Interview with Abu Arz in the Jerusalem Post 1999-09-23.

The following is an interview with Abu Arz made by Jerusalem Post while he was on an 'academic' journey to Israel.

S. Lebanese politician says morale low over talk of pullout
Date: Thursday, September 23, 1999
Publication: Daily Page: 04
Section: News
Keywords: Lebanon, Political, IDF, Ezer Weizman

The morale of the population of south Lebanon has dropped since Israel announced its intention of withdrawing from the security zone, according to a visiting south Lebanese politician.

'The people all have a feeling of deception. The civilian population and the soldiers' morale is low. They no longer trust Israel,' said Etienne Sacr, chairman of the Guardians of the Cedars party, who is currently visiting Israel.

Sacr has openly supported cooperation with Israel and has frequently visited here. Today he is due to meet with President Ezer Weizman at Beit Hanassi.

Sacr said that the fate of south Lebanon depends to a large extent on the conditions which Israel is able to secure before withdrawal.

'If there is an unconditional withdrawal, most [SLA] officers will be obliged to leave the country,' he said.

But, if Israel succeeds in getting the Syrians to relinquish their control of Lebanon and to dismantle the Hizbullah, 'all will be safe,' Sacr said. Everyone is waiting to see what will happen before deciding on their next moves.'

But he ruled out the possibility of serious violence. 'At all events, I do not believe there will be any massacres,' he said.

He cited the withdrawal from Jezzine last year as an example.

'The withdrawal was unconditional but there were no massacres,' he said. 'However, many officers had to hand themselves over [to the Lebanese forces] and are now sitting in jail.'

Sacr said that, under all circumstances, the local population would manage.

'We have lived for thousands of years in Lebanon and we succeeded... The problem is to free Lebanon of foreign domination - mainly that of the Syrians, but also the Hizbullah, Iran and even Israel.

'I have a message to the people of Israel,' he added. 'Why is the Israeli government focusing on UN Resolution 425 [of 1978] calling for an Israeli withdrawal after the Litani operation, which Israel implemented and which led to the UN deployment in Lebanon - instead of focusing on Resolution 520, from September 1982, 'after Basheer Jemayel's assassination.'

Resolution 520 calls on all non-Lebanese forces to withdraw from Lebanon.

'We want the Syrians out and that is to Israel's advantage too,' Sacr said. He said he planned to raise the question with Weizman.

A Beit Hanassi spokesman said Sacr will be accompanied by Hebrew University Middle East expert Mordechai Nisan, and that the purpose of the visit was 'academic.'