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Monday, May 17, 2010

Arens: No doubt about it: Withdrawing from Lebanon was wrong

Responding to an article in Haaretz that I blogged on Sunday, former Defense Minister Moshe Arens argues that withdrawing from Lebanon ten years ago was definitely the wrong move.
Let's look at the balance sheet for Israel during the intervening 10 years. The first item on the debit side is the betrayal of our allies, the South Lebanon Army. They had fought shoulder to shoulder with the IDF against Hezbollah for years, suffering considerably higher casualties than us.

They were peremptorily abandoned. Some managed to escape to Israel, while others fell into the hands of Hezbollah. Betraying one's allies is a serious matter. It will have long-term ramifications for Israel, which has no small need for regional allies.

Has anybody forgotten Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah's speech after the IDF's withdrawal, calling Israel no more than a spider's web? The image the withdrawal created, of Israel being forced to retreat under pressure, unable to hold out for an extended period of time, had almost immediate consequences, when Palestinian terrorists launched the second intifada with the aim of duplicating Hezbollah's success in the north.

Three years of bloody terror in Israel's streets followed that withdrawal. Whatever deterrent capability Israel possessed was lost to the winds and had to be restored at considerable cost.

And Hezbollah, which had ruled southern Lebanon until the withdrawal, began to take over all of Lebanon, its missiles deployed not only in the south.

This fundamental change in the strategic balance in the area, which has long-term consequences, was permitted to develop under the mistaken impression that the withdrawal had brought peace to northern Israel. Instead, it brought on the Second Lebanon War with death and destruction in the north. Not only is the threat still there, but it is growing all the time.

And what appears on the credit side of the balance sheet? The reduction in the number of IDF casualties, which had been running at an average of two soldiers lost a month until the withdrawal, and might well have continued had the IDF maintained its positions in the security zone.

But here too, the overall loss of life, after the withdrawal - during the intifada, and during the Second Lebanon War - makes for a very negative bottom line. The withdrawal, carried out for the wrong reasons, was the wrong move.
Indeed. But there's no question that it was popular and therein lies the problem. The expulsion of Jews from Gaza was also quite popular among the general population (not among Ariel Sharon's then-ruling Likud party, which is why he expelled the Jews and then formed his own party). The reason there has been no real push for a unilateral move in Judea and Samaria (other than the four towns that were wiped out with Gaza in 2005) is that having seen the consequences of unilateral movements and expelling Jews from their homes, no one here has the stomach to do it again. But if that ever changes and the public supports leaving territory for nothing, look for more of the same in terms of unilateral actions.


At 12:45 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

That's true... the only thing holding back Israeli politicians is how much they think they can get away with. Lebanon and Gaza were not terribly popular with the Israeli public. Whether Yesha can be saved from their mistaken appetite for a cost-free peace remains to be seen.

At 2:53 AM, Blogger g2loq said...

A feel good video:
Be advised, prepare:


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