UK con­cerned over US-Is­rael Beirut strike

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - JEN­NIFER LIP­MAN

MAR­GARET THATCHER be­lieved a joint US-Is­raeli re­sponse to the Beirut bar­rack bomb­ings dur­ing the Le­banon Civil War could be “very dam­ag­ing”.

Records of a sum­mit be­tween Mrs Thatcher and then West Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Hel­mut Kohl in Novem­ber 1983 re­veal that they dis­cussed the sit­u­a­tion in Le­banon at length, with the Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter ex­plain­ing that she “did not like the idea of re­tal­i­a­tion” for the bomb­ings, in which 241 United States ser­vice­men died. The at­tack was later traced to Hizbol­lah and Iran.

At the time, a multi-na­tional force was sta­tioned in Le­banon, com­prised of French, Ital­ian and Bri­tish ser­vice­men. In her meet­ings with Chan­cel­lor Kohl, Mrs Thatcher raised con­cerns about the im­pli­ca­tions a po­ten­tial Amer­i­can re­venge strike might have for the force.

Ahead of a joint press con­fer­ence, Mrs Thatcher’s press sec­re­tary Bernard Ing­ham ad­vised that she could ex­pect ques­tions on Le­banon and her view on “closer Amer­i­can co-op­er­a­tion with Is­rael”.

Mr Ing­ham sug­gested she take the op­por­tu­nity “to present the ar­gu­ments against re­venge but for self-de­fence”, say­ing that it was “im­por­tant to keep the tem­per­a­ture down”.

Mrs Thatcher ap­pears to have agreed. Her view was that should Amer­ica re­tal­i­ate “in­no­cent peo­ple could be harmed; there would be im­pli­ca­tions for all mem­bers of the multi-na­tional force and the Mid­dle East was in tur­moil al­ready”.

In the end, the US did not mount a ma­jor re­tal­ia­tory strike, but the bomb­ings did lead to the with­drawal of the multi-na­tional force the fol­low­ing year.

Notes from a din­ner at the sum­mit also re­veal the two lead­ers agreed that Jor­dan was not a threat to Is­rael and in­stead saw it as the vic­tim of “a his­toric in­jus­tice”.

A write-up cir­cu­lated by Robin But­ler re­ported Chan­cel­lor Kohl ex­press­ing “agree­ment with the Prime Min­is­ter’s view” that Jor­dan, as a stable neigh­bour, “had been a but­tress to Is­rael”.

The West Ger­man leader also sug­gested that Is­rael was making “bru­tal use” of the un­cer­tainty in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics ahead of the 1984 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion to ad­vance its cause against the Pales­tini­ans on the West Bank.

Some 299 peo­ple were killed in the Beirut bar­racks bomb­ing in 1983

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