Opinion |

Flight From the Enemy and Its Reward

The 2000 exit from Lebanon without an agreement remains the disaster that keeps causing more disasters for Israel

Israel Harel
Israel Harel
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Supporters of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Marjayoun, Lebanon, May 7, 2018.
Supporters of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Marjayoun, Lebanon, May 7, 2018. Credit: Aziz Taher / Reuters
Israel Harel
Israel Harel

On May 24, 2000, according to the evidence of the person in charge, one of the most important strategic moves in Israel’s history was carried out: the surprise disengagement from Lebanon, which was done in one night and without losses. The mastermind and implementer, then-prime minister and defense minister Ehud Barak, said the withdrawal would “drain the swamp” and “deny Hezbollah the legitimacy of an opposition movement.” In response to criticism that the manner of the withdrawal would undermine deterrence, Barak asserted that if the organization attacked again, “Lebanon will go up in flames.”

It has been 18 years and Four Mothers, a protest movement founded in 1997, isn’t throwing a victory party. The media has been struck dumb – the media that day and night blew wind in the sails of the misguided women, an ill wind that has resulted in the many disasters since that bitter and hasty day. Yes, we had to withdraw from Lebanon, it was essential to withdraw, but by an agreement and not in flight.

In light of the mentality of the region, flight leads to a plethora of disastrous results. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah expressed this with horrific clarity: “Israel,” he said at a victory conference only two days after the flight, “looks strong on the outside, but it’s as easy to destroy and subdue as a spiderweb . Israeli society will not withstand additional attacks of terror and missiles . It lacks the fortitude to withstand bloody battles and sustain casualties.”

Later Nasrallah called on the Palestinians to follow in Hezbollah’s footsteps. Due to Israel’s weakness when it comes to accepting casualties, he promised that the day of victory and liberation would eventually arrive.

The flight caused agitation among the Palestinians, who demanded that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat carry out Nasrallah-like operations. Arafat, who wanted to destroy the Oslo Accords with blood and fire, began a long and cruel war of terror.

Only two days after he launched his assault, and for the first time in the history of the state, the Israeli Palestinians followed suit. Thousands blocked roads in the Wadi Ara area, and the valleys were cut off from the plain. Car windshields were shattered and Jewish travelers were attacked. Communities were placed under siege, and police stations and government buildings were set on fire.

The Shin Bet security service and police intelligence – captives of the concept of the Arabs’ basic loyalty to the state – didn’t foresee the events and failed to send reinforcements for the few policemen who were threatened by thousands of rioters. The policemen were forced to resort to live fire, which killed 12 Arab citizens.

Barak, who once again couldn’t withstand the pressure, was forced to establish a commission of inquiry, but not to investigate the uprising and the cooperation between the perpetrators and Arafat, but to investigate the police whose lives were in danger. In Arafat’s war against the Oslo Accords, 1,056 Jews were killed, and they too are victims of the flight from Lebanon.

Immediately after that flight, Hezbollah seized control of the border with Israel and attacked the Shaba Farms area. Hezbollah later killed and kidnapped soldiers and civilians. In return, proving the truth of the “spiderweb” doctrine, Israel, in three disgraceful surrender transactions, released thousands of terrorists in return for one dubious Israeli and five bodies.

In the Second Lebanon War, which was also an inevitable result of the flight, 144 soldiers and 44 civilians were killed. Although Hezbollah strongholds were damaged, in our foolishness we let the organization recover. Today it has over 100,000 missiles, some of them aimed at highly sensitive targets. Even the Institute for National Security Studies, whose views are far removed from mine, claims that Hezbollah presents the greatest conventional threat to Israel.

This is only a sampling from the story of the flight, one of the hastiest and most bizarre acts in Israel’s history.

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