The departure of the PLO from Beirut will focus world attention on the larger problems: the future of Lebanon and finding a permanent home for the Palestinians. The Israeli view on these and other questions was given to Maclean’s correspondent Eric Silver last week by David Kimche, director-general of the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. His report:
Maclean’s: After the PLO fighters have left Beirut, what options will there be for their families and for the Palestinians in the refugee camps there?
Kimche: Israel is imposing no restraints. This is purely a Lebanese question. The families are free to depart with the terrorists. Those who stay in Lebanon will no longer have any special status; they will live in Lebanon subject to Lebanese law. The refugees represent a major international scandal. On the one hand you have Arab countries that are among the richest in the world, on the other you have these people living in abject poverty. We have now to come together, perhaps with international help, and find a more permanent solution for these people, preferably to settle them outside Lebanon, for example in Jordan, which is not a foreign country for them.
Maclean’s: What about those who lived in camps that have been destroyed in southern Lebanon?
Kimche: It’s up to the Lebanese to decide. We have been informed by the Lebanese authorities that they would not like to have them in the same places as before. The aim of our operation was to prevent Lebanon from becoming once more a base for aggression against Israel. Therefore we would not like the same conditions to repeat themselves. Maclean’s: What will happen to the 7,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and the Palestinian fighters in northern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley?
Kimche: This will be a subject for negotiation in the next phase, which will deal with the withdrawal of Israel and other foreign elements. We want to repatriate them as quickly as possible. The question will be which Arab country will accept them.
Maclean’s: What leverage does Israel have with the Syrians to produce an early agreement?
Kimche: We have our lever, which I think will bring about a speedy solution. That is that we are in Lebanon, and the Arab world wants us to get out as quickly as possible. We will get out as soon as the Syrians get out. The Syrians badly need the billions of dollars they get from Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states. They want to break out
of the isolation they have suffered in the Arab world. So they will not want to be blamed for a prolonged Israeli occupation.
Maclean’s: The war has put severe strains on Israel ’s relations with Egypt. In particular, the Palestinian autonomy talks have been delayed. Can you see an early resumption?
Kimche: Once the Beirut question has been settled, we believe there will be a greater impetus on the part of all con-
cerned to find a constructive solution to the Palestinian question within the Camp David process. We have reason to believe that the United States will give active and strong encouragement for the resumption of the autonomy talks. Maclean’s: Is there anything Israel can do to persuade Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza to co-operate on the autonomy plan?
Kimche: Those Palestinians refused to co-operate mainly because they were afraid of the PLO. The PLO has been drastically weakened. We can already feel echoes of a new sentiment beginning to grow among the Arabs of Judea,
Samaria and Gaza. They are no longer afraid of the PLO.
Maclean’s: Is there room at the end of the five-year transitional period envisaged in the autonomy scheme for a Palestinian homeland?
Kimche: In the Camp David agreement the whole question of the future of those territories is open to negotiation. The Palestinians can put forward any proposal, and we can put forward any proposal. Basically my feeling is that there is no room for another Palestinian state. It would not work and it would be a danger for us.
Maclean’s: What is the alternative? Kimche: Our prime minister has made a proposal that I believe will have to be examined very fully: a confederation between Jordan and Israel within which the Palestinians would be given full expression.
Maclean’s: Let’s come back to Lebanon. How is Israel going to make sure that foreign forces do not slip back?
Kimche: We want to have security arrangements that will make certain that Lebanon will remain free of Palestinian terrorists. This can be done in a number of ways—through agreements between the Lebanese government and ourselves, through agreements with international guarantees, possibly even through some tacit agreement between us and some Arab countries.
Maclean’s: You talk of the Lebanese government, but Israel is known to have given help to the Phalangists and to Maj. Saad Haddad ’s militia. What is the future of relations with those private armies?
Kimche: Maj. Haddad is a Lebanese patriot who fought for his country. He was also a good friend of ours. We would not allow him to be sacrificed. Apart from that, the Lebanese government will have to decide what sort of administration there will be in the south. We would welcome a situation in which Maj. Haddad would play a role, but it’s up to the Lebanese government.
Maclean’s: And the Phalangists?
Kimche: The Phalangists are today the largest organized Lebanese party. They are not a militia, they are not a radical or rebel force. They are an organized group within Lebanese political life. We hope to reach normal, peaceful relations with the Lebanese republic. If the Phalangists, as part of that republic, can help to achieve those relations, we shall welcome it.
Maclean’s: But do you see them as an insurance policy for Israel?
Kimche: No, we do not want to seek a special relationship with the Phalangists or any other Lebanese group. We want peace with the Lebanese republic.
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