Islam Times reports from Al-Manar: “To this day, I cringe with shame when I recall that night in May 2000. I cannot forget the Armored Corps soldier screaming into his cell phone: “Mom, I’m out.” I can’t forget the regional commander locking up the Good Fence gate behind him with a frozen expression; I can’t forget Four Mothers group members celebrating their political victory in a press conference (an odd one, to say the least) with the army chief and Northern Command head. In the face of these images, I also cannot forget (Sayyed) Nasrallah, who during the same hours likely polished his famous “spider-web” speech. He already knew that the withdrawal from the security zone was merely the beginning of a new chapter, rather than an end to the bloodshed,” Ben-Yishai wrote.
He said that the Israeli military and political levels had two options as the South Lebanon Army of collaborators collapsed. “Bringing in reserve forces that will retake the outposts and hold them until the government decides on withdrawal and until SLA members are evacuated to our territory in an orderly manner - a move that would have prevented the appearance of a rushed withdrawal, but could have claimed the lives of many IDF troops; or alternately, prepare for an early and quick IDF evacuation of the security zone, in line with the plan and without casualties. The IDF Northern Command was already prepared for implementing the withdrawal, including the demolition of IDF outposts. The Barak government therefore chose the second option.”
Ben-Yishai said that “at the same time, Hezbollah entered the SLA outposts and had a field day with the equipment and tanks it found. These scenes were the ones entrenched in the world’s collective memory, and also in our own collective memory, reinforcing the notion that the withdrawal from the security zone marked a victory for (Sayyed) Nasrallah and his men. The perfect and rapid IDF execution of the withdrawal and the quick redeployment in a new strategic line were only noted by those in the know and by military experts.”
The Israeli author suggested that the scene could have been different had “Ehud Barak
and his ministers listened to those who recommended that the withdrawal be brought forward once SLA’s moral collapse started to emerge. It may have been possible to carry out the withdrawal quickly and over one night in March or April 2000, with the IDF and SLA operating together, under the cover of heavy fire directed at Hezbollah facilities and launch sites. Hezbollah would have likely responded by firing rockets at the Galilee, yet the IDF’s heavy bombardment would have created a deterrent effect, as indeed happened six years later in the Second Lebanon War. However, it wasn’t done. And so, we were left with the media-covered disgrace, which we paid a high price for.”
Ben-Yishai also said that the “second Intifada broke out five months later, to a large extent because of the encouragement which Arafat and Hamas drew from the events surrounding the Lebanon withdrawal. Nine days later, Hezbollah ambushed and killed IDF soldiers, abducting three of them at Mount Dov. This is when the second error was made, and it was worse than the first one. Instead of responding “deep into Lebanon,” as Barak promised after the withdrawal should Hezbollah continue to attack Israel, we made do with a localized lukewarm response. Barak explains it by his wish to avoid intensive warfare on two fronts. He did not wish to open a Lebanese front while the IDF and Israel Police were trying to contain the Palestinian Intifada that just broke out, as well as the violent clashes vis-à-vis Arab Israelis in the Wadi Ara area.”
“The international backing that Israel could have used - because of the Lebanon withdrawal - for a harsh response against Hezbollah was wasted instead of being utilized. These facts, and the restraint shown by the Sharon government that followed Barak for years later, apparently reinforced the insight that Israel is a piper tiger among Nasrallah and his men, and marked the final death throes of our deterrence,” he continues.
Ben-Yishai expressed concern of seeing the Zionist entity falling under Hezbollah rockets in the future and suggested that Israel should seek a solution for this “problem” in Damascus and Tehran, with American help. “Yet should this fail, the other option is a well-planned military campaign, which will be launched before the rockets start to explode in our territory,” he concluded.