With Israeli officials signaling a willingness to compromise and US Secretary of State George Shultz expressing determination to find a solution in the Lebanese negotiations, observers here permitted themselves a small measure of optimism.
Israeli sources said Mr. Shultz had a very good meeting with Prime Minister Menachem Begin, writes Monitor contributor Abraham Rabino-vich. Mr. Shultz then flew to Beirut, where he visited the bomb-devastated US Embassy and held talks with Lebanese President Amin Gemayel. He appeared to be embarked on a shuttle between the two countries to clinch a deal on an Israeli pullout from Lebanon. Hours before he arrived in Beirut, US marines wounded for the first time a Lebanese citizen, who was in a car that speeded through a checkpoint.
The main negotiating stumblingblock is the status of Lebanese Maj. Saad Haddad, who serves as Israeli proxy in southern Lebanon. The Lebanese want his removal. Israel insists that without his militia southern Lebanon cannot be made secure against Palestinian guerrillas. Israeli sources indicated that Jerusalem will suggest some kind of compromise in which the trappings of power would go to an officer of Beirut's choice, but with the power remaining with Major Haddad.
The series of ambushes against Israeli troops in Lebanon - a bomb blast in Sidon wounded four Israelis Thursday - has increased Jerusalem's desire for a successful conclusion of the negotiations. Israel also wants to ensure that Mr. Shultz does not return to Washington empty-handed, blaming Jerusalem for the failure.