23 years on… ‘Israel’ still dealt one mighty blow after another
Everyone agrees that ever since its forced withdrawal from Lebanon, “Israel” has grown weaker and weaker, and 23 years on, it is still haunted by the nightmare of being kicked out of Lebanon.
The Israeli decision to withdraw from South Lebanon in 2000 and how it was reflected on “Israel's” image, strength, and deterrence is still the subject of extensive debate among various top Israeli figures and institutions. Whether the withdrawal from the "Lebanese swamp" was the right decision or not is still contentious 23 years on, especially in terms of how “Israel” withdrew, how its image was tainted, and how its management was in shambles, thus turning the whole situation into a complete military, political, and moral defeat and humiliation for the occupying entity.
At the time, the scenes of the Israeli occupation army's rapid withdrawal under the cover of night, coinciding with its soldiers celebrating the withdrawal with a sigh of relief, sparked widespread anger and criticism within “Israel”, including among settlers, media professionals, and politicians.
Documenting "Israel's" last days in #Lebanon.— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) May 25, 2022
on May 25, the Lebanese were able to celebrate their liberated lands as the last Israeli soldier was kicked out of the cities and villages of western Bekaa and southern Lebanon.#LiberationDay pic.twitter.com/YpOkwpjegd
What made matters even worse for them was that this withdrawal coincided with the sweeping arrival of the Lebanese people side by side with the Hezbollah formations as they advanced further to liberate the sites and fortifications in the south.
Supporters of “Israel's” withdrawal decision within the entity deemed the continued positioning of the occupation in South Lebanon since the eighties of the last century was a fundamental mistake, as it led to the attrition of the Israeli army, without even succeeding in “protecting” the illegal Israeli settlements in northern occupied Palestine, which was one of their main goals.
In 1999, Ehud Barak upheld the slogan of withdrawing the Israeli occupation forces from Lebanon as part of his electoral campaign for prime minister. He promised at the time that, if he won the elections, he would have the Israeli army withdraw from Lebanon immediately and spare the Israelis all the incurred deaths and losses.
This step came in conjunction with the activity of social movements within the Israeli entity, which did, in fact, play a major public and media role in this context, spearheaded by the "Four Mothers Movement," which demanded the return of the soldiers that the Resistance had captured.
In an article he wrote in 2004 about the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and its implications on the relationship between the political and military milieus, Barak warned the political class in "Israel" against assigning impossible missions to the army, in a clear reference to the tough fait accompli imposed by the Resistance on the Israeli occupation army.
Despite this, Barak continued to deny that "Israel" actually withdrew under pressure and claimed that the withdrawal took place “only to prevent Hezbollah from exerting a pre-planned, targeted pressure," noting that there was no point in staying in Lebanon with all the deaths the Israelis incurred.
Others who oppose this view considered that the withdrawal, in the manner in which it was carried out, was more like a "great escape", and depicted "Israel” as a backstabber to all those who collaborated with it.
This view links the withdrawal from Lebanon to the outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada a few months after the liberation, by which resistance in the Gaza Strip intensified to unprecedented levels, with the fighters moving to targeting Israeli vehicles with explosive devices and firing rockets.
The open wound inflicted on Israeli occupation officers in 2000, as a result of their humiliating booting, was brought back to life by the scene of the humiliating withdrawal of the US army from Afghanistan in 2021, leaving behind thousands of collaborators, some of whom fell from outside the plane as they clung to it after they were left to face their own fate, just like their compadres in South Lebanon or in Saigin, then-Vietnamese capital.
This scene, which went down the lane of people’s memory, was discussed by a number of Israeli officers and media professionals who depicted that it – along with its impact on the consciousness of the peoples of the Middle East – constituted a withdrawal from a complex reality to another, even more, complex one.
The day after the withdrawal, Zeev Schiff, a military analyst for Haaretz, wrote an analysis titled "The withdrawal does not constitute an end to this conflict," in which he said, "The military leadership has become convinced that Hezbollah's return to its state of action in South Lebanon against Israel was just a matter of time and that Hezbollah will continue its operations against us under any possible pretext.”
He concluded his article by saying that the Israelis should understand that the withdrawal from Lebanon "does not necessarily mean an end to all the difficulties that the Israelis were facing on their northern borders."
The debate over whether the withdrawal decision was correct or not extended to include discussions over its feasibility more than two decades after it took place.
Accordingly, a large number of senior officers and experts within the Israeli entity believed that the withdrawal saved “Israel” from further drowning in the Lebanese “swamp” and spared it unbearable human losses, in light of the changes that occurred on several levels, especially the tremendous development of Hezbollah's capabilities.
Two days before the withdrawal of the last Israeli soldier from the occupied southern region of #Lebanon, more than 100 prisoners were liberated from Khiam prison after citizens stormed the facility and started to break the locks using whatever they could lay their hands on. pic.twitter.com/wFrv7Eqy4Z— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) May 23, 2022
However, others saw that the state of "imbalance" that hit the balance of power between Hezbollah, backed by all the Resistance factions, on the one hand, and "Israel", on the other, stems mainly from the humiliating withdrawal of “Israel” from Lebanon.
These same others saw that the current balance of power between "Israel" and its enemies, coupled with the multiple disappointments that the Israeli army was hit with in all the wars and battles it initiated against Lebanon and the Gaza Strip after 2000, would not have happened had it not been for the withdrawal from Lebanon in the [humiliating] manner it happened and its accompanying circumstances.
Former Chief of Staff of the Israeli army, Gabi Ashkenazi, tackled the situation in the period after the July 2006 war on Lebanon and said that “Israel” must achieve over its enemies “a clear-cut, unequivocal victory” in the sense that it is clear who won and who was defeated. "This is because the Middle East is not fond of those who are hesitant and only appreciates the triumphant," he added.
The Israeli war in 2006 on #Lebanon was a resounding failure for "Israel" and a victory for the #Lebanese Resistance. This is what Israeli officials and generals admitted to back then. #JulyWar pic.twitter.com/xFMdPeMo3h— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) August 1, 2022
Perhaps Ashkenazi's words echo across the halls of the military and political leaders in "Israel" at every possible or actual round of confrontation with the Resistance only to remind them that their ability to make a decision is a bygone.
Whatever the debates and areas of disparity within the Israeli occupation entity against the backdrop of the withdrawal from Lebanon are, there exists an equation that everyone there agrees upon, which is that “Israel”, after the withdrawal from Lebanon, has become weaker than ever, and that Lebanon, from which it fled under the cover of night, is a nightmare that continues to haunt its thoughts.
Some Israelis have placed their bets that the withdrawal from Lebanon would ease the Resistance and discourage it from accumulating more strength… yet, 23 years later, they stand awe-stricken by how the deterrence equation has evolved in favor of the Resistance.
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