The Lebanon Withdrawal—Looking Back Over Ten Years

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As I write these words, exactly ten years have passed since the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) withdrew from Southern Lebanon on May 24, 2000. It is a sad, although some might argue, bittersweet anniversary.

Israel had first entered Southern Lebanon in 1978 after a wide series of PLO attacks onto Israel’s northern border towns. They created a security zone around Lebanon’s southern border. According to internal Israeli documents, IDF soldiers were not permitted to act offensively, simply defensively after being attacked by the PLO or Iranian and Syrian backed Hizballah.
After a highly contentious internal domestic debate, the government of Israel, under Prime Minister Ehud Barak, decided to honor not only the letter, but the spirit of United Nations Resolution 425 and remove every singly soldier from the Security Zone in Southern Lebanon. Not only did they go south of the border, but they painted the stones along the border between the two nations blue. It was hoped at the time, that the IDF was never to venture north of the border again.

Also in accordance with resolution 425, the government of Lebanon was then to be responsible for restoring “international peace and security” to both sides of the border, and for preventing terrorist attacks against Israel from within its borders.

As soon as the last Israeli troop left, Syrian and Iranian backed Hizballah swooped in to fill the void. Unfortunately, although the pros and cons of the Lebanese withdrawal were internally, painstakingly and judiciously debated, and Israel ultimately decided to abide by the international community’s request, Israel’s withdrawal of Southern Lebanon has bee perceived, ultimately, in the eyes of most of the Arab and Muslim world as a victory for Hizballah.

Sheik Nasrallah of Hizballah suddenly became the folk hero of the Arab world. There were rock songs devoted to him. Sheik Nasrallah had become responsible, then, for doing something that none of the national armies had previously been capable of: driving the mighty IDF forces out. From then on, the mantra in Gaza and Judea and Samaria, or the West Bank, l was “nothing less than Hizballah”, meaning complete and total withdrawal.

The withdrawal was perceived in the eyes of radical Islam as a victory for their terrorist tactics. Not to mention that it was perceived as reinforcement for the hegemonic aspirations of the puppet-master, Iran. Iran has taken credit for every Israeli withdrawal because it has trained and equipped not only Hizballah in the north but Hamas in the South.

The irony remains that many, including President Obama, have stated that Israeli withdrawal makes it easier to gain international consensus against Iran, while ofcourse Iran sees each Israeli withdrawal as a victory for itself and its Hamas and Hizbollah puppets.

Today, in Lebanon, Hizballah is in the midst of frenzied victory celebration. University students are applauding as Hizballah terrorists sitting on Katusha rocket lanchers parade past. (

The proud and brave Cedars Revolution of Lebanon, or the March 14th Group, who wanted to rescue their country from under Syrian control has all but completely gone under cover, living in the atmosphere of fear and repression of the Syrian secret police.

Also happening today is the visit of Lebanese Prime Minister Said Hariri, who had been elected as a leader of the March 14th movement. However, since his election to power, Hariri was unable to form a government and has formed a unity government wit Hizbalah.

On June 7th, 2009, Saad Hariri travelled to Damascus, met with Assa, and effectively ended his anti-Syrian stance, opening the door to full scale Syrian and Hizballah capitulation.

According to a recent interview with US Army General Paul Vallely (RET), Syria has transported to Hizballah in Lebanon,  between 50 and 60 thousand scud missiles, which has been placed houses and orchards. ( He said that these missiles are mostly Shaab-3 missiles that have a 450 kilometer radius and are capable of reaching every Israeli single Israeli city.

General Vallely also reported that we have photos of a Soviet submarine docked inBeirut a few weeks ago with an Iranian flag on it, and the loaders were wearing gas masks, indicating, most likely that they were transferring chemical weapons.

Taking a page from Hamas, Hizballah has been digging tunnels under the fence separating Southern Israel and Lebanon, training hundreds of Hizballah youth to penetrate into Israel.

Hizballah has been putting the people of Lebanon in a total lockdown, exerting total control of the internet, and jailing anyone who has contact with Israel.

t is General Vallely’s feeling that the Israel’s northern border is heating up very quickly, and that Iranian government is planning a massive attack on Israel this summer, as a way to offset an Israeli pre-emptive attack on the Iranian nuclear project. He feels that they intend to attack Israeli runways as well as the Israeli ground force. He calls the summer of 2010, the Tipping Pint in the Middle East.

In the meantime, John Brennan, assistant to President Obama for Homeland Security and counterterrorism, said that the Obama administration “wants to build up the moderate elements within Hizballah.”

Where, may I ask, are the moderate elements of Hizballah? Just because they have seized control of the Lebanese Parliament, does not make them moderate, any more than the fact that because Hitler came in through a process of democratic elections, the Nazi party was moderate.

So on our tenth anniversary of the IDF withdrawal from Southern Lebanon, we are confronted with an emboldened Hizballah, an emboldened Syria and an emboldened Iran.

As Sir Winston Churchill said, “He who appeases the crocodile is only eaten last.”

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About the Author

Sarah Stern
Sarah Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

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