Eitan Haber
Photo: Shalom Bar Tal

Good riddance, Lebanon

On 10th withdrawal anniversary, Eitan Haber says leaving Lebanon the right decision

On Monday we shall mark 10 years to the IDF’s departure from southern Lebanon, yet at this time we already hear talk of all the disadvantages of that “rash,” “urgent” and “foolish” withdrawal from that bloody strip of land.


Hezbollah can go ahead and set up 10 museums, but it will make no difference. The decision to leave Lebanon was Israel’s only, and the group’s attempt to attack our retreating forces failed completely.


While the Second Lebanon War marked partial success for Hezbollah, the withdrawal decision 10 years ago was the proper call, and no wise person regrets it.


Only (only?) 10 years have passed, and we already forgot the thousands of people whose heart missed a beat with every news update on the radio. We forgot the fatalities and the wounded, the ambushes and explosive devices and landmines, and mostly the bothersome question – what the hell are we doing in southern Lebanon?


The first and major error was made by Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, and Yitzhak Shamir, upon the IDF’s withdrawal from the Chouf Mountains in 1985. Why did they not order the army to withdraw to the international border? Why did we need the “security zone”? Today, 25 years later, we can only guess: The State of Israel and the IDF were unwilling to give up the appearance of victory.


A withdrawal to the international border at the time would have been interpreted as a hurried withdrawal and a Lebanese victory. Well, we just couldn’t afford it, apparently.


18 needless years

So we made do with the “security zone.” I remember Rabin visiting the border area in that strip a day or two after the IDF withdrew from the Awali River. We made our way through an unpaved road through the rocky landscape, finally reaching six soldiers on a mountaintop overlooking a hostile Lebanese village. They had no guard posts, no food, and no water. They had nothing.


“You’ll see,” Rabin said at the time. “The situation will force us to pave a road here, build outposts, and send in logistical convoys.” So why didn’t Rabin prevent it? This is the way of politicians, and now it’s too late to ask him.


Ten years have passed since the departure from Lebanon. For 18 needless years we averaged 25 fatalities and dozens of wounded per year, along with questions upon questions: What are we still doing in Lebanon? Who is the IDF protecting? Our northern communities? At the end of the day, the soldiers only protected themselves, and many of them – too many – paid with their lives.


We were right to leave Lebanon (just like we were right to leave Gaza and Gush Katif, but that’s a whole other story) and it’s a good thing that eventually we had someone who – too late, as always – took this brave decision. One can hate and curse at Ehud Barak for a thousand reasons. Yet not over the decision to get out of Lebanon. Oh Lebanon, Lebanon – good riddance.


פרסום ראשון: 05.23.10, 18:37
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