Residents of the North will not return without a security zone

Tomer hu, CC BY-SA 4.0

Call him a “foolish disciple”; call him an “old-timer stuck in his ways”; say what you want. Yitzhak Rabin was a statesman, strategist, military commander, and a devoted and loyal Israeli. He always took responsibility, a value that is sorely lacking in the current government. He was a human being, one of us, who also made mistakes. No one is perfect.

The hard truth must be told. Israel’s security zone with Lebanon currently passes along the Amiad-Acre line. We have lost the Galilee. A few days ago, Kibbutz Ayelet Hashahar was hit by 30 missiles. FYI, the settlement is located near Rosh Pina. What is happening here, and how much more damage will be done?!

The glass half-full theory is that the event thankfully ended without loss of life. But one should also remember that this sigh of relief says nothing about what is yet to come. Add to this the shocking and ongoing statistic – 80,000 citizens have been expelled from their homes, and they have been displaced for several months.

I was the Assistant Minister of Defense and responsible for the civilian side of the Lebanese border when the decision was made to reorganize the northern border – to withdraw from the Awali line, establish the South Lebanon Army (SLA) liaison unit, and strengthen the South Lebanon Army (SLA). The decision was not easy. The implementation was difficult.

For 12 years, I participated in dozens of meetings, perhaps even more, with world leaders – with Presidents Reagan, Bush Sr., and Clinton in the US, with Mitterrand and Chirac in France, with British Prime Minister John Major and Shadow Prime Minister John Smith (Blair’s predecessor), and many others. Everyone urged Rabin to withdraw to the international border and give up the security zone. For years, he argued to the citizens of the State of Israel and world leaders: “If we unilaterally withdraw from the security zone, we will bring a disaster upon ourselves. The Shiites will sit on our fences and peek into the windows of the homes of Metula and Rosh Hanikra residents.”

And indeed, his decision to establish the security zone came with a very high cost. But he knew what he was doing. He understood the significance and stuck to his decision to protect the residents of the North. He was absolutely opposed to unilateral withdrawals without guarantees and security. For many years he suggested to the Americans, the British, the French, and other Western countries to send a real military force, and then Israel would immediately withdraw to the international border – “That way, there will be someone to protect Israel’s northern border. The UN is not capable and cannot protect the border,” he said, and he was right.

The number of dead and wounded that have been, and unfortunately will be, since Ehud Barak’s unfortunate decision to flee Lebanon while abandoning the South Lebanon Army, its officers, soldiers, and their families – is hundreds of percent higher than the losses that occurred during the 16 years of the security zone’s existence. Not to mention the terrible results we have experienced since the beginning of the Second Intifada – after the flight from Lebanon and after the failure of the Camp David talks.

We must go back and establish a security zone that will protect the lives of tens of thousands of residents of the North, its settlements, orchards, and factories. Without establishing a serious security zone, the North’s residents will not return to their homes.

The withdrawal from the security zone brought about the Second Lebanon War, brought about the strengthening of Hezbollah’s power, and caused irreparable damage. A sovereign, democratic state must protect its settlements and citizens. This is the role of the government and the Defense establishment, which has failed to protect the country for the past eight months.

About the Author
Shimon Sheves was General Director of the Prime Minister's office under the late Yizhak Rabin. He is currently the Founder and Chairman of HolistiCyber, which provides nation-state level cyber security solution.
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