The report of the Israeli commission that investigated the Beirut massacre of Palestinian refugees cited Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Rafael Eitan and other senior military officers, the Voice of Israel radio reported today.
The long-awaited report, that was delivered last night to Prime Minister Menachem Begin, was to be made public later today. The radio report, quoting "government sources" said that Begin is not "harmed" by the findings of the investigation.
The Israeli Cabinet was expected to meet in special session today to discuss the report and its implications for the Begin government, the radio said.
The prime minister, Sharon, Eitan, Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and five other senior officials were warned in November by the commission that they could be harmed by the findings of the investigation into Israeli responsibility for the September massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in West Beirut.
The massacre was the work of Lebanese Christians who entered the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps with the coordination and cooperation of the Israeli Army, which then occupied West Beirut. Israel has said its purpose in allowing the Christians into the camps was to have them root out remaining Palestinian guerrillas and sympathizers. Israeli soldiers have not been accused of taking part in the massacre.
The Israeli civilian and military leaders who were warned by the panel were told they may be faulted for failing to anticipate the possibility of a massacre before the Christians were allowed into the camps and for failing to act on early reports of heavy civilian casualties.
lso warned by the inquiry panel were: Maj. Gen. Amir Drori, the Army's northern commander: Maj. Gen. Yehoshua Saguy, the chief of military intelligence; Brig. Gen. Amos Yaron, commander of Israeli forces in Beirut; the head of Israel's intelligence service, the Mossad, who by law cannot be named in public; and Avi Dudai, Sharon's personal assistant.
According to a radio report last night, Begin was to inform each of the eight other officials of the commission's findings. The radio report also said that Begin had ordered all ministers in his government not to react individually to the commission's findings or to grant interviews on the outcome of the investigation.
The judicial board of inquiry, headed by Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Yitzhak Kahan, was appointed Oct. 1 only after intense domestic and international pressure forced the Begin government to back down from its initial stance that any suggestion of Israeli responsibility for the massacre was a "blood libel" on the country and its people. Since it began, the investigation has held Israeli domestic politics in a state of suspended animation while both the government and the opposition Labor Party waited for the outcome.
Speculation on the aftermath of an anticipated critical report by the inquiry board has ranged from the immediate collapse of the Begin government and the formation of a new coalition government headed by the Labor Party, to the calling of early elections this year by Begin in an effort to vindicate himself and his colleagues, to predictions that the report would produce considerable internal turmoil but no essential change in the continuation of the present Israeli government.
The anticipated impact on domestic Israeli politics also has affected the country's international relations. During the weekend, U.S. officials made clear that they hoped the commission's findings would help to break the deadlock on the troop withdrawal negotiations in Lebanon.