand them over to the Lebanese army, and the Lebanese army. I think that this is a test for the government of Lebanon and its demands, which it presented to us in Nakoura, that it was capable of maintaining law and order, of ruling the area. Let us try to do this gradually, and in another five weeks, we will vacate the first sector, we will see what happens there. The cabinet, in its decision, reserved for itself, and justly the privilege of (unintelligible-ed.) and the timing of the implementation of the next stage, the goal being, to reach, at the conclusion of these three stages, and on the assumption that there will be no unexpected surprises, a real security deployment, which would change the character of the IDF method of action. Instead of an IDF spread out and constituting a target for Shi'ites and other terrorist elements in southern Lebanon, the IDF will be concentrated, capable of taking offensive action. And we will preserve for ourselves full freedom of military action in every case where there is the beginning of infrastructure for one sort of terrorists or another in southern Lebanon. We will not hesitate to go in and eliminate such attempts at reorganization. This will be a mobile, aggressive method of defense, whose job will be to insure the security of the settlements and residents of the north, in a different form from the current one."

Q: Do you see the IDF returning to the international border within six months?

A: The government did not set a timetable. It set a time only for the first stage. Naturally, our expectation, our hope, is that it will indeed be possible to carry out the subsequent stages in an order which will not take a lot of time. The time for each stage will be reckoned in months, not weeks. And I recommend patience, to see how the decision is implemented, in accordance with the results of each stage... I don't want to deal at this time in speculation on what might happen, what might not happen. I presented the cabinet's decision, the logic behind it, the aims of the procedure. The aims of the procedure are anchored in the two goals which the government set for its policy in Lebanon: Security for the settlements and residents of the north, while bringing the IDF back home.

Q: Why did you oppose the demand of some of the Likud ministers that the government decide separately on each stage, and decide on a pullback to the international border only when the time arrived?

A: I think that we must learn from the past, and not take any decision which does not look ahead to where its next two or three steps will lead. Any partial decision, which is not necessitated by a concept of security-military policy, is basically an erroneous approach. And I think that it is my obligation as defense minister, and the obligation of the General Staff, to come to the cabinet and to present the full implications of the basic concept; not to present only one step, in the hopes of dragging the cabinet into carrying it out, and thus, in effect, to create a situation in which, afterwards, the second stage comes almost automatically, without the steps being discussed in the cabinet, in their full depth, and with all their implications.

Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs