Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Israel and Lebanon--Myths and Facts

I should have explained this yesterday. But I'm putting up these myths and facts because with what's going on today, it's important to learn the backgroud and history of Israeli-Lebanese relationship.maryt


“Israel's 1978 and 1982 invasions of Lebanon proved its aggressive intentions.”

Israel has long sought a peaceful northern border. But Lebanon's position as a haven for terrorist groups has made this impossible. In March 1978, PLO terrorists infiltrated Israel. After murdering an American tourist walking near an Israeli beach, they hijacked a civilian bus. When Israeli troops intercepted the bus, the terrorists opened fire. A total of 34 hostages died in the attack. In response, Israeli forces crossed into Lebanon and overran terrorist bases in the southern part of that country, pushing the terrorists away from the border. The IDF withdrew after two months, allowing UN forces to enter. But UN troops were unable to prevent terrorists from reinfiltrating the region and introducing new, more dangerous arms. It was this buildup that led to Israel's 1982 invasion.
Jerusalem repeatedly stressed that Israel did not covet a single inch of Lebanese territory. Israel's 1985 withdrawal from Lebanon confirmed that. The small 1,000-man Israeli force, deployed in a strip of territory extending eight miles into south Lebanon, protected towns and villages in northern Israel from attack. Israel also repeatedly said it would completely withdraw from Lebanon in return for a stable security situation on its northern border.
Israel pulled all its troops out of southern Lebanon on May 24, 2000, ending a 22-year military presence there. The Israeli withdrawal was conducted in coordination with the UN, and, according to the UN, constituted Israeli fulfillment of its obligations under Security Council Resolution 425 (1978).
Israel hoped the Lebanese government would subsequently deploy its army along the southern border to disarm terrorists and maintain order, but this has not occurred, despite criticism from the United States, the UN and Israel. “From a point northward, we make the rules,” said Lebanese Defense Minister Khalil Hrawi, “and from a certain point on in the south, there is no presence of the armed forces, and the Hizballah coordinates their actions with themselves." Thus, Hizballah continues to enjoy free reign and threaten Israel's northern border.

“Syria has been a force for stability and good in Lebanon. It has always respected Lebanon's sovereignty and independence.”

Damascus has a long and bloody history of intervention in Lebanon, and has made no secret of its hope to make its weaker neighbor part of Syria. Since the creation of contemporary Lebanon in 1920, "most Syrians have never accepted modern Lebanon as a sovereign and independent state."24 The outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975 gave Damascus the opportunity to act on its belief that Lebanon and Syria are one.

In 1976, Syria intervened in the Lebanese civil war on behalf of Lebanese Christians. By 1978, Damascus had switched sides, and was supporting a leftist coalition of Palestinians, Druze and Muslims against the Christians. Eventually, Syrian troops occupied two-thirds of Lebanon. Syria's deployment of surface-to-air missile batteries in Lebanon, and its policy of allowing the PLO and other terrorist groups to attack Israel from there, helped trigger the 1982 Lebanon War.

During the first week of Israel's "Operation Peace for Galilee," in June 1982, Syrian troops engaged in battles with Israeli forces. The Israelis destroyed or damaged 18 of the 19 Syrian missile batteries and, in one day, shot down 29 Syrian MiG fighters without the loss of a single plane. Syria and Israel carefully avoided confrontations for the remainder of the war.

Nevertheless, Syria found other ways to hurt Israel. In 1982, Syrian agents murdered President-elect Bashir Gemayel, who wanted peace with Israel. Two years later, Syria forced President Amin Gemayel, Bashir's brother, to renege on a peace treaty he signed with Israel a year earlier.

Syria's activities were aimed not only at Israel, but also at the West. In April 1983, Hizballah terrorists, operating from Syrian-controlled territory, bombed the U.S. embassy in Beirut, killing 49 and wounding 120. Six months later, Hizballah terrorists drove two trucks carrying explosives into the U.S. Marine and French military barracks near Beirut, killing 241 Americans and 56 French soldiers.

In 1985, Hizballah operatives began kidnapping Westerners off the streets of Beirut and other Lebanese cities. From the beginning, it was clear the Syrians and their Iranian collaborators could order the release of the Western hostages at any time. For example, when a Frenchman was kidnapped in August 1991, the Syrians demanded that he be freed. Within days, he was. Most of the hostages were held in the Bekaa Valley or the suburbs of Beirut. Both areas were controlled by Syria.

From 1985-88, Amal Shiite militiamen, closely aligned with Syria, killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians in attacks on refugee camps.

In October 1990, with the West's attention focused on Kuwait, Syrian troops stormed the Beirut stronghold of Christian insurgent Gen. Michel Aoun. Besides battle deaths, approximately 700 people were massacred. With that blitzkrieg, Damascus wiped out the only remaining threat to its hegemony in Lebanon.

On May 22, 1991, Lebanese President Elias Hrawi traveled to Damascus to sign a "Treaty of Brotherhood, Cooperation and Coordination" with Syrian President Hafez Assad. The agreement states that Syria will ensure Lebanon's "sovereignty and independence," even though Damascus is being allowed to keep its occupation army in that country.

A hint of Syria's real intentions came from Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas several weeks before the treaty's signing. Tlas predicted that unity would be achieved between the two countries "soon, or at least in our generation."

Since signing the treaty, Syria has kept a tight grip on Lebanon and ruthlessly suppressed challenges to its domination.

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