Translation of an article to be published
in Ma'ariv on April 10, 2000
To leave but to stay
An Aching Tooth
by Uri Avnery
A Polish curse:
"May they pull out all your teeth and leave just one, - for Toothache!"
Some people want to act according to this curse -- against ourselves.
They propose to pull out all our military
outposts in Lebanon, but leave some of them on Lebanese territory. Wherever we
have "moved" the international border, let's leave the moved border where it is.
Meaning: let's leave a little bit of occupation on a little bit of territory.
Just one aching tooth.
Going back in time: In 1985 the
government was compelled to pull the army out of Lebanon. Ariel Sharon had
succeeded to arouse the sleeping Shi'ite lion, who had served as a doormat for
centuries. Thereupon the Shi'ite fanatics hit us so hard that we had to get out.
But we could not leave just like that,
with our tail between the legs, without some trick. Not we. Therefore the
government - led by Shimon Peres - decided to stay in a narrow zone in the
accursed country. Everybody applauded. What a wise decision!
I warned against this decision and found
myself alone. Under the headline "To leave but to stay" (Ha'olam Hazeh, 16.1.85)
I wrote: "A withdrawal to a new line in Lebanon will not put an end to the war.
On the contrary, it will intensify it." And a month later, during the actual
withdrawal, I wrote: "Partial withdrawal, total folly."
The Hebrew proverb says: "What the brain
does not do, time will do." Well, not necessarily. Now they want to get out of
the "security zone" too. But the wise guys want to trick again: to leave nearly
completely, to stay just a tiny little bit. Here an outpost, there half an
outpost. Thus they will provide the Hizbullah with a pretext for going on with
the war. The world will understand. The Lebanese government will be compelled to
agree. Assad will rub his hands. The Shi'ite population will continue to
sacrifice itself for the liberation of its country. And in the end, after many
more casualties (this time, civilians too) Israel will leave. Like it left Taba,
which also was an aching tooth.
If Barak will understand that in time and
retreat completely to the international border, who will occupy the land on the
other side? The Lebanese defense minister proposed to turn the territory over to
the Syrian army. In Israel, the reaction was hysterical. God forbid! We cannot
allow the Syrian to be on the border! Things did not quite down until the Syrian
foreign minister expressed his absolute opposition to the whole idea. In Israel,
nobody asked: Why? Why don't the Syrians want to be on the border?
We have been there before. In 1976, at
the height of the Lebanese civil war, the Syrian army entered Lebanon at the
behest of the Christians, in order to prevent the victorious PLO forces to take
over the country. When the Syrians moved south, hysteria broke out in Israel.
Orchestrated by defense minister Shimon Peres, in order to embarrass his
opponent, prime minister Yitzhaq Rabin, , his minions drew a "red line" and
cried: "We cannot allow the Syrians to go beyond it!"
I happened to talk with Rabin at the
height of that crisis. Obviously he trusted me not to publish his utterances. He
was bitter. "What stupidity!" he exclaimed, "The best that can happen is for the
Syrians to sit on the border. Then everything will be quite, like the Golan
But Rabin surrendered to the hysteria.
Israel published an ultimatum. The next chapter is well known: The vacuum was
filled by the Palestinians, South Lebanon became a PLO mini-state.
Now the same happens again.If Israel
retreats completely to the international border, the Hizbullah will probably
turn into a political-social force and turn its attention to fight for power in
Lebanon. The Syrians will not occupy the land, because they understand Rabin's
logic: If they will be on the border, they will be compelled to keep quite. But
the Syrians have no interest in a quite border, not until the Golan is returned
to them. Not at all. They will look for a substitute for Hizbullah and find it
in the Palestinian organizations led from Damascus.
Thus a new Palestinian mini-state will
come into being in South Lebanon, subservient to Assad and hostile to Arafat and
his peace policy. It will start a guerilla against the Galilee. Perhaps some
day, historians will say about Barak's advisors what they said about the
advisors of Louis XVIII: "They have forgotten nothing and learnt nothing."