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WITHDRAWAL?


Tanya Reinhart

Also

in "Yediot Ahronot", May 29.00 

(Notes added) 

Is

Barak determined to achieve peace, or is   he exercising Sharon’s plan

to withdraw from Lebanon and return under ‘better conditions’? The problem is

that nobody knows, not even the government which has exempted him from the need

to inform it on his Lebanese moves.

The

past week proved what we have known for a long time: the Israelis are fed up

with the war over Lebanon. On television, we saw the happy soldiers on the way

home. "Mom, I’m coming back", said one. Another smiled at the parades

of homecoming Lebanese: "So what if they are happy to be going back home?

So am I!" Parties were held in the discos of the north, and young people

were sitting on the road with musical instruments, signs saying

"peace!" and a Ping-Pong spirit. On the internet, people celebrated

the dismantling of the torture chambers of the Kiham prison, that dark stain on

our conscience.

But

there are still a few puzzling questions. A first wonder – how is it that the

border line has not been fortified and prepared? For a year, the government and

the army have been discussing the withdrawal from Lebanon and when the moment

came, it turned out that all that was done so far is to approve the plans. In

most areas, the work will take another year (1).

A

second wonder – how is it that there was not even a slight bargaining attempt

over the border line, which now passes in the middle of Manara’s water reserve?

There was not even bargaining over areas which were probably held by Israel

before 1978.

They

explain that the exact border line is not important now, because there is a new

concept of protecting it, even without a peace agreement: the concept of

deterrence with hard punishment blows on Beirut and Syrian bases. There is no

doubt, they say, that Assad will understand that he had better not retaliate,

knowing that the IDF is constantly maneuvering on the Golan-heights, preparing

for a war with Syria (2). But does anybody believe that while Israel bombs

Beirut, the Hizbollah or other organizations in Lebanon will wait for Assad’s

approval to send suicide squads across the unfenced border, to fire mortars at

the houses of the north, or missiles at Haifa?

And

a third wonder – how is it that the right-wing is not protesting? Sharon seems

to be furiously attacking Barak. But over what? Over the fact that Barak didn’t

send harder ‘preventive blows’ at Beirut before the withdrawal. As for the

withdrawal itself (to this implausible and unprotected border line) – Sharon is

warmly supportive.

It

is actually easy to understand Sharon’s stand. After all, he is the first who

proposed, three years ago, a unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon. By his plan,

such a withdrawal will provide Israel with the support of the international

community. Under such circumstances, the first slightest incident will be viewed

as a legitimate excuse for Israel to attack Lebanon and Syria with devastating

blows and return to Lebanon under better conditions. Whoever plans to go back

in, will not argue over the exact border line and will not invest time and

resources in fortifying this border for only a month or two.

But

Sharon isn’t the one conducting this withdrawal. It is Barak. Then, still, why

wasn’t the border fortified? There are two options: either there has been a very

big goofup, or Barak is executing, in practice, Sharon’s plan. Under the first

scenario, Barak is determined to achieve peace, which can explain goofups here

and there. Although it is Barak who suggested in 1982, in a memo to Sharon, to

extend the Lebanon war to a comprehensive war with Syria, he has come to his

senses since then.

In

the second scenario, Barak is the same Barak. Maybe he believes that it is still

possible to realize Ben Gurion’s vision according to which control of South

Lebanon is crucial for the future of Israel. Indeed the public is tired of the

price in casualties, but it will soon learn that without Lebanon there cannot be

quiet in the north, and missiles can land even in Haifa. Then the spoiled public

will learn that there is no choice, we have to go back to Lebanon. Yossi Sarid,

at least, has been warning for months that the road of unilateral withdrawal is

leading, in fact, back into Lebanon.

The

problem is that we have no way to know what goes on in Barak’s mind, because he

doesn’t share his plans with others. Democracy or not – Barak is known to be a

person who takes his decisions by himself. And we will go on not knowing. At the

security cabinet meeting last Monday, the cabinet authorized Barak "to open

fire whenever he sees fit", without having to reconvene the cabinet. From

that point on, our future depends on whether Barak has changed. Is it the same

Barak who wrote Sharon in 1982 that "it is possible to keep a very small

number of confidants who know the whole plan", and in any case, it is

worthwhile to hide the true intentions from the political level, with which

"it is difficult to discuss the matter explicitly and with clear

identification of the goals"(3)? Or it’s a new Barak, a peace seeking

democrat.

Only

a society which has forgotten what democracy is, will be willing to rest its

future on the hidden thoughts of a single ruler. Sharon needed to lie to the

government and bring only part of the 1982 war plans to its approval. This

government doesn’t even need to be deceived. It has exempted Barak in advance

from the need to inform it. Only one minister voted against this shameful

decision- Yossi Sarid.

======

(1) Alex Fishman ("An electronic fence with a human back", Yediot

ahronot, weekend supplement, p. b10, 26.2.00) reports that the plans include an

electronic fence, military posts on the border, new military camps, which

require paving new roads, and a series of works protecting the villages and

towns. If works is carried day and night, the electronic fence will be completed

in August-September. All the rest has mostly not even started yet, and will take

up to a year to complete.

 (2)

E.g. one report on the military preparations: NEW STRATEGY FOR LEBANON: THE DAY

THE FIRST KATYUSHA IS LAUNCHED Yediot Ahronot (weekend supplement p. B8,

26.5.00) by Ron Ben Yishai: "Last Monday, a large military exercise ended

on the Golan Heights. [...] The exercise was part of the IDF’s preparations for

the eventuality of an attack on northern communities or on IDF soldiers after

redeployment on the international border. To be more precise, it was a

preparation for the IDF having to put its reprisal plan, now lying on the desk

of the chief of staff and only awaiting the security cabinet’s approval, into

action.

According

to this plan, Syrian economic interests would be struck as well as the Syrian

army in Lebanon, among other places. This could lead to escalation, which could

slide from Lebanon into the Golan Heights: air battles, Syrian forces being

moved and maybe even a limited war…"(Electronic Source: ISRAEL NEWS

TODAY, 26 May 2000.)

(3)

The full memorandum that Barak sent to Sharon in 1982 was exposed in Haaretz,

January 8, 1999 by Amir Oren, and ‘not denied’ by Barak. Quotes are from there.