The 1982 Israeli Invasion to Lebanon

  June 10, 2021   Read time 1 min
The 1982 Israeli Invasion to Lebanon
Israel invaded Lebanon on June 6, 1982, following an eleven-month cease-fire with the PLO, which Israel claimed had been broken by the attempted assassination of the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom Shlomo Argov, who had been badly wounded but survived.

It made little difference to the Israelis that the assassination had been carried out by a renegade Palestinian group led by the infamous Sabri al-Banna (“Abu Nidal”), a blood foe of the PLO. The invasion gave Ariel Sharon, then the Israeli defense minister, carte blanche to pursue his own dream of destroying the PLO as a political force in the region and putting in place a pliant government in Beirut that would become the second Arab state, after Egypt, to enter into a formal peace agreement with Israel. Within the Israeli government at the time—as within the American foreign policy establishment—there was little understanding of the developments under way among the Shi"i Muslims of Lebanon and no analysis was made of the impact of this invasion on them.

Even if Israel had not launched its invasion of southern Lebanon in 1982, the young would-be revolutionaries among the Shi"a would have pursued their path of emulating Iran’s Islamic revolution. Undoubtedly, however, the invasion pushed the Shia further in this direction, creating conditions for the establishment and flourishing of Hezbollah. The former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak put the matter succinctly in July 2006: “When we entered Lebanon . . . there was no Hezbollah. We were accepted with perfumed rice and flowers by the Shia in the south. It was our presence there that created Hezbollah”. As Barak’s comment suggests, by occupying Lebanon rather than promptly withdrawing, Israel wore out is warm welcome and provided a context for Hezbollah to grow.

Another Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995, made precisely the same point in 1987, speaking of how Israel had let the “genie out of the bottle.”2 When Rabin asked to see me in December 1984, I urged him to leave Lebanon because a continued Israeli presence would inevitably radicalize the Shi"i community. He replied, to the best of my recollection, “Professor, I am a politician, and what will I say to the people of Kiryat Shimona when the rockets fall?” And so the die was cast.