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Israel's Alternative Policy in Lebanon

Walid Phares

Policy Paper No. 78, 1999 


Following the collapse of Israel's policy in southern Lebanon since 1985, there has been an escalation of Islamist and Syrian pressure as well as international pressure, particularly Euro-American, on the IDF, to evacuate the so-called security zone. Since several Israeli governments have exhausted the possible initiatives derived from the implementation of UN resolution 425, (unilateral withdrawal accompanied by Lebanese government security guarantees), and the threats of massive retaliation in case of deterioration, the search for an alternative Israeli policy in southern Lebanon is a crucial, and essential option.

This policy paper explains the background of the security zone, its evolution in conjunction with the evolving geo-political context and the objectives of the various parties involved in the conflict. It outlines the strategic goals of Hizbullah, Syria, Israel and the Lebanese Christians. The paper explains the three options available and their consequences. Israel can remain in the security zone and choose not to find alternatives to its traditional policy. In this case, human losses and international pressures would increase, compelling Israel to adopt an alternative in the future, but in a less favorable context.

The second option would be to withdraw unilaterally to the international borders. Such a choice would lead to a strategic imbalance at the expense of Israel and its allies. First to be affected would be the Christian community in the security zone which would be irreversibly lost. Second, anti-Israel radical groups would move forward to occupy the security zone. And thirdly, Syrian domination of the borders would give Damascus an unparalleled advantage.

The third option is a strategic alternative to today's imbroglio. The alternative proposed by this policy paper is based on the:

  • Establishment of legitimate, democratically elected, political institutions in south Lebanon.

  • A phased IDF withdrawal, parallel to the transformation of the SLA into a national free Lebanese army capable of handling the threats of terrorist activities.

  • Transformation of the southern Lebanese political entity into a launching pad for an international campaign to liberate Lebanon from foreign forces and the Syrian occupation army in particular.

  • Establishment of ties between the free southern Lebanon and the Lebanese Diaspora.

This policy paper, which proposes Israel's security through south Lebanese self-determination, suggests a mechanism to implement the alternative policy, and a strategy to insure its success.

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