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Jüdische Weisheit

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Translation of an article to be published
in Ma'ariv on May 28, 2000


by Uri Avnery

The pictures from the Fatimah gate in Metullah was reminiscent of one of the most dramatic pictures of the 20th crentury: the flight of the Americans from Vietnam. The last Americans and their local mercenaries crowded on the roof their embassy in Saigon, fighting in despair for a seat in the last helicopters. A kind of aerial Fatimah gate.

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 "security zone".

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.

Get this article in Hebrew

Gush Shalom


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