- David M. Weinberg - https://davidmweinberg.com -

In retreat

Published in The Jerusalem Post on May 28 2000

When the French were forced out of Sinai in 1956, along with the British

and the IDF, they left in a show of force. First, they tripled the

French troop component in Sinai, then methodically packed-up every last

military screw. Then and only then, did the French marched out proudly,

flag flying high, lights blazing and loud-speakers blaring, belting-out

the French national anthem. The French bowed to political realities, but

wisely and demonstratively reminded everyone of their power. They left

with their national pride intact.


Israel, on the other hand, last week illustrated for the entire Arab

world and global leaders beyond just how pathetically weak we are. We

didn’t ‘withdraw’ from Lebanon. We fled in haste, fearing for our lives,

in a state of total military collapse, slinking-out in the dark of night

with our tail between our legs. No amount of revisionist spin by the

Barak government and its dutiful media cheerleaders can mask this



Hounded out by a rag-tag guerilla group, we ran like a coterie of

frightened escapees whose jail-masters looked the other way. The most

powerful, organized military in the Middle East – whose leadership has

been talking about leaving Lebanon for more than a year — was caught,

it seems, totally by surprise. All civilian support and security

networks in Lebanon collapsed within three days. Millions of dollars of

equipment was discarded and left behind. Worst of all, we cast aside and

betrayed our South Lebanese Army allies, left behind to be slaughtered.


Sure, the decision to pull out of Lebanon was ours, and in principle, it

may have been the correct decision. (Time will tell). And we have to be

thankful that our boys came home “without a scratch”. But that’s not the



The point is that we cut and ran instead of withdrawing proudly,

absconding the battle front — our nakedness for all to see. In the

Middle East, such debility can be deadly.


Why did this happen? Because we left for the wrong reasons. Israel fled

Lebanon not because the IDF felt this was the best way to defend

northern Israel from attack, but because our weary society could no

longer stomach the cost of its defense. Another sign of our infirmity.

This was a populist political, not a carefully-considered military,

decision – and the sad result shows. Decisions born of societal fatigue

and national irresolute-ness seldom pay-off.


The implications of this collapse? They are many and worrisome. To begin

with, the morale of our military is at a nadir. Don’t believe the

congratulatory pap features that filled the weekend tabloids. They are

no military heroes in this withdrawal. The IDF was humiliated last week

by a determined Arab civilian and guerilla force, and the army is



More disturbing is the pall that our disintegration casts on the entire

regional power structure. Despite the “credit” that owes to Prime

Minister Ehud Barak for keeping his word about leaving Lebanon

(“sticking to his guns” is the ultimate, inappropriate metaphor!),

Israel’s deterrent posture in the Middle East inevitably has been

weakened by the languid, populist background to, and the slovenly nature

of, the pull-out.


Of course, the pitiful course of events in Lebanon sets a pattern for

our next ‘withdrawals’ in the West Bank and Jerusalem. We’ve taught

Yasser Arafat exactly what to do: start marching on Jerusalem, PA troops

covered by thousands of Palestinians civilians from the refugee camps,

with dozens of TV cameras covering every step. Arafat and his cheering

masses of women and children will parade into our capital, just as

Hizballah did in Lebanon, taking over the south without firing a shot.

Will we open fire on the Palestinian masses determined to ‘liberate’



But the worst consequence of last week’s humiliation rests at home. Our

retreat in the north conditions us for further retreats. Like we’re set

on auto-pilot, travelling on a set course that leads only to further



The People of Israel is in retreat: sociologically (raging violence in

the schools and in the home, rising drug use, rampant corruption, fading

commitment to Zionist ideals, etc.); spiritually (declining religious

belief and practice, disappearing spiritual guides of any stature,

growing religious obscurantism and blindly-dogmatic secularism); and

therefore – we are also in retreat territorially. Who will halt the