On Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon
Lebanon-Israel, Politics, 5/27/1999
The Israeli daily Haaretz said on Wednesday that indirect contacts were held during the few past months between Israel and Lebanon through Western mediation aimed at maintaining withdrawal by the South Lebanon Army militia from the surroundings of Jezzine in south Lebanon.
The paper added that these contacts were held very quickly, reporting that the withdrawal will be carried out within the coming weeks.
The paper added that Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens, who is supervising the negotiations, had briefed Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak on this matter and that Barak has approved this initiative, noting that the initiative was also backed by the coordinator of the Israeli affairs in south Lebanon, Uri Lubrani.
The Israeli paper added that Arens met on Tuesday night in Jezzine with the leader of the pro-Israeli SLA militia, Antoine Lahd, and discussed with him "the Jezzine question."
Lahd and officers in the militia opposed withdrawal from Jezzine, noting that such withdrawal would be harmful to the security zone seized by Israel and would permit the Hizbullah party to transfer weapons to south Lebanon more smoothly.
The paper added that an Israeli withdrawal from Jezzine will constitute an initiative towards Lebanon aimed at maintaining withdrawal from south Lebanon in the framework of a possible agreement with Syria.
Israeli Radio, meanwhile, said on Wednesday that the Israeli army's chief of staff, Shaoul Mufaz, and Israeli military intelligence systems believe that unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon is a risky step because "the Hizbullah Party may resume its aggressions."
Mufaz added that such a conviction does not mean opposing withdrawal. He indicated that withdrawal from South Lebanon is in the national interest of Israel and the Israeli army. But the question is on what conditions such a step can be made.
"We might find ourselves in a position where we will not be able to ensure security for the citizens of northern Israel, and we might be obliged to return to south Lebanon and pay a heavy price," he said.
Yossi Beilin from the Israeli Labor Party said that Barak's statements concerning withdrawal from south Lebanon within one year are still valid. He added that he prefers Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon to be maintained within talks "hopefully to be held with Syria very soon."
Beilin added that Jezzine is not part of the security region occupied by Israel and that the occupation of Jezzine was made by the Israeli backed SLA militia and at the request of the commander of the militia, Antoine Lahd, as a precondition to assuming the leadership of the SLA militia.
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