Israeli at US loan talks is implicated in massacre
By Robert Fisk in Beirut
[The Independent - 12 January 2003]:
Israel is asking the United States for $8bn (£5bn) in loan guarantees ? and
has sent to Washington one of the former army officers implicated in the
1982 Sabra and Chatila massacre of Palestinian civilians to persuade the
Bush administration to grant the money.
Amos Yaron, who is now director general of the Israeli Ministry of Defence,
was the Israeli military commander in Beirut when Lebanese Phalangist
militiamen entered the refugee camps and slaughtered up to 1,700 Palestinian
refugees. He ordered flares to be dropped over the camps, at the request of
the Phalange, and Israeli soldiers blocked the exits to prevent civilians
from leaving the area. Israel is pleading for the money ? along with an
additional $4bn in military aid ? on the grounds that a US invasion of Iraq
will provoke further attacks against Israel.
It argues that some of the aid should be given to anti-missile defence
systems for El Al airliners. Al-Qa'ida members tried to destroy an Israeli
civilian aircraft with missiles at Mombasa last year, but narrowly missed
The Israeli delegation to Washington is led by Dov Weissglass, from the
private office of the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, who was found
"personally responsible" for the Sabra and Chatila massacre by the Israeli
Kahan commission of inquiry in 1983. Mr Yaron was appointed to the post of
Defence Ministry director by the former prime minister, Ehud Barak. The two
men are accompanied to Washington by the Israeli Ministry of Finance
accountant general, Nir Gilad. The Israeli team is negotiating the new loan
with Condoleezza Rice's National Security Council but little has emerged
about their visit in the American press.
The US response is likely to be made public within a month ? before the
expected invasion of Iraq. The State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher,
has refused to talk about the negotiations, save for a passing remark that
"we always try to help our friends and allies to the best of our ability".
The Bush administration has never referred to the Sabra and Chatila
massacre, nor to Mr Sharon's role in the killings. The night before he sent
the Phalange into the camps to confront "terrorists", Mr Sharon claimed ?
wrongly ? that Palestinians had murdered Lebanon's president-elect Bashir
Germayel, who was also leader of the Phalange militia. Civilians trying to
flee the carnage pleaded with Israeli soldiers to allow them to leave the
area. On Mr Yaron's orders, they were sent back into the camps ? in many
cases to their deaths. The Israeli officers later claimed they didn't know
the Phalange were murdering the Palestinians, even though individual Israeli
soldiers had warned their commanders that the militia were killing
Israeli officials accompanying the delegation said they believed the US
would respond favourably to their loan request when their country was facing
a global recession as well as "terrorism".