Sarid Admits "Error" in Opposing Lebanese Withdrawal

Extreme left-wing MK Yossi Sarid (Meretz/Yachad) now says he "made a mistake" when he objected to the unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon - which likely led to the Oslo War and the 1,031 casualties.

, | updated: 12:01

The IDF withdrew from southern Lebanon in May 2000, 18 years after the Peace for Galilee War.

In an article for the Ynet site today, Sarid writes that he originally "was not enthusiastic, to understate it," over then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak's plan to quit Lebanon. He does not explain why he objected - "I had various reasons at the time, which, in retrospect, there is no need to bring up and discuss" - though he says that his residency in the northern-border community of Margaliot might have had something to do with it.

On the other hand, Sarid devotes two paragraphs to explaining why he might be mistaken in saying he was mistaken:
"Ever since the IDF withdrew, the hostile acts on the northern border have not stopped, Hizbullah has not laid down its weapons, and the violence has taken a heavy toll in blood - dead and wounded, soldiers and citizens. At this stage, I also have difficulty in evaluating the unilateral withdrawal's effect on the awakening of the second intifada [the Oslo War - ed.]. The Palestinians, for their part, insist stubbornly that the Israeli collapse in southern Lebanon is what restored a strong wind to the sails of the Palestinian resistance, calculating that if Israel can be forced to collapse and retreat in one place, why shouldn't it be possible to do push them out of another place as well?"

Sarid does not dismiss this logic - "It’s hard for me to decide, and the question of the influence [of the withdrawal on the Oslo War] will remain open until we know and understand more" - and even adds another point:
"In general, the impression is that the 'Lebanese test' is not behind us, and is actually still ahead of us. No one can predict what will be... The Lebanese Army has not yet gone southward to take up the positions in southern Lebanon, the area is still entirely 'Hizbullah-land,' and this dangerous organization is deployed on the border, equipped and armed from head to toe, with combat means that it didn't have before. The distances are greater [but] the threats are more acute."

Despite all the above, Sarid continues,
"I erred. The last five years were relatively quiet, and the northern border residents enjoy the quiet every day. I don't know if this situation will continue, but these five good years, which allowed the people of the Galilee to get out of the shelters, to breathe air and to gain strength - no one can take these blessed years from them... The retreat was a correct step, and it should be chalked up to all those who fought for it, and to Ehud Barak who executed it."

Twenty Israeli soldiers and citizens have been killed by Hizbullah terrorist fire since Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon five years ago. This is a much smaller rate than had been killed in the years preceding the withdrawal - but is also evidence that Hizbullah is far from having been neutralized.

It should further be noted that the terrorism and battles known as the Oslo War have exacted 1,031 Israeli, Jewish and other lives at the hands of Palestinian terrorists. Many analysts maintain that the Oslo War was a direct result of Israel's retreat from Lebanon.

The day after the completion of Israel's withdrawal, Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah declared, "The road to Palestine and freedom is the road of the resistance and intifada! ... All you need is to follow the way of the martyred people of the past who shook and frightened the entity of this raping Zionist community."

"Palestinian chairman Yasser Arafat concurred," wrote Michael Rubin in the Weekly Standard in July 2002. "Two months after Israel's pullback, Arafat turned down Israel's offer of a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, on 97 percent of the West Bank and Gaza and 3 percent of Israel proper. Instead, Arafat launched a war designed to strike not only in disputed territories, but also in Israel."

Gary C. Gambill, editor of Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, wrote last year that the withdrawal "in the midst of a bloody conflict with Hizbullah - and without even informal assurances of non-hostility from the enemy - is the most resounding "success story" in the history of the Arabs' conflict with Israel. It is no accident that, at [Hizbullah leader] Nasrallah's urging, Palestinian terrorist groups launched a holy war of unprecedented lethality against Israel four months later."

Last May, Shlomo Brom of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies wrote, "It appears that the withdrawal from Southern Lebanon had a great influence on the Palestinians. The withdrawal from Lebanon reinforced the perception among them that Israel is vulnerable to terrorism and guerrilla warfare, and that the staying power of the Israeli public has been damaged. This example encourages them to keep on with the struggle, based on the assumption that Israel's resolve will break first. In this limited sense, the unilateral withdrawal may be seen as having given the Palestinians an incentive to continue the violent confrontation."

In January 2004, after an IDF soldier was killed by a Hizbullah-fired missile, Labor MK Efraim Sneh said, "I warned Barak that withdrawal from southern Lebanon without an agreement [with Lebanon] would create a vacuum that would be filled by Hizbullah, but I didn't imagine that the consequences would be so grave."
In August 2003, after three straight days of Hizbullah attacks in which a 16-year-old Israeli boy was killed, IDF Maj.-Gen. Amos Gilad said, "The black predictions when we withdrew from Lebanon three years ago turned out to be rather optimistic."
Some analysts feel that Sarid's "admission" is timed to coincide with the planned retreat from Gaza, or with Ehud Barak's run for leadership of the Labor Party, or both.

Since the withdrawal, Hizbullah has been involved in major attempts to smuggle weapons to the PA, drug-smuugling into northern Israel, recruiting of spies against Israel, involvement in terrorist activities in Palestinian operatives in the West Bank, enabling Nasrallah to directly commission terrorist attacks against Israel in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and amongst the Israeli-Arab community. It has upgraded, both quantitatively and qualitatively, its military apparatus, tripling its rocket arsenal and adding hundreds of long-range rockets capable of striking targets deep in the civilian and industrial heartland of Israel.