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