The Israeli government today accepted the redeployment of a multinational force in Beirut, but it made no commitment on when Israeli troops will be withdrawn from the city and failed to reach agreement on initiating an immediate internal investigation of the massacre of Palestinian refugees there last week.
In acceding to the demands that the multinational force return to the Lebanese capital, the Israeli Cabinet suggested that a "coordinating committee" of all the nations involved be established to decide on measures necessary "to ensure that under the new circumstances the bloody terror from Beirut will not be renewed."
Cabinet Secretary Dan Meridor, who read the Cabinet statement to reporters, said there were no conditions attached to Israel's acceptance of the multinational force, to be composed of troops from the United States, Italy and France. But the implication of his comments and those of senior Israeli officials was that Israel will seek to keep its troops in East Beirut if not the predominantly Moslem western section of the city until it receives assurances that remaining Palestinian guerrillas and their weapons stockpiles are to be removed.
By leaving heavily armed fighters behind in West Beirut, Meridor said, the Palestine Liberation Organization had violated the evacuation agreement negotiated largely by the United States. "We suppose that the United States will be very anxious to see that this matter is corrected," he said.
The Israeli military command said today that Israeli forces in Beirut continue to be thinned out, and there were some reports that all Israeli troops will be out of the city in a few days. Meridor said, "The government intends to leave Beirut," which Israeli officials have been saying since the troops entered the city last week.
United Press International reported that Israeli troops were continuing house-to-house searches for leftist militiamen and arms caches today.
The Algerian news agency, monitored in Paris, said Israeli troops stormed the Algerian Embassy in Beirut today and stole several documents, Reuter reported.
Military officials also strongly denied a report in the Times of London today that Israel had flown forces commanded by its southern Lebanon Christian ally, Maj. Saad Haddad, to Beirut to take part in the massacre of the refugees. The military command said that "Maj. Haddad's forces were not at all involved in the massacre and are not located in the Beirut sector."
Diplomats, journalists and medical workers have reported seeing men in the uniforms of Haddad's militia in the vicinity of the refugee camps at the time of the massacre.
Meanwhile, an increased number of disturbances were reported today both in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and in the predominantly Arab section of Israel in the northern Galilee region. A general strike of Israel's 600,000 Arab citizens has been called for Wednesday to protest the Beirut massacre.
Demands for a national board of inquiry into Israel's role in allowing Christian militia forces into the Palestinian refugee neighborhoods of West Beirut also increased today, coming both from political figures and such nonpolitical quarters as a group of Israeli law professors. The chief obstacle to initiating such an inquiry appeared to be Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who reportedly strongly opposed the idea at today's Cabinet meeting, asserting that to launch such an investigation would imply that Israel bears some responsibility for the massacre.
Other ministers, however, demanded that some sort of inquiry be launched. Reflecting this internal division, today's Cabinet communique said, "The government will discuss the manner to conduct an appropriate examination into the facts of the atrocity perpetrated by a unit of the Lebanese forces in Beirut, and will announce its decision."
The strongest critics of the government are demanding the convening of a state board of inquiry appointed by the chief justice of the Israeli Supreme Court and entirely independent of the government. The issue may be decided at Wednesday's special session of the Israeli Knesset (parliament), which is to debate a motion by a small opposition party to establish such a commission.
One of Begin's government coalition partners, the National Religious Party, reportedly is demanding a commitment from the prime minister that there will be an internal investigation and threatening to bolt from the coalition at Wednesday's Knesset meeting if it does not receive it.
Another sign of the turmoil within the government was the failure of Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan and two other senior military officers to appear today before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The Defense Ministry gave as the reason the pressure of events in Lebanon and promised that Defense Minister Ariel Sharon will deliver a detailed account of the activities surrounding the massacre to the Knesset Wednesday.
Israel appeared to have had little choice but to accept redeployment of the multinational force, advance units of which already are on their way to the Middle East. But it continued to rebuff the American demand for an immediate withdrawal of its forces from Beirut and, in proposing the creation of a "coordinating committee," suggested that it intends to maintain a presence in the Lebanese capital even after the full multinational force is deployed. The purposes of the proposed coordinating committee, to be composed of representatives of Israel, Lebanon, the United States, France and Italy, were left vague. Israeli officials said there were a "number of problems" remaining in Beirut that needed to be addressed.
But their main concern appeared to be any remaining Palestinian guerrillas and their weapons.
"We want to make sure that several things are done and others are not done," an official said. "We want to make sure that the whole success of this operation the war in Lebanon is not lost. We don't want Yasser Arafat invited back to Beirut. This is our interest, our legitimate interest."
The official expressed bitterness toward the failure of the United States and others to condemn the PLO for violating the evacuation agreement by leaving the guerrillas and heavy arms that he said included a helicopter and tanks behind in West Beirut after most of the PLO forces had been withdrawn.
"It is very clear that if Israel does not take care of things itself, nothing is done."
Earlier today, Begin sent a congratulatory telegram to Amin Gemayel, the new president-elect of Lebanon. Israeli officials said it was still their hope to achieve a peace treaty with Lebanon.