Israeli Withdrawal from Southern Lebanon
(May 24, 2000)
On May 24, 2000, Israel completed its withdrawal from Lebanon in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425, thus ending a 22-year military presence there since the First Lebanon War began in 1982. All IDF troops were pulled out of the region and all IDF and South Lebanon Army (SLA) outposts were evacuated and destroyed. No Israeli soldiers were hurt, despite fire from Hezbollah at different stages of the operation.
This background paper providesan overview of the Israeli withdrawal, implementation of Resolution 425 and the ramifications for the region:
The implementation of Resolution 425 constitutes an
important step forward, meant to bring about an end to the on-going terrorism
and confrontation on the northern border, and to facilitate further progress
in the peace process. Israel has reiterated that it remains committed to its
goal of concluding peace treaties with Syria and Lebanon, and will continue in its
efforts to achieve this.
Following the withdrawal, Israel hopes that peace and
security will be restored to both sides of the international border. Israel
further expects that the Government of Lebanon will take effective control of
southern Lebanon, confident that the UN and the international community as a
whole will undertake an effort to promote this goal.
Israel endeavored to carry out the withdrawal and the
full implementation of Resolution 425 in cooperation with Lebanon. However,
this option was not available, due to pressure brought to bear against Lebanon
by external parties. Israel then chose to carry out the withdrawal
unilaterally, rather than allowing its policy to be held hostage to the will
of these parties.
Israel is aware of the intention of various parties to
continue to wield the 'terrorist weapon' in Lebanon, even after Israel's
If, after the withdrawal, terrorism continues, Israel
will react forcefully, in keeping with its legitimate and internationally
recognized right of self-defense. This reaction will be directed against both
the terrorist organizations and those parties which extend aid to these
If any party encourages, aids or facilitates terrorism
against Israel from Lebanon following the withdrawal, Israel will view this as
a clear act of aggression, and will respond in the appropriate manner. Any
other country would act similarly under such circumstances.
2. The Implementation of 425:
Israel has announced that its withdrawal of forces from
Lebanon has been undertaken in full compliance with UN Security Council
Resolution 425 (1978).
In keeping with Resolution 425, Israel has redeployed
its forces along the recognized international border between the two
According to Resolution 425, the UN will take action to
fill the vacuum that is created following the withdrawal of Israeli forces,
and will deploy appropriate armed forces with the capacity to ensure the
return of Lebanon's "effective authority" in the area.
Israel expects that, subsequent to its withdrawal from
Lebanon and the restoration of Lebanese authority, the Government of Lebanon
will fulfill the remaining obligations of Resolution 425, primary among them,
the restoration of "international peace and security" to both sides
of the Israel-Lebanon border.
As part of its obligations under 425, the Government of
Lebanon will bear the responsibility for preventing terrorist attacks against
Israel from within its borders, as well as terrorist reprisals against
individuals in those areas from which Israel has withdrawn. Furthermore, as
long as other parties maintain presence and control in Lebanon, they also bear
responsibility for events in the area.
Following the stalemate of the Israeli-Syrian
peace talks, Syria is now conducting a diplomatic campaign to obstruct the
full implementation of Resolution 425, while continuing to view Lebanon as a
'bargaining chip' to further Syrian interests in its conflict with Israel.
Syria has been laying the groundwork for continued
attacks against Israel even after the withdrawal. To this end, Syria has been
preparing Palestinian terrorist groups for armed operations, and has given free rein to Iran and its Hezbollah proxy,
to establish and maintain an infrastructure meant to undermine stability and
bring about escalation and violence in the area.
Similarly, Syria is pressuring the Lebanese government
to raise a variety of objections as a pretext to obstruct and prevent a
successful implementation of 425. An example of this would be linking 425 with
an implementation of the "Right of Return" for Palestinian
'refugees' in Lebanon.
The Syrian objection to the implementation of
Resolution 425 independently of Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973)
(claiming that this would violate the 'unity of the negotiating tracks') is
unfounded. Resolution 425 was adopted in the limited context of the 'Litani
Operation' of 1978, and not as part of the overall settlement of the
Arab-Israeli conflict, which is to be based upon 242 and 338. Lebanese Foreign
Minister Bouez confirmed this in his address to the 1991 Madrid Conference, in
which he stated that 425 is to be considered a "separate and complete
The implementation of Resolution 425 has been a
long-standing goal of Lebanese policy.
A large segment of the Lebanese public and leadership,
from all of the country's various communities, opposes the Syrian attempt to
subjugate Lebanese national interests to the Syrian political agenda.
5. The International Community:
The Israeli withdrawal is being conducted in full
coordination with the UN, and constitutes an Israeli fulfillment of its
obligations under Security Council Resolution 425 (1978).
With this in mind, Israel has worked closely with the
UN, coordinating the withdrawal, marking the border and determining the
character of the future role of the UN
Interim Force (UNIFIL) which is active in the area.
Israel greatly appreciates the actions taken by the UN
prior to the withdrawal, and is confident that the Security Council will act
quickly to expand UNIFIL as called for by the Secretary General.
Israel has also briefed and coordinated its actions
with world leaders, in order to make clear its intentions regarding the
withdrawal and its future security options.
In discussions held with the highest political echelons
in the United States, Europe, Russia and Asia, Israel's positions were well
received, understood and supported.
Israel has made its position clear to all regional
actors, both directly and through third parties. Today, there should be no
room for misunderstandings or lack of clarity surrounding possible Israeli
actions and reactions stemming from events in the north.
6. The Population of Southern
Israel is morally and politically committed to the
safety and security of the soldiers of the South Lebanon Army (SLA) and the
civil administration officials who worked alongside Israel for many years to
protect the southern Lebanese population from the encroachment of terrorist
organizations. This commitment forms an integral part of the Israeli
government's March 5 decision to withdraw from Lebanon.
In this context, Israel is prepared to absorb any SLA
soldiers or civil officials who choose to relocate to Israel, together with
Israel is working closely with elements in the
international community in order to promote the welfare and safety of those
who decide to remain in southern Lebanon.
The restoration of peace and security to both sides of
the border requires the Lebanese government to move beyond the events of the
past, and to reintegrate the soldiers and citizens of southern Lebanon into
the fabric of Lebanese life.
The oft-repeated declarations of Hezbollah leaders,
stating their intention to 'execute' SLA soldiers following the withdrawal,
are intended primarily to obstruct the full implementation of 425. These
declarations stand in stark contrast to the feelings of the great majority of
the Lebanese public and leadership which strive for national reconciliation
after the Israeli withdrawal.
Together with its goal of achieving calm and tranquility
along its northern border, Israel also views this withdrawal as being a
catalyst for the achievement of peace with all of its northern neighbors.
All parties who are interested in promoting Arab-Israeli
reconciliation must remember that a stable Lebanon is an indispensable element
of a comprehensive Middle East Peace. Lebanon and Israel desire this peace and
the people of the region deserve it.
Sources: Israeli Government Press Office