The Politics of Miscalculation in the Middle East

By Richard Bordeaux Parker | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
8
THE ISRAELI INVASION OF 1982

Vous avez raison, a dit a Guy Sitbon un combattant chrétien d'Achrafieh: nous sornmes fous. Mais c'est notre force.

Nouvel Observateur, July 20, 1978

The May 17, 1983, agreement between Lebanon and Israel, setting out the terms of the latter's withdrawal from the former, signaled what was to become one of the more important failures of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Although supported by a substantial portion of the Lebanese population, the agreement was attacked vehemently by the Syrians and their Lebanese allies and was eventually repudiated by the same Lebanese regime which had accepted it. This process was accompanied by a serious deterioration of the U.S. position in Lebanon, marked by the blowing up of the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Marine quarters at the airport and the final withdrawal of the marines in early 1984.

Secretary of State George Shultz, who had been instrumental in persuading the Lebanese to sign the agreement, appeared to take its rejection personally. Angered by Arab failure effectively to support it, he turned his back on the Arab world for most of the rest of his term of office. By the time he tried again to do something substantial about the Arab- Israeli peace process, in 1988, it was too late. He had neither the time nor the political support to make progress on the issue before leaving office.

The May 17 agreement was the fruit of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 1982. That invasion was itself a major miscalculation by Prime Minister Begin, who seems willingly to have let himself be misled by the minister of defense, Ariel Sharon. Between them they did not appear to understand the imbroglio into which they were immersing themselves or to have much concern about the many innocent lives lost as a result, although national and international reaction to the Sabra and Chatilla massacre may have been a factor in Begin's decision to resign on September 15, 1983.

The details of Israel's Lebanon involvement have been well described

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