76. Telegram From the Embassy in Israel to Secretary of State Vance in Taif1

5875. For the Secretary From Lewis. Subject: Major Military Incursion by Israel Threatens in South Lebanon.

1. Dayan asked me to see him this morning at his home in Tel Aviv. The message was simple and blunt. The Israelis will no longer tolerate what they view as increasing Palestinian pressure on the Christian forces, and are on the point of launching a major incursion into South Lebanon to “clean out things” at least for the time being. Begin plans to discuss this in detail with you, but Dayan had persuaded him that he should give me an advance indication of their intentions.

2. Dayan insisted that they had no plan to occupy territory permanently, but he gave me the impression that this enterprise would result in more than just a few hours stay across the border. At my insistence, he assured me that nothing would happen before your meeting here with Begin, but every indication was that time fuse is short. I argued vigorously against any such enterprise, mustering all available arguments drawn from Begin’s recent reporting about the prospect of Lebanese forces moving south in the very near future, but I obviously did not persuade him that further delay for UN or Lebanese forces to be inserted would produce the desired result.

3. You should be prepared for a detailed discussion on this topic, and I suggest that the Department provide immediately for you all available intelligence support on what is actually happening, particularly with regard to implementation of the new agreement.2 Dayan and I discussed whether the Lebanese situation should be taken up at the first meeting this afternoon or tomorrow’s meeting. It might be best to go first into the Middle East negotiations issue, taking up Lebanon after this general framework is established, in order to underscore the impact any military action would have on the peace process.

4. I have been trying to divine since leaving Dayan’s house what the Israelis are up to. One unhappy hypothesis would be that they are now indeed worried that the PLO is on the point of accepting Resolu[Page 416]tion 242, which could produce a major split between us and the Israelis. One way to make sure that does not happen might be to do something militarily against the PLO which would preclude any change in their position toward Israel. There are other possible explanations; all I can say at this point is I am afraid the Israelis are quite serious.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850106–1903. Secret; Flash; Nodis. Also sent Flash to the Department of State.
  2. Meeting in Shtaura, Lebanon, Lebanese, Syrian, and PLO military leaders concluded an agreement on July 25. Known as the Shtaura Agreement or Accord, it reduced armaments at 14 Palestinian camps, imposed a freeze on cross-border raids by the Palestinians, whose forces were to remain 15 miles north of the Lebanese-Israeli border, and called for Lebanese troops to patrol that area.