I have the impression that even the most consistent members of the Israeli peace camp suffer from a conditioned reflex when it comes to Lebanon. This syndrome, it will be recalled, was discovered in the well-known experiment by the Russian physiologist Pavlov. Over a long period he accustomed his dog to eat a regular meat meal to the sight, shortly before the food was served, of a light flashing or to the sound of a bell ringing. While chewing the meat, the dog would instinctively begin to salivate. When the scientist subsequently flashed the light or rang the bell without always providing a meal, the dog continued to salivate. This shows that with dogs, or other living creatures, psychological processes may be at work, stemming automatically from previous life experience and habits.
The Israeli peace camp is not immune to conditioned reflexes. For over 30 years, we have been conducting a vigorous political and informational struggle on behalf of the need for a continuous Israeli peace initiative. The main slogan of this campaign is that Israel should openly declare its readiness to relinquish the territories won in the Six-Day War of 1967, in return for contractual peace agreements with our Arab neighbors: the Palestinians, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. It was according to this concept that in 1979 (too late) a peace agreement with Egypt was signed, in exchange for the withdrawal by Israel from the whole Sinai Peninsula in return for peace and demilitarization.
Only the adoption of this concept can assure stable peace between Israel and the Palestinian people: it demands the evacuation by Israel of most of the territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (including a clear section of East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley) in return for peace, with an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, which will perhaps agree in the future to establish federative relations with Jordan.
It was only because the Oslo agreement of 1993 for the first time opened a real process of Israeli withdrawal from the territories, that a feasible prospect emerged for a genuine and honorable peace between Palestinian sovereignty and Israel. It was only in the wake of such an Oslo process that Jordan could permit itself to sign a peace treaty with Israel, a year later in 1994.
On the other hand, it was only because of the crushing and destruction, by the Israeli government since 1996, of the process of withdrawal from the West Bank and Jerusalem that Israel once again has entered into an atmosphere of military nervousness. This is being expressed in tense relations with the Palestinian National Authority and in mutually rash deeds in South Lebanon, as well as by the superfluous Israeli squawking in the winter of 1998 over the Iraqi crisis.
It was in this tense atmosphere that a public and open call was recently heard for the State of Israel to withdraw at once and unconditionally from the "security zone" in South Lebanon. Some of those involved, like the "Four Mothers" movement, meant well, like most do-gooders; whereas others, like the Third Way party, which is mainly concerned with retaining the Golan Heights, and Ariel Sharon, were pursuing their own political interests.
It is hoped that this voluntary Israeli evacuation would pacify Hizbullah and put an end to terror and guerilla activities by it and by its partners in South Lebanon against the Israeli army presence there and against the State of Israel. Thus tranquility would be restored to the northern border between Israel and Lebanon like in the old days between 1948 and 1964. The "Four Mothers" is perhaps a naive organization which believes that withdrawing our soldiers from South Lebanon would put an end to the shedding of the blood of our sons in the "security zone." There is, however, no doubt that the Third Way, which has an obsession over Israel's holding on to the Golan Heights, is only crying for withdrawal from South Lebanon in order to divert public opinion from the really difficult dispute over the Golan Heights.
But what is the real situation? The present" Lebanese administration is today, to a large extent, under Syrian patronage. This development started in 1975 in the wake of the outbreak of the civil war in Lebanon after the Maronite president Suleiman Franjiyeh invited the Syrian army to help him suppress the Sunni Muslim and Palestinian elements. The Syrian patronage over Lebanon was increasingly strengthened and consolidated following the disastrous Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the not too dignified retreat of the Israeli army to the security zone in 1985.
All organizations fighting against Israel in South Lebanon are under clear Syrian patronage, while Iranian assistance can only reach these organizations through Syria. The Islamic-religious ideological slogans of most of these groups center around the "liberation" of Jerusalem (al-Quds, the Holy City). It is, however, clear that Syrian support for the terrorist actions of Hizbullah and its partners is mainly intended to exert consistent and constant pressure upon Israel, so that the latter will consent to withdraw from the Golan Heights in return for peace with Syria. This has been the Syrian policy ever since the Gulf War of 1991 and since the breakup of the U.S.S.R
There is, therefore, no prospect that a unilateral withdrawal of the Israeli army from the security zone in South Lebanon will bring quiet and security to our border with Lebanon. Without organized political peace and without the security zone, the terror will trickle over to the Israeli border itself, with our former allies from the Southern Lebanese Army (SLA) joining Hizbullah against an Israel which leaves the SLA to its fate.
So, what must Israeli policy be toward our Arab neighbors in the north? The decisive center of gravity should be Syria and, therefore, the Israeli government must first, publicly and openly, propose to Syria a full contractual peace agreement with Israel, in return for Israel's readiness to withdraw from the Golan Heights up to the old (1923) international border. The conditions would be identical with those determined by Israel and Egypt in 1979 in return for withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula.
Parallel to a peace agreement with Syria, or immediately following it, a full contractual peace agreement must be signed with Lebanon, with the support of Syria, to also include Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon, plus Syrian-Lebanese guarantees against the Islamic terrorist groups all over Lebanon, and appropriate arrangements for disbanding the SLA. Only in the wake of two peace agreements, with Syria and afterward with Lebanon, can Israel extricate its army from the Lebanese mud. Every Israeli government initiating this positive process will be worthy of the praise and will win the glory.