Published in The Jerusalem Post on April 9, 2000
Withdrawing unilaterally from Lebanon sometime very soon is all the
rage. It has become the politically correct thing to do. Woe be to the
politician that speaks out against the imminent pull-back.
Perhaps I have the luxury of playing the skeptic – because at present I
don’t have a son in uniform serving north of the border – but I fear
that we’re about to shoot ourselves in the foot. There is absolutely no
guarantee that things will be better after we withdraw from Lebanon.
Indeed, there is reason to believe that the security situation up north,
and our regional and international diplomatic position, will worsen.
But nobody dares talk about this. It is not politically correct. The
polls show broad majorities in favor of quick withdrawal. And besides,
Ehud Barak has an election promise to live up to. The promise to
withdraw from Lebanon by hook or by crook is just about the *only*
election promise, of many, that Barak has any chance of fulfilling by
the end of his first year in office.
Nevertheless, I’d like some answers to the central questions posed by
the apparently-unstoppable withdrawal:
1. Will a unilateral pull-out seriously endanger Israeli civilians in
their homes along the border with Lebanon? What is the “acceptable”
amount of casualties among northern civilians in their homes that we are
prepared to live with; i.e., a number that is lower than the number of
soldiers we have been losing inside Lebanon each year?
2. Will the sufficient outfitting of northern towns with improved
security apparatus be ready in time for the scheduled withdrawal? How
will these measures guard against mortars and katyushas?
3. What eventuality is more problematic for us, and will Israel act to
prevent: an reign of Hizballah cross-border attacks? a series of
Hizballah katyusha rocket attacks deep inside Israel? renewed
Palestinian terrorist activity from Lebanon? or the movement of Syrian
troops down to southern Lebanon, something which de facto would create a
very long and unstable Israel-Syria border?
4. Do we think that our long-time allies, the South Lebanese Army, can
hold out or reach accommodation with the Lebanese government, or is it
more than likely that these steadfast allies and their families will be
massacred after an IDF withdrawal? Who will do business with us in the
future after we obtain a reputation for abandoning our friends? Are we
doing everything possible, and if so — what, to ensure the long-term
safety of our allies?
5. Last month, Yossi Beilin and other cabinet ministers voted against
the IDF air strikes on Lebanese electricity transformers, fretting that
the IDF was not an “army of vengeance”. Yossi Sarid abstained. With such
enlightened sensibilities at the cabinet table, exactly how are we going
to deter Hizballah attacks across our northern border after we withdraw
6. What exactly are the tools of deterrence and punishment this
government is going to be prepared to employ in order to maintain
security on our northern border? “A child for a child; blood for blood”
as our blustering, swaggering foreign minister David Levy has
threatened? A direct hit on Syrian and Iranian installations in Lebanon?
Or, will we content ourselves with vague threats of future retaliation
that frighten no-one — this has the pattern until now! — and explain
to ourselves that restraint is good because otherwise katyushas will
pepper the Galilee and Hizballah will attack Israeli and Jewish
institutions abroad? Is Hizballah really going to be afraid of us, after
running the almighty IDF out of Lebanon?
7. If and when the IDF is forced into “massive retaliation” for an
unacceptable series of Hizballah outrages across our northern border,
and an IDF bomb inevitably goes astray and lands in a Lebanese
schoolyard – how long will it take until the bleeding hearts take to
Rabin Square, moaning about our “shame” and screaming for Barak’s
8. We keep hearing that once Israel withdraws to the international
border “no-one will question” our right to respond militarily if
attacked, and that “all our allies, even the French, absolutely will
back-up Israel when she has to hit back hard”.
Oh really? The Egyptian press and leadership, busy these months calling
Barak a Nazi (Al Ahram Feb. 13, Akhbar Al-Yom Feb. 19, October and Al
Ghomoriyyah Feb. 20, etc…), will endorse Israel’s right to self-defense
after we plunge all of Lebanon into three weeks of darkness? How about
President Chirac of France, who raked his foreign minister over the
coals for having the temerity to call Hizballah attacks “terrorist”?
And Washington? Two days of CNN pining about “wanton Israeli
destruction” in Lebanon and the Administration will be all over us,
pressing for our “restraint”. Remember the 1967 precedent: all the
international guarantees for our security “rights” proved worthless.
It would be so nice, and politically correct, to support a quick,
unilateral withdrawal, believing that this would solve Israel’s Lebanon
border problem. But we haven’t been in Lebanon all these years for no
good reason. Where-oh-where is the reasoned debate on this critical