Egyptian ambassador hints at new moves in UN on Lebanon
Egypt's Ambassador to the United States, Ashraf Ghorbal, was reflecting at midday on his meeting with reporters during breakfast the day before.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
''It's strange,'' he said, ''that no one picked up what I had to say about the French-Egyptian plan that is circulating at the United Nations.''
Mr. Ghorbal was referring to a proposal that was ''part of the effort to keep moving forward toward a Palestinian state and to arrange total withdrawal from Lebanon as well as a deal with Beirut.''
Mr. Ghorbal had said at the morning session with 34 reporters that ''the proposal is there at the UN, waiting for the right time to be submitted to the Security Council.''
''We are in continuous touch with the United States and the other members of the Security Council,'' he said, ''as to when is the right time to bring it out.''
And now, in this post-breakfast interview, the ambassador was saying that this plan might well be presented to the UN Security Council ''by the end of this week.''
How important would this French-Egyptian initiative be, he was asked. ''It will contain a few things that will be amplified, that need to be amplified on the Palestinian problem,'' he said. He then indicated that this proposal could well add significantly to what he sees as growing momentum toward resolution of the Palestinian problem.
Mr. Ghorbal had said that Yasser Arafat's statement about relations with Israel indicated he was ''inching forward'' toward recognition of Israel. But he said he thought it unfortunate that neither Israel nor the US welcomed it as a ''first step.''
Would Arafat now become more precise? Would he soon be providing the specifics that Israel demanded, Mr. Ghorbal was asked during the post-breakfast interview. ''I know that the Palestinians want to say more,'' he said. ''I know Arafat would like to say anything that should be said.''
At the breakfast a reporter asked: ''Do you really want to make a package of your three points on Beirut, Lebanon, and self-determination for the Palestinians? Do you want all three to be solved at the same time?''
''Yes,'' said the ambassador. ''We've got to have a package. I'm glad you used that word; it's an American expression and concept. There is an umbilical cord between all three problems.''
He continued: ''We must have a timetable of commitments. Israel's withdrawal in all three cases is imperative; otherwise Israel will grow roots in all three areas. The Israelis want to push the PLO camps into the north of Lebanon. The Syrians are worried about a PLO exodus into their country. But the Palestinians need a home, a flag, and self-determination. We don't say that this should be postponed until tomorrow. There has been far too much postponement already.''
Why was Ghorbal so impatient, someone asked.
He said he wasn't. ''It has been three years since Camp David,'' he said. ''It took three years to get the Israelis out of the Sinai. If the present actions in the West Bank continue, what hope is there? So we continue to press all three of the problems - Beirut, Lebanon, and the Palestinian state - on the United States.
''The United States wants a solution. We have no quarrel. But we insist that the package be taken care of as a unit. We must not postpone again. We are impatiently waiting. It has gone on too long.''
Excerpts from the interview during breakfast follow:
Is the Camp David accord still a viable instrument?
We are very unhappy with what Israel did to Camp David. We all had confidence in it; and Israel reacted with blowing-up measures. These three years have been very devastating to the hopes of Camp David. Israel in its actions since then has been totally contrary to Camp David. It is as if we were all blindfolded, not seeing the agonizing things done in the West Bank and Lebanon. Actions speak louder than words after Camp David.
Why didn't the Arab world react strongly to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon?
There was no knee-jerk reaction to be sure. That is not in the Arab nature. But the reaction is there, and it will take time to express itself. The Arabs do not want to threaten. Negative statements make headlines; but they don't necessarily make progress.
Can the US prevent Israel from taking over the West Bank?
Yes, despite the loss of time. With all of us working on it, we are capable of bringing about a solution. Many of the people in Israel are in opposition to what Begin has been doing - even many of those in the Israeli army. And many in the Jewish community in the United States (are opposed to Begin's position with regard to the West Bank). A momentum is beginning to roll. Let's not lose this chance and force another tragedy on the Palestinians.
How do you assess the American reaction to Israeli action in Beirut?
I am close to the Jewish community in the US, and have many friends there. And I find that they are really feeling unhappy with Begin. After all, Israel sent 100,000 soldiers against 10,000. They said they would take a 25-mile buffer zone - and see where they went - to the capital city. That is not an image that you, the United States, can back. Happily there instead is a human reaction to an inhuman situation.
Why is the PLO always ambiguous, when Sadat was entirely clear in his statements of what should happen?
Well, Sadat had firm ground under his feet. . . . But Arafat is in a very ambiguous situation. I wish that Arafat had taken a firm position like that of Sadat. And he should be encouraged to do so.