78. Telegram From the Department of State to the White House1
187206/Tosec 80220. White House for Dr. Brzezinski Only. Following repeat Tel Aviv 5881 action State Aug 8.
5881. Quote. Subject: Israeli Intentions in Lebanon. Ref: Tel Aviv 5875.2
1. At his request, I called on Foreign Minister Dayan at his home in Tel Aviv this morning. He began by saying that he wanted to tell me about Lebanon, a subject that they would discuss with the Secretary during his visit. At his suggestion, Prime Minister Begin had agreed that I should be informed first.
2. Dayan said that the Israelis were “unhappy” with the situation in Southern Lebanon. Although there had been agreements which seemed to be having some effect in other areas of the country, nothing was taking place in the Southern area. The PLO was definitely there, some villages are deserted, others are partly destroyed. The Christians in the south have no contact with the Christians in the north. The civilians have no way to live or work or buy commodities, and they cannot get any support from their co-religionists in the north.
3. The Foreign Minister then reached the point: Israel wanted to help the Christians in Southern Lebanon in a military way. They did not wish to occupy territory and/or to stay for a lengthy period, but they did want to wipe out some of the Palestinians who were there. As he described it, they wanted to “help the situation in a military way.”[Page 419]
4. My first comment was that I hoped the GOI decision was not irrevocable. I pointed out that the Secretary had recently been in Lebanon and that we have information that within two weeks it may be possible to deploy Lebanese forces to the south. Therefore, irrevocable steps now such as Dayan was outlining would blow sky high any chance for a settlement. Military action by Israel would be a very grave step at this point with grave implications for everybody.
5. What has changed in the last month to make them consider such a possibility? Dayan responded that the situation had been getting progressively worse. Villages were being destroyed and the terrorists were moving into them. The next thing will be that Israel will be confronted with a Palestinian military presence along its northern border. I answered by saying that I thought the key was to get the Palestinians away from the border, but military action would make any diplomatic action impossible.
6. Dayan said they were willing to discuss the matter with the Secretary but that they would not rely on any Lebanese promises about deploying troops to the south. Even if such troops could be deployed, would they be able to drive out the Palestinians? He said that he had favored the idea of getting a UN force into the area. I picked this up to say that I recalled that the whole question of the UN force had recently been discussed with President Sarkis. I agreed that we should pursue that approach vigorously as it was much preferable to military action. We had continually assured the Lebanese that the Israelis had no designs on their territory, even though they may be hearing otherwise from the Syrians and others. If the Israelis were to move militarily into Lebanon, I could visualize a real firestorm which would destroy any chance of a Geneva conference at this time.
7. As to the timing of any Israeli move, Dayan said they would do nothing until discussing the subject with the Secretary.
8. I asked what the Israelis did intend to do militarily in Southern Lebanon if they did not occupy territory. Dayan said they would drive away the Palestinians and hand the villages back to the Christians. He said he would admit that Israeli action might not be necessary if some Lebanese Christian troops could be sent to the south and if the Palestinians would leave the area. He was skeptical, however, about the prospect of having effective Lebanese forces in the south within two weeks. He thought the Palestinians would not be able to do anything the Syrians opposed, and he thought the Syrians would not care if the Palestinians would be in force along the Israeli border.
9. I said it was my impression that the Syrians at this stage were very wary of triggering a fight with Israel. It could be that the rejectionists were preventing the carrying out of agreements in Southern [Page 420] Lebanon.3 In any case, action such as the Israelis were contemplating seemed premature to me. I promised to alert the Secretary (which I have done by Flash message),4 and we agreed that the substantive discussion on this issue would take place tomorrow morning, unless the Secretary wished to initiate it this afternoon.
10. Comment: I can see few things more dangerous at this time than an Israeli military move into Lebanon. Although the Israeli motives are obviously suspect, several recent [less than 1 line not declassified] reports do provide quite a bit of support for Dayan’s contention that whatever may be the outcome of Shtawra elsewhere in Lebanon,5 its impact in the south is hardly reassuring to Israel. I hope the Department by return message will provide our latest intelligence for the Secretary on these matters to the extent it is not already available to his party. As the Department is aware, both Begin and Weizman have visited the northern border recently and issued strong statements, Begin even admitting publicly for the first time that Israel had been assisting the Christians in Southern Lebanon with artillery fire from within Israel.
11. Please send the response to the Secretary’s party in Jerusalem as soon as possible.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, N770004–0696. Secret; Nodis; Immediate; Flash. Also sent immediate Flash to the Secretary of State’s Delegation. Drafted and approved by Allan Otto (S/S–O). Vance was either in Taif or en route to Jerusalem.↩
- See Document 76.↩
- The rejectionists included Libya, Iraq, South Yemen, and various PLO groups that rejected the ten-point program adopted by the PLO at its 12th Palestinian National Council meeting in June 1974. The ten-point program called for Palestinian authority over any piece of “liberated” Palestinian land as well as an active effort to establish a secular, binational state where all would enjoy equal rights and status. Some PLO groups viewed this as an attempt at a two-state solution and a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.↩
- See Document 76.↩
- See footnote 2, Document 76.↩