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August 27, 1993 - Image 63

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-08-27

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Withdraw From Lebanon?

Israel's withdrawal from the
security zone is tied to progress
with Syria over the Golan —
leaving Israeli soldiers in the
political crossfire.

LARRY DERFNER

ISRAEL CORRESPONDENT

n the aftermath of
the seeming success
of Operation Ac-
countability, one
nagging question
remained: what
did the cease-fire mean to
Israeli soldiers in the secu-
rity zone of South Lebanon?
While Hezbollah had
been forced to agree not to
fire Katyushas at Israeli
civilians across the border,
what would its attitude be
toward Israeli soldiers on
Lebanese soil?
The answer came imme-
diately, in words and deeds.
Hezbollah leaders vowed
they would press the attack
against "the Israeli occu-
piers until we rid them from
Lebanese soil," and Syrian
and Lebanese leaders
encouraged them to do just
that.
Explosive devices set by
Hezbollah began turning up
with increasing frequency
inside the security zone, but
all were found in time and
dismantled by the Israeli
Army and its local militia,
the South Lebanese Army.
Time, however, ran out on
Thursday, Aug. 19, when
two Hezbollah bombs
exploded, killing nine
Israeli soldiers. It was the
single most lethal enemy
attack since Israel estab-
lished the security zone, as
a protective buffer for its
northern border settle-
ments, at the end of the
Lebanon War in June 1985.
Following the deaths, no
one in Israel seemed to be
talking about any response
other than going after
Hezbollah that much hard-
er. But, almost as an aside,
a number of cabinet mem-

An Israeli soldier observes
Syrian positions in Southern
Lebanon.

bers noted that as awful as
the killings were, the terms
of the July 31 cease-fire
with Syria and Lebanon had
held: Hezbollah had not
renewed its war across the
border into Israel.
This left open another
question, one that .isn't
being asked very much over
here, but which is worth
asking: Why are Israeli sol-
diers still in the security
zone at all?
Israel's policy there, as
stated by an official close to
Prime Minister Yitzhak
Rabin, is: "We have no claim
on South Lebanon; we have
no desire to be there. We
believe it is Lebanese soil,
and we would be more than
happy to leave this territory
tomorrow if we could reach
an agreement with Lebanon
guaranteeing that there will
be no attacks on our north-
ern settlements."
But this is precisely the
agreement that Warren
Christopher brokered to end
Operation Accountability,
and so far it has held up.
Why, then, are Israeli sol-
diers risking their lives in
South Lebanon? Why can't
Israel just pull out, or at
least negotiate a withdraw-

al on the basis of the cease-
fire agreement?
This would, it seems, be a
win-win proposition: Israel
would get its soldiers out of
danger, with a guarantee
for the safety of its civilians
in the north, while Lebanon,
Syria and Hezbollah would
rid the Israeli Army from
their midst.

Operation
Accountability has
halted Hezbollah
attacks on Israeli
border settlements
Israel's stated
goal in South
Levanon.

If the Arabs do not stand
by their word, Israel could
always send its troops back
into the security zone.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Shlomo
Gazit, a former head of
Israeli military intelligence,
said such an arrangement
could be worked out, and
that Israel should pursue it

instead of trying to defeat
Hezbollah on the ground.
"There is a pretty good
chance that the current
Lebanese regime, with
Syria's agreement, could
enforce such a commitment
(of stopping Hezbollah
cross-border attacks) to
Israel. But this cannot be
expected as long as Israel is
in the security zone," said
Mr. Gazit, now a senior
researcher with Tel Aviv
University's Jaffee Center
for Strategic Studies.
Mr. Gazit believes Syria,
which is the true sovereign
in
Lebanon, might well
agree to give the Lebanese
Army the go-aheadto shut
down Hezbollah in return
for Israel's withdrawal. And
hedoes not believe Syria
would necessarily demand
the Golan Heights from
Israel as its price.
"Syria is fully implement-
ing its agreements with
Israel along the Golan
Heights without our com-
mitment to pull out of the
Golan," he noted.
But Mr. Gazit's is a
minority view among
Israel's Arab affairs experts.
LEBANON page 64

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