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memri
June 1, 2000 No.
97

Good Morning Hizbullah

Sever Plotzker is a senior columnist with the Israeli daily Yedioth Aharanoth and an editor at large for Economic Affairs. In a column titled" Good Morning, Hizbullah," on May 23, 2000, he draws analogies between the American experience in Vietnam and Israel's experience in Lebanon:

"The Comparison is Self-Evident."

"It was the same in Vietnam 25 years ago: The South [Vietnamese] army collapsed, the North [Vietnamese] army took over, the foreign advisors deserted in fear and the last helicopter loaded with officers and southern refugees lifted slowly from the roof of the American embassy, in a picture seen by the whole world, and took off to the United States for the last time."

"It was the same in Vietnam: The detailed withdrawal plan collapsed, the comrades-in-arms from the southern army were mostly abandoned, the refugees were hammering on the closing gates, and the generals who had lost the war continued to claim that all was well."

"The comparison is self-evident. The Americans, too, had no choice but to withdraw from South Vietnam just as we had no choice but to withdraw from South Lebanon. They too stayed there six years too long, sinking deeper and deeper into their March of Folly. They too, along with their southern allies, were defeated by partisan troops soaked with radical ideology. It was a humiliating defeat, which became a dramatic landmark in the life of the American nation. The trauma of the withdrawal from Saigon shaped the collective memory of a whole American generation. [Likewise,] the visions of the [Israeli] withdrawal from the Taybe command-post will not be easily erased from the consciousness of a whole Israeli generation. They will lie heavily on our hearts for years."

"But there is one difference. North Vietnam never posed a threat to the United States, [it] did not call for its eradication from the face of the earth the way Hizbullah calls for the eradication of 'the Zionist entity.' American steadfastness in Vietnam had a strategic goal -- to block the spread of Communism in Asia, [a goal which] it achieved. Today, looking back, one cannot find even a single reasonable justification for Israel's stubborn insistence on remaining in Lebanon. We could have run away from the 'security zone' like this half a year ago, a year ago, two years ago, three years ago or five years ago."

"We cannot compare the IDF's withdrawal from South Lebanon to its departure from the Gaza Strip. We left Gaza in the framework of the Oslo Agreement, in which the Palestinian national movement fully recognized the state of Israel and accepted Zionism. We left Gaza as winners in the historic meaning of the word. The IDF is leaving Lebanon empty-handed, without any understandings, agreements, [or] arrangements. The IDF withdrew, and that is all, hoping that the UN forces would somehow deploy in the area, and that, God willing, [the soldiers of] the Southern Lebanese Army would not be massacred."

"Now they tell us that the IDF's withdrawal was necessary because 'the Israeli home-front lost its endurance,' namely because of the citizens. The citizens are at fault, not the generals or the prime ministers."

"[This is] not true. The IDF is currently withdrawing from South Lebanon because it was defeated there by Hizbullah's determined fighting. The most high-tech military in the region, from Kamchatka [in Siberia] to Ketziot [Israel], the most well-trained and advanced military in the whole area between the Ivory Coast and the Palmachim [Israel] coast, had no tactical or strategic response to a small-group of fighters belonging to an extremist religious organization named Hizbullah. Chiefs of Staff and deputy Chiefs of Staff came and went, Defense Ministers and their deputies came and went, governments came and went, glorious military operations were carried out and forgotten, and nothing has changed on the Lebanese front; the same war, the same hot pursuits, the same indecision."

"More soldiers killed, more soldiers wounded, and more explanations with the aid of maps for why we cannot withdraw. Until all of a sudden, it was possible to withdraw. To withdraw today, in broad daylight, with our tails between our legs."

"Good morning, Hizbullah. Now, you are on our border."