How Israel Dug Its Own Grave in Lebanon

In a new book, the former Mossad commander in Beirut documents four decades of Israel's 'shameful attitude' and failed policies vis-à-vis Lebanon.

A former high-ranking intelligence officer in Beirut has written a book documenting four decades of bloody misdeeds and shameful acts perpetrated by the Israel Defense Forces. Among them, he accuses the Defense Ministry of abandoning members of the South Lebanon Army who came to live in Israel following the withdrawal from Lebanon.

In his new book, "Halon Lehatzer Ha'ahorit" (A Window to the Backyard ), Yair Ravid-Ravitz takes to task all those involved in the Lebanese quagmire - the political echelon, the Israel Defense Forces, the Defense Ministry and the Mossad. The book is published by Ophir Bikkurim.

Ravid-Ravitz, who during the mid-1970s was the northern district commander of Intelligence Unit 504, which is responsible for the operation of agents outside the country, says he took pains to develop ties with the Christian villages in southern Lebanon - ties which eventually brought about the Israeli-supported militia known as the South Lebanon Army. He also worked to build ties with the Phalange in Beirut.

The commander of the Mossad's branch in the Lebanese capital from 1982 to 1985, Ravid-Ravitz does not express remorse over events related to the Lebanese Christian Phalangist militia. He chastises decision-makers for giving the wrong impression of Christian militia leader Bashir Jumayyil and the murderers among him.

"I saw [Lebanese forces leader] Elie Hobeika's men sharpening their knives before they left to carry out the massacre at Sabra and Shatila, and I heard their declarations about their intentions to use nothing but white weapons - that is, knives," Ravid-Ravitz writes. "I didn't know what their destination was and the issue was not part of my job and business," he adds.

Ravid-Ravitz heaps blame on members of the Mossad's special relations branch who "in their ignorance made it possible for the Phalange to get the IDF to carry out for them the work of cleansing Lebanon of the Palestinian organizations and then backing out of their commitments."

He is also highly critical in the book of his comrades in Unit 504, accusing them of having "a disgraceful attitude" toward some of the SLA members, of "abandoning them," and of telling "a pack of lies."

Ravid-Ravitz says he is convinced that "the hasty escape" from Lebanon in May 2000 - a decision by then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak - boosted the prestige of Hezbollah, contributed to bolstering its power, undermined the deterrent force of the IDF, and even encouraged the Palestinians to begin the second intifada.

"It is not without reason that the secretary general of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, has compared Israel to disintegrating cobwebs," he writes. If they had asked him, he would have advised them to declare a curfew on the villages of South Lebanon, to collect the weapons and equipment, and to invite the SLA members to a respectable farewell parade."

Ravid-Ravitz - who today devotes his time to helping former members of the South Lebanon Army who are now living in Israel - further claims that many senior defense ministry officials have made their careers thanks to their ties with the SLA, but have since abandoned those who are now in distress. Over the years, he says, senior officers assured their partners in the SLA that, if the day came when Israel decided to leave Lebanon, the IDF would take care to provide for them.

"Were it not for the involvement of the members of the organization that helps the SLA members," he writes, "the SLA refugees would get mainly goats from the state." He notes that the defense establishment engaged in a policy of divide and rule between the former leaders of the SLA who did receive assistance and their junior colleagues who were forced to make do with assistance from the Immigrant Absorption Ministry.

Just as he was writing the last lines of his book, Ravid-Ravitz says, SLA refugees were informed that the state would stop paying their wages and rent, and that they would have get by on payments from the National Insurance Institute.

"I am afraid that many of the refugees from the lower ranks will not be able to cope with the burden and will find themselves on the street," he says. "An additional act of treachery on the part of the State of Israel."

A spokesman for the IDF said in response that "Unit 504 is in constant contact with the collaborators and people who were defined as having been rehabilitated, is well aware of their situation and takes steps to assist them to become integrated into the community in a variety of fields such as education, medicine and housing, while investing large sums of money in accordance with the rules of the unit and the regulations of military intelligence."

Still no majority

The data published by Haaretz last week regarding the loss of the Jewish majority among the 12 million people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea has sparked sharp responses on right-wing Internet sites.

Critics claim that in the amendment to the law aimed at raising the threshold of eligibility for tax benefits given to industrialists, the Finance Ministry does not provide data about the population in Israel and the territories. They also point out that the Central Bureau of Statistics' data does not note the fact that 12 million people live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, and that my calculation is baseless.

Indeed, the memorandum of the law does not provide details regarding the size of the population between the sea and the river, but this doesn't change the demographic reality.

Since I was accused of fabricating proof, allow me to lay out the data: According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, there are some 5.9 million Jews and 2 million non-Jews (including those in East Jerusalem ) living today in Israel. According to data on the official site of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, updated on October 4, the population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip stands at 4.3 million people. If we add the 2 million non-Jews living in Israel, and if the 300,000 East Jerusalem Arabs are deducted, one gets exactly 12 million. Of these, 5.9 million are Jews and 6.1 million are non-Jews. Incidentally, according to data from the United Nations, the number of residents in the Gaza Strip and West Bank is 100,000 higher than the number provided by the CIA.

Amos Biderman