Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan said yesterday his country has no intention of sending troops to "control" southern Lebanon in the event of renewed hostilities there between Christian Lebanese and Syrian forces.
But he warned that Israel would stage preemptive strikes "by sea or other means (in) Beirut or in other parts of Lebanon" if activities there - specially by the Palestine Liberation Organization - present a threat to Israel's security.
Israeli gunboats last week shelled a Moslem section of Beirut during intense fighting between right-wing Christian forces and the Syrian army. There was much speculation by Mideast observers that Israel, which has aided the Christian Lebanese in the past was trying to bring extra pressure on the Syrians to end the fighting.
But yesterday on "Face the Nation" (CBS, WDVM), Dayan denied that that was the purpose.
"The objective that we fired at was a PLO naval base," he said. "We had information that they were about to have an attack against Israel," he said of the Palestinians.
"The immediate objective was not the Syrian forces and it was not to interfere with the war going on there between the Syrians and the Christians . . . It was against the PLO."
However, Dayan conceded that Israel's action "may have served, indirectly, as a signal that we won't hesitate to send some of our forces to strike, by sea or by other means, [in] Beirut or in other part of Lebanon" whenever there is reason to believe that Israel's security is at stake.
Asked if that meant the possibility of future Israeli assistance to Christian Lebanese, Dayan said: "I do not rule it out . . . I think that we are comitted and that we should be committed" to helping the Christians.
The Syrians declare a unilateral cease-fire late Saturday night, and the Christians so far have been abiding by a U.N. Security Council call for a cease-fire.
Dayan said yesterday he hopes the cease-fire will last.
"But," he said, "just in case the Syrians renew their fire attacks on the Christians, I do not rule out further assistance and aid to the Christians to help them hold on." He did not elaborate.
On other matters in the wide-ranging interview, Dayan said:
Palestinians should be included in talks to settle the sovereignty dispute over the West Bank of the Jordan River, now under Israeli control. But the Palestinians will be dealth with as a part of the Jordanian delegation, instead of separately.
A peace treaty with Egypt can be negotiated even if the West Bank issue is not settled.
He does not believe the Arabs will regain control of East Jerusalem.