306. Memorandum From Robert Hunter of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • The Lebanese Situation (U)

At Tab I is a memorandum from Habib to Vance reporting on his trip.2 In summary:

—there is something approaching consensus among the Arabs on several points: strengthen the cease-fire; strengthen UNIFIL and UNSC 425;3 in principle, re-establish a Lebanese presence in southern Lebanon (especially Tyre); talk about the issue at the Arab summit;4 get the PLO to give some cooperation to the Lebanese; see Lebanon out in front; get the PLO to stop taking credit in Beirut for any attacks that do take place in Israel;

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Begin had an almost pro forma meeting with Habib,5 stressing the need to a halt to attacks on Israel; the Israelis apparently accepted that the Habib effort is not a back-door approach to the PLO; they are skeptical but open-minded; Weizman will suspend the preemptive strategy for now, but will keep options open if attacks resume; and Israel will get Haddad out of the UNIFIL area if the PLO and Leftists leave it;

—France is trying to get a statement out of the PLO prior to the Arab summit, on Lebanese territorial integrity, the temporary nature of the PLO presence, extension of Lebanese authority, support for the cease-fire, and praise of the UNIFIL role. The sweetener (provided the statement came before the Arab summit) would be an Arafat visit to Paris. (S/S)

Phil is thus “reasonably optimistic” about the chances for moving forward. Formal written statements and all-party conferences are out. A modus vivendi might be possible, and he sees a “surprising degree of Arab confidence that Arafat would cooperate.” Given what is happening, there is no need for us to take a more prominent role. (S/S)

Where Next? Habib sees the near-term as important in seeing what the Lebanese can and will do to follow up—in thinking things through, developing details of an initiative, and securing Palestinian approval of next steps. The Arab summit could be crucial. (S/S)

Phil has asked for approval of a number of steps (pages 7–8). These are essentially non-controversial, except:

—should we talk to the Saudis, Kuwaitis, Moroccans, and Sudanese about supporting some effort through ambassadors, or send Habib out (the former minimizes risks of being seen as trying to interfere in the Arab summit; the latter has more chance of getting somewhere); and

—should we tell the Israelis about French thinking (yes: to keep from being accused of holding back; no: that we might be asked to turn-off an Arafat visit). (S/S)

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Regrettably, the cable6 of follow-up instructions to Beirut went out this morning without any NSC (or Strauss) consultation.7 Most is non-controversial, but it does reach conclusions on U.S. policy (page 2) which—while probably a consensus view—go against the senior level agreement8 that talks here would follow the Habib visit before further efforts were undertaken. (C)


That this process be kept in line by convening a meeting of the Senior Level Group early this week.9 (C)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Office, Presidential Advisory Board, Box 84, Sensitive XX: 11/79. Secret; Sensitive. Sent for action. In the upper right-hand corner of the memorandum, an unknown hand wrote: “Please set up with ZB, Linowitz/Strauss, VP (if here), Vance, Hal, L, etc.” Another handwritten notation in the right-hand corner reads: “11/7–CD’s ofc will handle.”
  2. Habib’s November 3 memorandum to Vance, reporting on his October 24–November 1 trip to the Middle East, which included stops in Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan, Italy, and France, is attached but not printed. Habib submitted to Vance for approval eight proposals for U.S. action: “continue a strong effort” to support the Lebanese and the UN to bring about a “first-phase modus vivendi;” instruct Dean to continue a dialogue with the Lebanese; brief Waldheim on Habib’s trip; “make representations to the Saudis, the Kuwaitis, the Moroccans, and perhaps the Sudanese” to help develop an “Arab consensus which would help neutralize the situation in Lebanon and gain full PLO cooperation;” send Habib on another trip to the region; discuss with the Israelis French plans for discussions with Arafat; continue to consult with the UN regarding UNIFIL’s technical capabilities for detection and surveillance; and review the situation further following the Arab Summit.
  3. United Nations Security Council Resolution 425, March 19, 1978, called on Israel to withdraw its forces from southern Lebanon and established the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
  4. See Document 309.
  5. Habib met with Begin on October 28 to discuss “cooling” the situation in South Lebanon and moving the ceasefire toward a permanent peace. Assessing their meeting, Lewis stated that the Israelis were “basically satisfied with current status quo in South Lebanon. At same time, they recognize that situation there does not provide best foundation for securing Israel’s northern front. Overall impression left is that Israel has no quarrel with long-term objectives of: perpetuating the ceasefire; eventual departure of unauthorized forces from area of a strengthened UNIFIL, and effort to enhance authority of GOL. As for practical next steps in Lebanon, Israelis are deeply skeptical, but apparently willing to let others give it a try so long as certain fundamental factors are kept in forefront of effort.” (Telegram 23165 from Tel Aviv, October 29; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790495–0901)
  6. In telegram 288533 to Beirut, November 5, the Department instructed Dean to make contact with Sarkis and other Lebanese officials to ascertain the progress they had made since Habib’s trip. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790508–1212)
  7. Brzezinski highlighted this sentence in the left- and right-hand margins and added the handwritten notation: “RH, complain officially & in writing.”
  8. See Document 301.
  9. Brzezinski approved the recommendation.