US welcomes Lebanese move toward Mideast peace
Washington — The United States has welcomed the formation of a new Cabinet in Lebanon as a step in the direction of peace, reconciliation, and a stronger Lebanese government.
It was expected that Israel would also welcome the formation of a new ''Council of National Salvation'' in Lebanon as a move which would strengthen the hand of the Maronite Christians who have been allied with the Israelis in recent years. Bashir Gemayel, military chief of the Christian Phalangists in Lebanon and head of a unified command of Lebanese forces, has been placed in charge of defense under the new council.
In Washington, two Lebanese-Americans who have close ties with Maronite Christian groups in Lebanon, Robert Basil and Alfred Mady, said the ultimate aim of the Lebanese government will be to secure the withdrawal of all foreign forces, including both the Israelis and Syrians, simultaneously. They said that with the proper political backing, the Lebanese government and Army would be strong enough to fill the vacuum caused by the withdrawal of foreign troops.
As for the now weakened Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Mr. Basil and Mr. Mady said the aim was not to push all Palestinians out of Lebanon. But the PLO would be required to disarm and to abide by Lebanese law, they said. At the same time, they said, the United States must play a role by producing a peace ''package,'' which would address both the Palestinian question and the need to change the political structure in Lebanon.
Mr. Basil said that the political changes would have to address two basic problems: the Lebanese Christians' fear for their own survival and the feeling of many Lebanese Muslims that they are not equally represented in the government.
Mr. Basil, who is national chairman of the American Lebanese League, and Mr. Mady, executive director of the Lebanese Information and Research Center, made their remarks in a June 14 breakfast meeting with reporters.
The two Lebanese Americans did not envisage an Israeli attack into the heart of Beirut. As they see it, the Israelis will simply surround Beirut and cut off the PLO leadership.
As Mr. Mady described it, the need now is for Lebanese Christians and Muslims to work together to secure the withdrawal of foreign forces and to ''put Lebanon back on a pro-Western track.''
US State Department officials agree with the Basil-Mady analysis - up to a point. But some of them fear that if Bashir Gemayel gains too much prominence in a new political arrangement, it will prove to be more divisive than helpful. Mr. Gemayel is a potential candidate for president of Lebanon in elections which are to take place this summer.
Mr. Gemayel's father, Pierre, was once President of Lebanon, at a time when the Maronite Christians dominated the country both economically and politically. The Maronites form the largest of Lebanon's Christian sects. But while Christians were once the majority in Lebanon this is no longer the case. An influx of Palestinians and the growth of the Muslim population has made them a minority.
State Department officials confirmed, meanwhile, that the US is attempting to put together a peace package which would address both the Palestinian issue and the need to strengthen and ''restructure'' the Lebanese government. As Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr., explained it June 13 on the ABC program ''This Week with David Brinkley,'' the US will push for the ''withdrawal of all foreign elements'' from Lebanon.