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Why were Israelis bombed? Ask General Barak

Why were Israelis bombed? Ask General Barak
By Retired Colonel Charbel Barakat

During the war with Hezbollah, worldwide networks were showing live the Katiyusha rockets blasting houses and apartments in Haifa and beyond. Commentators were stunned to see the only nuclear power in the region and the winner over five Arab armies receiving wave after wave of rockets from a “mere Terrorist” organization, named Hezbollah. Analysts are scratching their heads wondering about the reasons why Hezbollah has been able to create a state in the state in Lebanon and transform southern Lebanon into a fortress threatening northern Israel into Haifa and “beyond Haifa” as Hassan Nasrallah enjoys repeating in his video-taped speeches. Surely, these images of destruction in Israel and Lebanon are troubling, particularly to those who lived similar days in both countries during the last two decades if not more. But the question today deserves an answer: Why were Israelis being bombarded and obviously why were Lebanese being submitted to air raids?

The question is not about the motives of Hezbollah, but about the fact that Israel, whose power is supposed to balance that of Iran and Syrian combined – in addition to Hamas- is now being cornered in a narrow balance of power with an organization across its northern borders? Well the short answer is simple: ask Former Prime Minister General Ehud Barak. As he engineered the post Security Zone policies of Lebanon and was the supreme commander in the withdrawal from that area in 2000, he is the one to question. Most Israelis and many Lebanese have forgotten the dilemma in the late 1990s when Israel was considering the surrendering of an area comprising about 15% of Lebanon, defended then by the South Lebanon Army, which was supported and supplied by Israel. The demonizing of the SLA during the last decade by Hezbollah, Syria and Iranian propaganda made it into a horrible “pro-Israeli militia,” accused of all misdeeds. This was not different from the accusations driven against the northern alliance in Afghanistan at the time when the Taliban where in control. International Jihadi propaganda raped the image of the SLA putting pressure on Israel’s political establishment and its media elite to do the same.

While the SLA was composed of Shiia, Druze, Sunni and Christians, it was the only force in Lebanon other than the inefficient Lebanese army at the time, to be multiethnic and multi-religious. Besides, and against all the self serving reports written by Israeli politicians to legitimize the demise of the group, the SLA had withstood all Hezbollah attacks since 1984 with the same courage that its predecessor the Free Lebanon Army FLA of Major Saad Haddad had practiced. The FLA and the SLA later were not “created” by Israel. They were formed at the request of the local populations, which resisted fiercely the onslaught of the PLO then of Hezbollah with their backs on to Israel. The areas defended by the SLA with Israeli support were stretching from Mount Hermon to the East to the south of Tyre on the coast. Its most northern tip was covering the top of the Jezzine Mountains overlooking the Bekaa and the south and cutting off Hezbollah in two. The so-called “security zone” with its 120,000 people and 3,000 soldiers was a free area of Lebanon, fighting the War on Terror with its villages and youth, and faithful to its ally Israel. Twenty three years of alliance stopped the Terrorists from the north to achieve full control of Lebanon, reach the depth of Israel and eventually blast their bombs inside the West and the US.

But as of 1999, Israeli bureaucrats decided to play with history and the fate of nations. So-called researchers and academics proposed to the Israeli Government of Mr. Netanyahu then to pull out from the Jezzine summits, only to allow Hezbollah to join forces from the Bekaa to the south, all the way up to Southern suburb of Beirut. In one day, the "bright elites" of paper analysis opened a path between the Mediterranean and Tehran overlooking Israel. Haifa’s fate was already sealed that day. I remember meeting with representatives from the Ehud Barak government months after and suggesting to leave the Lebanese resistance in south Lebanon to withstand Hezbollah. The SLA knows their language and sociology. Hezbollah, in all of its frontal attacks against the southern villages failed at the footsteps of the enclave. All what Israel had to do was to withdraw and keep the border open for logistical support for its northern neighbors. Barak’s coordinator for Lebanon railed the proposal and said: “we are leaving, the SLA will be dismantled and good luck for your people.” A southern Lebanese delegation told the Knesset, the Defense Ministry and many pro-Lebanon politicians that if Israel would dismantle the security zone, nothing or anyone will stop Hezbollah from reaching the borders and “in time” paralyzes northern Israel with rockets. Not to avail, for politicians, talking heads and other academics were full of themselves and their intelligence. Only a few brave Israeli men and women and a couple professors warned their Government and the elite that the “wrath” of abandoning the SLA will be huge. “Blood will spill in Haifa and beyond,” warned a southern Lebanese merchant as he left in exodus into Israel. The prophecy materialized in July 2006.

In May 2000, Ehud Barak, proud to dismantle the SLA and cut off the borders from the allied villages in the south of Lebanon, said he was faithful to an electoral promise made under international pressure. In a myriad of interviews he said he was keeping the Peace of Israel by evacuating the south of Lebanon. Ignoring history, geopolitics, and playing arrogance, he triggered the process to bring fire and death into the Galilee and way beyond in the early 21st century. By playing with the fate of the two peoples then, he was responsible for the drama today. By bending over to Hezbollah and abandoning his allies he was to Israel what US politicians were to America in the 1990s: No vision. Many so-called intellectuals in Israel railed the SLA, despite the brave attitude by good experts on Lebanon. They too bare responsibility in this bloodshed. I am sure they will deliver long speeches about how right they were and how inefficient was the SLA. Yes, they can do that, but we’re not in the pre-9/11 era anymore. Americans, Europeans, Indians, Russians, moderate Arabs and now Israelis have learned what we are all up against: Lethal Jihadists. And with the latter you don’t play politics. Today’s international policies and the US in particular want to support civil societies to resist terrorism. M Barak and his elites failed south Lebanon society and Israelis as well. Today, the IDF has hard time moving few inches in the once friendly security zone, why? Today the people of Nahariya and Haifa are tasting what the people of Marjeyun and Rmeish have felt and were accepting to live under: why? Because no one like the indigenous people can get rid of the Terrorists among them. The Cedars Revolution showed what the Lebanese people really want. Unfortunately it was failed, as one commentator wrote, by its own politicians and by the international community.

But as Israel and Hezbollah are at war again, we take the opportunity to alert decision makers in the campaign against Terrorism to the deep reality of the Middle East and Lebanon. Yes the Israeli army can eventually push Hezbollah away from its borders, and yes Hezbollah will rearm and strike back despite UNSCR 1701. But Terrorism can only be eradicated from Lebanon when its people would be enabled to take the control of its destinies. When the new generation of Israelis would realize, what were the consequences of General Barak’s condescending decisions towards Israel’s closer allies and admit it publicly, then Israel will have partners in Peace and maybe even allies in the future.

Retired Colonel Charbel Barakat is terrorism advisor to the World Council For The Cedars Revolution Canada, Toronto, author of the book Madamik on south Lebanon.