The Lebanon Security Zone ? A Historical Retrospective

As a result of the recent fighting with Hizbullah, Israeli civilian deaths from Lebanon-based terror have skyrocketed in comparison to when Israel controlled the Security Zone in southern Lebanon.

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Yehezkel Laing and Baruch Gordon, | updated: 16:52

In the 15 years (1985-2000) that Israel controlled the Security Zone, seven Israeli civilians were killed from katyusha rocket fire. In comparison, in the first seven days of the current fighting after Hizbullah established artillery infrastructures in the former Security Zone, Israel has lost over 20 civilians. And that number is may continue to rise as rockets soar into Israeli communities.

The Security Zone was first established after Israel launched Operation Peace in Galilee on June 6th, 1982 to halt the incessant PLO katyusha bombardments of Jewish towns along the border with Lebanon.

The Peace of Galilee Operation ended in 1985 when the Israeli government withdrew troops leaving a small number of forces to maintain a 20-kilometer (12-mile) Security Zone to keep Israel's northern towns out of range of artillery fire.

In May, 2000, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak gave the order to liquidate the Security Zone and over the course of two days, the IDF fully retreated from Lebanon.

In the public debate which raged in the years preceding Ehud Barak's surrender of the zone, security experts warned that it would endanger Israeli lives, but these warnings were ignored by the Labor government which he headed.

Below are a selection of quotes from both supporters and opponents of Israeli retreat from the northern Security Zone.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak
April 7, 2000; Jewish Telegraphic Agency:

We will pull back to the border out of our interests, and we will defend Israel and its interests from within our borders. We don't have a claim on a single square mile of Lebanese territory. I don't think there's an immediate danger of any sort of conflagration…..

Meretz MK Yossi Beilin
December 24, 1998; Israeli Army Radio:

"The security zone in south Lebanon has proven it brings no security for Israelis, especially for the residents in the Israeli towns in the northern region."

Barak Government Cabinet Statement
March 5, 2000; CNN:

"The Israeli Defense Forces will [retreat from the Security Zone and] deploy on the border with Lebanon by July 2000 and from there will ensure the safety of the northern towns and villages,"

Prime Minister Ehud Barak
May 24, 2000; Cabinet Protocol:

"I believe that the security situation will settle down, even if there are a few incidents, which will bring security and a normal daily routine to the residents of the north."

Hizbullah leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah,
February 7, 2000; CNN:

"We're close to victory, we'll drive them (the Israeli forces) from our land."

Herzl Ben-Asher, Kiryat Shmonah [a northern town] city council member
March 5, 2000; Arutz-7:

"Years ago, the army was posted in Lebanon for a reason: to protect the northern communities - and the army leadership continues to feel that such should be the policy today. But yesterday, the entire government suddenly voted in favor of a withdrawal! Our political leadership has not made a security decision, but has capitulated to the Four Mothers and public pressure!"

Four Mothers founder Rachel Ben-Dor
March 6, 2000; Arutz-7:

"When the IDF - which, after all, is the best army in the Middle East - is deployed in large numbers on the international border [following the retreat from the Security Zone], we will hopefully be able to prevent and respond to such attacks."

National Union Party Knesset Member Effie Eitam
May 11, 2006; Yediot Aharonot:

"Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000. Now Hizbullah has over 10,000 missiles on the border pointed at us."

Caroline Glick
May. 31, 2006; Jerusalem Post:

"If before the IDF's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, Hizbullah and its state sponsor constituted a challenging, bloody tactical threat to Israel, today they are a strategic threat. In short, this week's story about the Zelzal missile shipment reveals what a terrible mistake Israel's retreat from south Lebanon was."

Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh
May 19, 2000; Yediot Aharonot:

"We are leaving because of problems with the ability of the Israeli public to stand firm. That is the whole truth. There is no point in pretending. "