Israel pushes own terms for Lebanon outcome . . . and West Bank
Jerusalem — Israel is working hard to ensure that if and when the Palestine Liberation Organization leaves Beirut, it does so on Israel's terms.
At the same time, the Begin government has moved to further undermine pro-PLO leadership on the West Bank, and to install Palestinian leaders sympathetic to Israel.
To achieve these dual aims, the Israeli government is using a complex mix of military, administrative, and psychological pressures.
As negotiations on a Lebanon settlement move into an advanced stage, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, his Cabinet ministers, and the Israeli press have all expressed optimism about its chances of success.
But beneath the public optimism, Israel is seeking to ensure that the American plan for the PLO's pullout from Beirut goes the way Israel wants. As reported in the Israeli press, the plan includes:
* Retention by the PLO of a small information office in Beirut.
* Relocation of PLO forces with their personal weapons.
* Retention by the PLO of two 250-man military units within the Lebanese Army.
* Withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Beirut area after the evacuation.
* The passage of PLO forces to Arab countries that agree to take them.
The Israelis want the PLO to totally abandon Beirut. They therefore object to any PLO office in Beirut, however symbolic. They also object to PLO units being permitted to remain under the umbrella of the Lebanese Army, even though these PLO units would be slated to depart Lebanon when all foreign forces were ultimately removed from the country.
Some reports have surfaced here that Israel would compromise on the question of a PLO office. But Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhack Shamir denied this to his Parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Debate on this issue is far from over. Labor Party ex-Foreign Minister Abba Eban challenged the government on this point July 7:
''If all that stood between political solution and very dire consequences was a symbolic (PLO) representation, I can't believe the Israeli people would . . . go to war,'' he argued.
While the talking continues, the Israelis are leaving no doubts about what will happen next if no political agreement is reached - and soon. Prime Minister Begin warned Tuesday night that this would lead to Israeli military action.
The July 6 leaking via Israeli radio of the existence of the American plan was followed almost immediately by one of the heaviest nights of fighting on the outskirts of Beirut, as if in preview of what might come.
Israel is also waging psychological warfare against the PLO. The squeeze continues on the 6,000 or so PLO guerrillas and estimated 500,000 civilians holding out in west Beirut. While electricity and water have been restored there after a three-day absence, reports from Beirut say Israeli forces are preventing food, medicine, and gasoline from being brought in.
The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) reported from Beirut that Palestinians there viewed Israeli public optimism about the negotiations as one way of demoralizing the Palestinians in Beirut and putting the onus on the PLO if they fail.
Meanwhile, the Israelis are aware that if the Lebanon peace plan succeeds the US is likely to seek movement on the overall Palestinian issue, including the fate of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israel has just taken further administrative action on the West Bank to undermine the pro-PLO leadership there, and to replace it with Palestinian leaders more sympathetic to Israel. On Tuesday they dismissed the elected mayor and the municipal council of the town of Jenin. He was the sixth pro-PLO mayor to be ousted since November, and was replaced by a local contractor.
The mayor was dismissed at this juncture for a work stoppage protest which had already been going on several months. Mayor Rashad Shawa of Gaza has also been threatened with dismissal on the same charge.
Ironically, Mayor Shawa is a supporter of Jordan, the country which the US hopes to bring into renewed autonomy negotiations on the future of the West Bank and Gaza after the Lebanon situation is resolved.
Says Mayor Elias Freij, another mayor with ties to Jordan:
''By the time the PLO evacuates Beirut, most of the West Bank -- Gaza mayors will have been evacuated from their offices by Israel.''