Eight Questions for Barak on Lebanon

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

from Lebanon?


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

national decision?

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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