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Israel's attempts to end guerilla activity originating in Lebanon have a long and sad history. Each attempt has brought a fresh entanglement and another reason for different groups into use Lebanon as a base for attacking Israel. The occupation of Southern Lebanon as a 'Security Zone' in 1982, after the "Peace to the Galilee" campaign, was supposed to ensure tranquility. But Peace for Galilee brought no peace, and the security zone brought no security. Instead it proved a rallying point for Lebanese resistance. The Iranians were quick to take advantage of the situation and the weakness of the Lebanese government, and to foster a Lebanese Shi'ite group known as "Hizballah," the "Party of Allah." Hizballah has claimed at different times that its goal was the elimination of Israeli occupation in Lebanon, and at other times, its spokesmen claimed that the organization is bent on the elimination of Israel. In practice, both Syria and Iran have used the Hizballah to further their own political ends.

In 1995 and 1996 Iran and other states and groups alarmed at the progress of the peace process stepped up activities of the various guerilla groups, including the Hezbollah, the Islamic Jihad Suicide Squads and the Hamas, resulting in numerous terrorist attacks on civilians in Israel. The strategy ultimately worked, as the Labor Party lost the elections in May of 1996 and the peace faction of the Labor party, represented by PM Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin, architects of the Oslo accords, was eventually more or less discredited within the Israel Labor party.

Hezbollah Katyusha rocket attacks on Northern Israel were  part of the concerted effort of the refusal front, or perhaps in an effort by the Syrians to pressure Israel regarding concessions in negotiations over withdrawal from the Golan Heights, Syrian territory that Israel has occupied since the 1967 war. In the Spring of 1996 the situation had become intolerable, especially in view of the upcoming elections. The Israeli government could not fail to react to repeated attacks that caused extensive damage to property as well as civilian casualties. Accordingly the Israeli government approved a massive bombardment of South Lebanon, known as Operation Grapes of Wrath, resulting in numerous civilian casualties in Lebanon and a massive, though temporary, flow of refugees to the north, away from the security zone.

On April 26, 1996, U.S. Secretary of State Christopher was able to bring about an understanding between Israel, Lebanon, the Hizballah and Syria that effectively ended Operation "Grapes of Wrath". The Israeli government of course, would not admit that the Hizballah are party to this agreement, since officially one must not negotiate with terrorists. The references to "Lebanon" in the agreement are pro forma. In actual fact the Syrian army, which occupies eastern Lebanon has some control over the Hizballah and complete control over the Lebanese government. 

The agreement has been honored more in the breech than in the observance. Each side "understood" the "understanding" in the way most convenient for themselves, resulting in absolute misunderstanding. As of June 1999, the Labor party, with different leadership, is was in power in Israel, Israel remained in Southern Lebanon, Hizballah rockets fell periodically on Israeli towns, Lebanese civilians die as the result of Israeli reprisals, and the Hizballah vows to continue the armed struggle to end the occupation, or to end Israel or whatever their actual goal might be. Everyone is quite satisfied with  this "understanding," except the people living in the south of Lebanon and the north of Israel, and occasional tourists.

The understanding is reproduced below, along with a letter to PM Peres from Secretary of State Christopher.

The Grapes of Wrath Understanding

The United States understands that after discussions with the governments of Israel and Lebanon and in consultation with Syria, Lebanon and Israel will ensure the following:

1. Armed groups in Lebanon will not carry out attacks by Katyusha rockets or
by any kind of weapon into Israel.

2. Israel and those cooperating with it will not fire any kind of weapon at civilians or civilian targets in Lebanon.

3. Beyond this, the two parties commit to ensuring that under no circumstances will civilians be the target of attack and that civilian populated areas and industrial and electrical installations will not be used as launching grounds for attacks.

4. Without violating this understanding, nothing herein shall preclude any party from exercising the right of self-defense.

A Monitoring Group is established consisting of the United States, France, Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Its task will be to monitor the application of the understanding stated above. Complaints will be submitted to the Monitoring Group.

In the event of a claimed violation of the understanding, the party submitting the complaint will do so within 24 hours. Procedures for dealing with the complaints will be set by the Monitoring Group. The United States will also organize a Consultative Group, to consist of France, the European Union, Russia and other interested parties, for the purpose of assisting in the reconstruction needs of Lebanon.

It is recognized that the understanding to bring the current crisis between Lebanon and Israel to an end cannot substitute for a permanent solution. The United States understands the importance of achieving a comprehensive peace in the region.

Toward this end, the United States proposes the resumption of negotiations between Syria and Israel and between Lebanon and Israel at a time to be agreed upon, with the objective of reaching comprehensive peace.

The United States understands that it is desirable that these negotiations be conducted in a climate of stability and tranquillity.

This understanding will be announced simultaneously at 1800 hours, April 26,
1996, in all countries concerned.

The time set for implementation is 0400 hours, April 27, 1996.

Letter: Following is the text of a letter written by U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher to Prime Minister Peres on 30 April 1996:

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

With regard to the right of self-defense referred to in the Understanding dated April 26, 1996, the United States understands that if Hizballah or any other group in Lebanon acts inconsistently with the principles of the Understanding or launches attacks on Israeli forces in Lebanon, whether that attack has taken the form of firing, ambushes, suicide attacks, roadside explosives, or any other type of attack, Israel retains the right in response to take appropriate self-defense measures against the armed groups responsible for the attack. With regard to the prohibitions on the use of certain areas as launching grounds for attacks, the United States understands that the prohibition refers not only to the firing of weapons, but also to the use of these areas by armed groups as bases from which to carry out attacks.

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