The Price of Israel's Unilateral Withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza

(Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center) Reuven Erlich - In the last decade, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the security zone in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. The two withdrawals were carried out on the assumption at the time that the advantages of withdrawing would outweigh the advantages of the status quo. In retrospect, it is clear that the withdrawals amplified the importance of Hizbullah and Hamas in the eyes of Iran and Syria. The withdrawals also increased the ability and motivation of those two states to use Hizbullah and Hamas as their proxies to exert pressure on Israel, not only through intermittent fighting with the IDF but also by threatening the civilians in Israel's home front by means of the rockets stockpiled with their support in Lebanon and Gaza. The withdrawals had a negative impact on the image of Israel, the IDF, and Israeli society. They were seen by the Lebanese, Palestinians, and the Arab world in general as evidence of Israeli weakness resulting from the pressures of terrorism and the weakened stamina of Israeli society. The withdrawals also enabled unprecedented amounts of weapons to be smuggled from Iran and Syria into Lebanon and Gaza. Israel's declarations that after its unilateral withdrawals it would respond quickly and decisively to terrorist attacks did not stand the test of reality. Israel's "proportionate" responses in both arenas did nothing to restrain terrorist activity. On the contrary, they were often seen as reflections of weakness. Two "corrective" wars were needed - the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. Israel has not altogether left either the "Lebanese swamp" or the "Gaza swamp," because fundamental changes in Israel's relations with its neighbors cannot be attained by unilateral withdrawals but only by political agreements backed by the willingness to use military force when necessary, and by support of the international community. Col. (ret.) Dr. Reuven Erlich served in Israeli Military Intelligence and as deputy to Uri Lubrani, Coordinator of Government Activities in Lebanon.

2011-06-24 00:00:00

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