Everybody remembers that. But
few remember that during those very same days something happened
here: Shimon Peres, then defense minister in the first Rabin
government, appointed a Christian Major called Sa'ad Hadad as
commander of local mercenaries in South Lebanon, creating the first
A curious set of
circumstances: Just as the disastrous American adventure in Vietnam
came to a close, we entered our own Vietnam. As has been said:
"Fools learn from their own experience. Wise people learn from the
experience of others." We were not wise.
Neither were we wise in
January 1985, when we were forced to flee from the Shiite guerillas
in South Lebanon. We could have gone all the way to the border
fence. But the government was clever and again declared a "security
zone", engaging a mercenary force with the grandiose name "South
Lebanese army". How clever: To flee, but not altogether, to leave
some room for a new Shiite guerilla.
Soon after, it became clear
that this was a terrible mistake. At the time, we could still leave
in a dignified way. Instead, our generals, as generals all over the
world are prone to do, shot their mouth off. We shall destroy,
annihilate, pulverize, win a big victory. The mighty Israeli army
shall not run away from a handful of Shiite terrorists! They
conveniently forgot that we had already run away from a handful of
Shiite terrorists, all the way from Beirut to the Beaufort.
We could get out of Lebanon
ten years ago, five years ago, one year ago. But we were not wise.
Until Barak came and
announced in advance that he would bring the boys home from Lebanon,
once and for all. He even fixed a date: July 2000, exactly one year
after the formation of his government. He could, of course, have
ordered the withdrawal immediately after coming to power, surprised
the enemy and exploited the shock in order to get out rapidly. Why
didn't he? Because he wanted to leave in an orderly way, in the
framework of an agreement with Syria.
That was logical - on
condition. On condition that he was ready to pay the price, namely
the Golan. All of it, to the last millimeter. As Begin did in Sinai.
But Barak was not ready for that. He got stuck in the last hundred
yards from the Sea of Tiberias. Whatever happened this week was the
result of that. (An irony of history: the SLA refugees were
processed on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, exactly on the spot
that caused the Israeli-Syrian negotiation to fail.)
Hizbullah is a Lebanese
movement with its own political agenda. Its relations with Syria are
an alliance of convenience. The Syrians are using it in order to
give Israel hell and to compel it to leave the Golan. When Barak
refused to give back all the Golan, including the shore of the lake,
the Syrians have an interest in keeping our Lebanese border aflame.
There is one difference
between America's Vietnam and ours. When the American fled from
Saigon, they went home, with a big ocean between them and Vietnam.
We have no ocean. Hizbullah sits on our fence. What will happen now?
The population of South
Lebanon wants peace and tranquility. They want to live their lives,
as the did in bygone days, when this border was completely peaceful.
Hizbullah cannot ignore this wish. But Hizbullah will also be
subjected to Syrian pressure to go on harassing Israel, until the
Golan is given back. The struggle is not about the Israeli
settlements, but about the Golan. That's the name of the game.
It must be clear to
everybody: We have fled from Lenanon the way we did, under fire,
because of the Golan. If the inhabitants of Kiryat-Shmona and
Shlomit are living in fear, it's because of the Golan. And if Barak
and the Chief-of-Staff are threatening to bomb Syrian targets, if
there is shooting on the border, the resulting war-like situation
will be because of the Golan.
Now we shall have some weeks
of quite. Let's use them to make peace with Syria, with the same
resoluteness that was needed to get out of Lebanon.
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