It has been 20 years since the last Israeli soldier left Lebanon, ending 18 years of hostilities that kicked off in June 1982 in a bid to curb the threat of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which launched attacks against the Jewish state from Lebanese soil.
For many, Israel’s decision to leave Lebanon was a move in the right direction. Yossi Beilin, who in 2000 served as minister of justice, was one of the most vocal voices in Israeli politics who advocated for the troop withdrawal.
Heavy Losses and No End in Sight
During the three years of savage battles, israel lost more than 1,200 soldiers. Over a thousand were killed after the two sides reached a ceasefire in 1985, with israel establishing a security zone in the south of Lebanon in order to contain the advance of the PLO and its allies – the Iran-backed Hezbollah and Syrian forces – towards the Israeli border. According to estimates, the war has also claimed the lives of 19,000 Lebanese and Palestinians, many of whom were civilians.
But the war also meant a heavy economic burden. Controlling some 10 percent of Lebanon’s territory, Israel pumped millions of dollars into the maintenance of the security zone and Beilin feared that a continual Israeli presence in the area might also lead to “an establishment of settlements [which will also involve heavy spending]”, just as was the case with territories captured from Syria, Jordan, and Egypt in the 1967 War.
Indeed, in 1982, after getting the blessing of…