Eye On The Middle East Aug/Sep 1998
The idea of Israel’s making a complete withdrawal of its troops from southern Lebanon should cause a rousing celebration in Beirut and the Arab world. After all, withdrawal from south Lebanon has been the stated objective of the Lebanese for decades. For 20 years, the entire Arab world has held up the Israeli security zone in south Lebanon as odious proof that Israel is an expansionist state with evil intent toward its neighbors.
But, when the Israeli cabinet voted unanimously to unilaterally remove its troops and dismantle the security zone, there was no wave of excitement in Beirut. Incredibly, Lebanon said it would not consider taking back one square inch of its territory unless Israel withdrew entirely from the Golan Heights as well. That announcement identifies precisely who is in control of Lebanon. It is not the Lebanese. It is, rather, the Syrians, who occupy far more of little Lebanon than the Israelis ever have.
All Israel has asked in exchange for pulling out is that the Lebanese army stabilize the zone and provide assurance that Hizbullah terrorists will no longer use the area as a launching pad for attacks against northern Israel. In refusing the offer, the Lebanese claim that by stopping Hizbullah attacks, they would be protecting the lives of Israeli citizens—a prospect for which they seem to have little stomach.
All of which demonstrates for everyone to see that Lebanon, Syria, and the Arab League nations are more interested in prolonging the war with Israel than in having lands they claim to cherish returned to national sovereignty—in this case, Lebanon. Thus, the larger issue comes to the fore. Are the Arab nations interested in establishing “secure and recognized borders” in the region or annihilating Israel? With the evidence at hand, I leave the answer to you.