Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Adar 5759 - March 10, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Opinion & Comment
The Lebanese Quagmire

With saddening regularity, the debate about whether Israel should defend a security zone in southern Lebanon recurs. It is saddening because it is invariably prompted by a tragedy such as the recent deaths of several senior Army officers from a guerrilla bomb.

Dr. Yossi Beilin, a Labor MK who was one of the prime movers in the Oslo Peace Agreements and a protege of Shimon Peres, is invariably one of the loudest voices calling for a unilateral withdrawal to the international border. He argues that the guerrillas fighting in southern Lebanon have no interest in conquering Israel, and would not pursue the conflict if Israel left them alone by withdrawing to the international border. Even now, he says, the guerrillas could attack the northern Israeli communities, and they do not.

Those on the other side argue that the guerrillas have said that they do not recognize the international border, as a corollary of the fact that they do not recognize the State of Israel. They also point out that Syria is the real Arab power in Lebanon, and Israel's northern front heats up or cools down as it suits Syrian interests. Syria has every reason to continue the conflict, and its incentive would actually be increased by a withdrawal: such a display of Israeli weakness would encourage it to press the advantage.

The guerrillas of southern Lebanon are utterly dependent on Syrian good graces. Even those who do not take direct orders from Syria and are supported by Iran, receive their supplies via Syria. They cannot afford to ignore Syrian wishes. Thus, even if they were not inclined to continue to fight Israel past the northern border, they would find it hard to ignore Syrian requests to keep the pressure on Israel in general and in particular to satisfy Syrian demands for the unconditional return of the Golan Heights.

Most military experts are against a unilateral withdrawal without any political settlement. Labor leader Barak's promise that he would get Israel out of Lebanon within a year of being elected prime minister is probably just indicative of the fact that he has progressed in the transition from Army general to politician -- and that he recognizes that elected politicians suffer much less from breaking their promises than professional military men who can be fired.

The leadership of Dr. Beilin suggests that the crusade to leave south Lebanon is messianic in style, if not in content, much like the Oslo "peace process." Beilin's efforts, and presumably those of Shimon Peres his mentor, were not propelled by any analysis of the situation and the options, but rather by a blind faith that a solution exists and that one need only move "forward" in order to realize it.

In an interview (Ha'aretz March 7, 1997), Beilin said that he never had any plan or specific expectation of where the process would lead in the long run. He simply insisted that the solution does exist. "I want to live in a world where the solution to our existential problem is possible. I have no proof that this is really the case . . . I am simply not prepared to live in a world where things are unsolvable."

Though it has not religious content, this is a messianic position: it asserts that all big problems are solvable.

The flip side is that it negates the reality of exile. It cannot suffer the world of the Jew as it has been for almost 2,000 years, yearning for redemption but prepared to tolerate the difficulties of exile in all senses of the word.

And, we can assure Dr. Beilin and any followers he may have, that the end to our "existential problem" and all other such problems, will not come from a reckless insistence on "moving ahead" but rather only when "the spirit will be aroused from on high." In the meantime, of course, we must do the best we can within the practical realities.

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