As the Israeli Army completed its withdrawal from southern Lebanon today, Prime Minister Shimon Peres outlined a five-stage plan for Middle East peace negotiations in response to what he described as "a program for vanquishing Israel" put forward by King Hussein of Jordan.
Peres, in a speech to Israel's parliament, the Knesset, called for the opening of direct peace talks within three months between Israel and a delegation made up of Jordanians and Palestinians not associated with the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
He said this should be preceded by the formation of "a narrow Jordanian-Palestinian and Israeli team" to prepare the agenda for a peace conference and the "enlistment of the support of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council for direct negotiations between Jordan and a Palestinian delegation and Israel, without precommitting themselves to support the stand of one of the sides."
Peres said there may now be "a change of atmosphere in the Middle East" making serious peace negotiations possible, but he was sharply critical of the plan that Hussein has outlined. He also strongly opposed additional U.S. arms sales to Jordan unless Hussein declares a policy of "nonbelligerence" toward Israel.
Peres' speech, which constituted Israel's public response to the negotiating plan Hussein urged on the Reagan administration during his talks in Washington two weeks ago, was linked to the completion of the Israeli Army's withdrawal from southern Lebanon today.
The Army did not issue an official communique , but military officials said all Israeli soldiers were out of Lebanon by tonight. The officials said that because of logistical problems, some heavy equipment remained in Lebanon and will have to be removed later, and that "dozens" of Israeli soldiers will continue to operate in Lebanon as advisers to the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army.
Israel has said repeatedly that in supporting the South Lebanon Army its own troops would continue to patrol a six- to 15-mile-wide "security zone" just north of the Israeli-Lebanese border.
[Two Soviet-designed Katyusha rockets crashed into an apple orchard in the northern border settlement of Moshav Shomera, hours before the Israeli Army completed its withdrawal, Reuter reported. The rockets, fired from Lebanon, caused no injuries or damage.]
The last stage of the withdrawal came three years and four days after the June 6, 1982, Israeli invasion of Lebanon. In his speech, Peres cited the withdrawal as one of several factors he said demonstrated that Israel "is also acting and putting forward proposals that will bring about the emergence of a genuine change which will bring peace in our region nearer."
The "Israeli plan" that Peres outlined included no provision for a proposed preliminary meeting between U.S. officials and a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation as proposed by Hussein and endorsed by the Reagan administration.
The series of preliminary meetings between the U.S. and Jordanian and Palestinian representatives proposed by Hussein, Peres said, "is a program for vanquishing Israel, not for negotiations with Israel."
Peres said the first step in Hussein's plan was designed "to bring about partial [U.S.] recognition" of the Palestine Liberation Organization and could lead to a strengthening of the PLO's "rejectionist policy."
He said this was one of three subjects that were part of a "a debate with friends" between the United States and Israel. The other issues of debate, Peres said, were the composition of the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation and the administration's plan to sell advanced weapons to Jordan.
Peres said steps toward peace negotiations should begin with the continuation of current contacts among the U.S. and other countries in the Middle East as well as "Palestinian representatives who are not PLO members." In the negotiations, he said, the Palestinian position should be voiced by "authentic Palestinian representatives" from the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip "who will represent the stands of the inhabitants, and will be acceptable to all sides."
Hussein has called for the convening of an international peace conference under U.N. Security Council auspices, a formula that would automatically include the Soviet Union in the talks. The United States and Israel both oppose Soviet participation in the negotiations. Peres' call for the "enlistment of the support" of Security Council members appeared to be an attempt to edge toward Hussein's position while still excluding Moscow from a direct role in the proposed talks.
In a letter to Peres last week, Secretary of State George P. Shultz indicated that the administration, while opposed to some of Hussein's specific proposals such as the international peace conference, is convinced that the Jordanian monarch is genuinely interested in making peace with Israel and should be encouraged to continue his initiative.