Jerusalem, 28 July 1993

RABIN REMARKS TO KNESSET

THE FOLLOWING ARE EXCERPTS FROM THE POLITICAL STATEMENT ON THE ACTION IN LEBANON GIVEN BY PRIME MINISTER YITZHAK RABIN TO THE KNESSET TODAY (WEDNESDAY), JULY 28, 1993:

Mr. Speaker, Honored Knesset,

At this very hour, IDF forces are continuing to operate in Lebanon in order to guarantee the security and orderly lives of the residents of the north… The purpose of the current action in southern Lebanon is to restore security to the lives of residents in the north [of Israel], and we will continue this activity until we achieve our goal whether militarily, or through combined military-political efforts. All options are open to us in order to attain this goal, and let no one make the mistake of thinking that various reports will deter us. We are steadfast in our decision to continue acting to achieve our goal. (…)

The endurance of the people in the north during this difficult battle over their right to security would be impossible were it not for the strength and bravery of the soldiers of the IDF… It is they who now stand between life and death; between quiet and security on the on hand, and attacks and destruction on the Israeli-Lebanese border on the other in the face of Hizbullah terrorists who do not conceal their intentions and goals: to eradicate the security zone in southern Lebanon; to strike at the communities of the north, and to bring the peace talks to a halt. (…)

In recent years, since the creation of the security zone, no terrorist group has succeeded in penetrating by land into Israeli territory. All attempts at infiltration have ended at the security fence, whether within the security zone or to the north of it… Since that time, the price of security in the north has been paid by the 92 IDF soldiers and civilians who have fallen in combat and terrorist attacks as well as the almost 320 persons wounded in the security zone and in anti-terrorist operations.

The primary struggle today, in the Lebanese security zone and to the north of it, is against Hizbullah terrorists who are supported by the Iranians, though Palestinian terrorist organizations are also participating in terrorist activities.

Since the elections in Lebanon in September 1992, a change has occurred in the Hizbullah’s modus operandi in southern Lebanon.

The success of the IDF both within the security zone and to the north of it in preventing infiltration into Israel by terrorists has dealt Hizbullah a resounding blow within the security zone. Hizbullah has therefore directed its activities toward Israeli territory.

Following the effective actions of IDF and SLA forces against Hizbullah terrorists, the latter have fired Katyushas at communities in the north. Ma’alot and Shlomi, Kiryat Shmona and Nahariya, Margaliot and Avivim have become hostage to the Hizbullah Katyushas. Hizbullah has attempted to transfer the war from Lebanon to the children’s nurseries in northern Israel.

We, for our part, acted with restraint for some time. We hoped and expected that those with power and influence both inside Lebanon and without would limit Hizbullah activities and prevent them from striking at the communities in northern Israel if only out of the understanding that once Israeli restraint would end, the Israeli response would be harsh and painful.

This did not happen. Syria turned a blind eye, Lebanon did not lift a finger, and the Katyushas continued to strike at towns and villages in the north. The government in Beirut which is gaining in strength did not act against Hizbullah, which has controlled southern Lebanon north of the security zone for the past two years. What is more, the Lebanese government, which disarmed all the militias and gangs in Lebanon of their heavy weapons, did not disarm Hizbullah. In so doing, it encouraged the terrorists to act against Israel, again and again.

Hizbullah members, supported and assisted by Iran, were equipped in the past year with improved weapons: from long-range Katyushas to Sagger anti-tank missiles (which were fired at both IDF and SLA soldiers in the security zone, and at peaceful civilians in Israel).

In the wake of [weapons] fire at northern communities by Hizbullah and other terrorist organizations, the government decided to do everything necessary in order to restore security to the lives of residents in the northern towns and villages. This is the one and only goal of Operation Accountability which began on Sunday, and which is continuing at this moment.

It is our intention to restore security to the lives of the residents of the north by striking at Hizbullah, as strongly as possible. In order to facilitate this, the civilian Lebanese population in southern Lebanon is being urged to move northward, from the villages in which Hizbullah terrorists operate. The removal is intended to enable freedom of action in fighting the terrorists, without harming the civilian population. Following this action, we will give the Lebanese government and those who support it an opportunity to restrain the Hizbullah terrorists within the territory under the control of the Lebanese government. (…)

I want to clarify that it is not our plan or intention to remain silent in the face of the Katyushas fired at our northern communities. There will be no compromises regarding the security of the residents of the north;… there wil be no compromises in the war against the Hizbullah if they continue to strike at these communities. We will hound them everywhere, and none of them will be immune. We will strike at them ceaselessly and without mercy.

We have said repeatedly that, if security and quiet will not prevail in our northern towns and villages, there will be no security and quiet for residents of southern Lebanon north of the security zone.

We are saddened by the suffering of the Lebanese people who have taken to the roads… We may be pained by the sight of the Lebanese fleeing their homes, but I say once again to the people of Lebanon: Your government has the option of empowering the Lebanese military to prevent Katyusha fire at Israel. Only if fire at the Israel’s northern communities will cease, will you be able to return to your homes in southern Lebanon.

We call today on the Prime Minister of Lebanon to take the initiative and prevent the Hizbullah terrorists from firing on IDF soldiers and Israeli towns and villages. We believe that the Lebanese Prime Minister, with his army and his people, are capable of this. (…)

It is Lebanon’s responsibility to do everything against Hizbullah the enemy that will eat it from within.

We have not overlooked the fact that, standing behind Hizballah, is Syria 30,000 of whose soldiers are present in Lebanon. It is the same Syria whose peace emissaries face us in Washington, and whose indirect war emissaries launch Katyushas from the heights of Nabatiya. This is apparently the Syrians’ way of exerting pressure upon us. We will not yield to pressure. We call also upon Syria to exert its ability and influence to prevent Hizbullah from attacking us.

Members of the Knesset,

Attention is naturally focused today on the events in southern Lebanon. And yet, this involvement does not cause us to forget the peace negotiations which are the central political goal of Israel. In the coming days, Secretary of State Warren Christopher will arrive here in an effort to advance the negotiations. We view the visit of the Secretary of State positively, and desire his success.

Efforts to advance the negotiations should continue in order that the goal of Hizbullah and the terrorist organizations the desire to sabotage any progress toward peace will not be achieved. We believe that the events in southern Lebanon will not impair progress in the peace negotiations; on the contrary, the clear message of our security-oriented determination to defend the lives of our citizens and to ensure the peace of our communities coincides with the steadfast message of our dedication to the peace negotiations.

With the assistance of the Secretary of State, we anticipate an attempt at dialogue with the Syrian leadership, which is capable of contributing to stability and peace should it so desire. We hope that the Palestinians will lend a hand in the effort to formulate the declaration of principles and, at the same time, that they will seriously consider the proposals for early empowerment which have a great and positive potential for all involved. And we hope that Jordan will continue its commitment and engage in the important matters of substance on the negotiating agenda. The struggle against terrorism in southern Lebanon can open the way for arrangements with the Lebanese government on security and other areas, as we have proposed during the negotiations. These are possibilities which must be fully examined. (…)