Lebanon in the regional Israeli-Arab conflict:
Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire. During WWI Britain made promises to Sharif Hussein that if the Arabs revolted against the Turks, they would become independent. When this target has been fulfilled, Palestine was awarded to Britain, as a League Nation’s mandate and with Britain permission, Jewish Zionists were immigrating to Palestine on November 1947 the UN general Assembly the Partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab States. So the Arabs who constituted more than 90 % of Palestinian’s population and being the majority for over a thousand years had a better historical claim over Palestine than the Jews. Consequently, the Arabs opposing such partition, walked out of the UN General Assembly and Security Council declaring that such a decision was not binding to their governments. After disturbances broke out in Palestine, forcing the termination of the British mandate, the State of Israel was declared on May 14, 1948 with boundaries delineated by the United Nations. One result of the establishment of Israel and the ensuing of the Arab war, was the exodus of large numbers of Arabs from Palestine. A small number of these refugees were gradually integrated into the neighboring Arab states with the majority of them lodged in camps, particularly in Jordan, Syria and the Gaza Strip .
Lebanon has long occupied an important place in the Palestinian struggle. Over 350,000 Palestinians reside there and for some twelve years from 1970 until the Israeli invasion of June 1982, Lebanon served as the political and military center of gravity of the Palestinian movement. It provided shelter, a logistic base, and a departure point for military activities. In Lebanon, the Palestinians movement grew uniquely free to construct its own institutions, to promote its own identity and to choose its own Palestinian paths to the dream of national liberation.
Lebanon has always been something of battleground for regional, great and superpowers and its true that the PLO presence aggravated this. The PLO attracted greater levels of Israeli and Arab intervention in Lebanon. Besides, Lebanon’s weakness allowed Palestinian presence to grow, and eventually to become a source of conflict between Lebanon and Israel, since Palestinian guerrillas launched their attacks against Israeli targets from South Lebanon.
The Cairo agreement of November 1969 was a document of central importance to PLO policy in Lebanon. Under its terms, the PLO recognized the requirements of Lebanese “ Sovereignty and Security” and undertook to coordinate its activities from Lebanon with the Lebanese army. In exchange the PLO gained official recognition of the legitimacy of a Palestinian armed presence in Lebanon, freedom of movement in the “Arqub” district in the South and the establishment of autonomous institutions in the refugee camps.
In the late 1960s, the conservative Lebanese elite, Christian and Muslim viewed the growth of the Palestinian movement in Lebanon with increased suspicion. Palestinian military presence in Lebanon was welcomed by the Muslim-Left but rejected by the Christian-Right. Moreover, Syria had for years been providing the training grounds and the arms for the Palestinians and been the most outspoken champion of the Palestinians in the Arab and International arenas.
In response to these conflicting attitudes and behavior of the different parties, the PLO Fateh mainstream adopted two main sets of policies designed to reduce tensions with the Lebanese government and conservative parties. The first of these termed as strategy of “self- restraint” involved limitations on potentially provocative Palestinian activities. Regulation of the behavior of Palestinian guerrillas was done through their own military police, judicial systems and internal security forces. But such policies were limited in what they could achieve. They may reduce the intensity of a certain conflict but could not resolve it completely. Active Palestinian intervention in Lebanese political affairs, lack of regard for Lebanese sovereignty and poor public behavior of some guerrillas served to solidify opposition to the “fida’iyyin” and weaken the PLO’s own essential Lebanese popular base of support .
Lebanon in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict:
For the Palestinians, Lebanon had become important not as a military front, but as a headquarters for Palestinian diplomatic activity and a coordinating point for popular diplomatic and armed struggle in the occupied territories and elsewhere. All of this required a secure and independent Palestinian infrastructure. The situation in Lebanon was a serious one because for the Palestinians, Lebanon was a last refuge. It was the only country having a border with Israel that allowed them some kind of freedom to operate against it. Besides, the Lebanese authorities lost control of the camps and slowly the concept of “ a state within a state” gained credence.
PLO military activism in Lebanon was the major source of tension with Israel, but the immediate event that led to the Israeli invasion. On March 11, 1978, eleven guerrillas belonging to Fateh organization set out from Damour on the Lebanese coast and landed on the Israeli coast. They killed a woman then continuing on to Tel Aviv – Haifa they hijacked a bus, killed and wounded a number of people. When the incident was over, 34 Israelis had been killed and 74 wounded.
The Israeli government decided to react with a large-scale military operation in South Lebanon. On 15 March 1978, the Israeli troops briefly occupied the Southern border zone of Lebanon driving out the PLO forces. The original objective of the “Operation Litani” was the establishment of a security belt which goes a long the border to a depth of 10 Km. Known as the “ Security Zone.”
It is worth mentioning that there was a great symbolism in Israel’s selection of the code name for its military operation. “ Operation Litani”. The Litani River, Southern Lebanon’s principal lifeline had been always desired by Israel. Even before the creation of a Jewish State, Jewish agency was pressing the Foreign Office to include the Litani Area in the British Mandate as an essential economic component of the “ National Home”.
Before discussing Resolution 425 of the Security Council, and that was issued as an international reaction to this invasion, it is important to discuss a number of factors that contributed to issuing this resolution, holding in mind that the US had always disabled the Security Council when trying to issue a resolution that would punish, restrict, sanction, or threaten its ally Israel.
Evidently, one of the most important factors that contributed to Resolution 425 was the cooperative and friendly atmosphere during the Security Council debates. The probabilities of reaching a resolution were increased significantly due to such an atmosphere during the debates. Secondly, the varied and versatile the personal talents and attributes of the Lebanese delegate to the Security Council, namely ambassador Tueni, were crucial to the success of adopting a resolution”. Thirdly, the disagreement among the superpowers at that time was minimal, which resulted in less disputing over the issue of the invasion, and which created a uniform position among the permanent members of the Security Council. This is not to mention the fact that the interests of the superpowers, that is, the US and the USSR were close on the issue of the Israeli invasion in Lebanon, which made Resolution 425 possible to issue. Finally, the high level of international support that Lebanon enjoyed during the invasion contributed to a pressing sympathy that made the Security Council issue the Resolution with determination.
Israeli’s invasion of South Lebanon on March 14, 1978 was expected by the Lebanese government. The 11 March attack on Tel-Aviv that killed 32 Israelis was launched from the Lebanese coast, and Israeli retaliation was expected to be very strong. Immediately after the invasion, the Lebanese government was facing a dilemma. On the one hand, it had to raise a complain to the Security Council, but on the other, it had to avoid an American veto that would render the Security Council incapable of resolving the crisis.
Moreover, the internal situation in Lebanon was itself a limitation to the Lebanese diplomatic efforts to secure a Security Council’s resolution. Most Lebanese parts feared that the presence of the international peacekeeping forces might not be restricted to the South alone, but might also extend to include other parts of Lebanon where the civil war was still active. Moreover, the mechanism organizing the function of the peacekeeping forces and the nationalities of these forces were also seen as a problem, not only to the various Lebanese sides, but also to international powers such as the USSR.
Before initiating any diplomatic moves, the Lebanese government realized that it had three problems to deal with. The first was to reach a final decision in defining its need for peacekeeping forces in the South. Secondly, the government had to establish a diplomatic policy through which it would secure a decision making at the Security Council. Finally, the Lebanese government had to maintain its diplomatic moves while taking into consideration the regional and international changes. These changes included the ongoing peace process between Israel and Egypt; the influence of the Lebanese civil war on the situation in the south; and the mobilization of Arab support to the Lebanese complaint at the Security Council despite the divided status of the Arabs.
Upon establishing these conditions, Lebanon began one of the largest diplomatic movements in its history. In dealing with the Arab states, the Lebanese diplomatic initiative emphasized the sovereignty of Lebanon in the face of Israeli invasion without going into depth about the PLO flexibility in the South, since this was one of the major issues on which the Arabs differed. Consequently, Lebanon was able to win the diplomatic support of the Arabs states. Even the PLO supported the Lebanese position despite its reservations about the presence of the peacekeeping forces in the south.
Similarly, diplomatic contacts with the major powers emphasized the importance of maintaining a peaceful resolution in the region. France and Britain both supported the Lebanese diplomatic movements but showed reservation as to the function of the peacekeeping forces in the south, preferring to wait until the situation clarified. European countries also responded positively to the Lebanese diplomacy, especially Italy that openly abhorred the invasion as a threat to the sovereignty of an independent state and a member of the United Nations. Obviously, the Lebanese diplomatic moves that were initiated at this stage clarified the situation more to the government. It was clear that little support could be gained if the Lebanese demands were radical. Eventually, a moderate compromise was to be demanded, especially that the situation was delicate, since it was directly related to the Middle East crisis.
On the Security Council level, the Lebanese government divided its diplomatic movements into two stages. In the first stage, the government filed a complaint to the Security Council against Israel, without requesting a meeting. The logic was to avoid an American veto, and to make sure that a decision was going to be made. Once sufficient support and enough guarantees were made, the Lebanese government proceeded to call for a Security Council meeting. Diplomatic efforts aimed at the US, emphasized the importance of bringing back order to South Lebanon so as a veto would not be made by the US or the USSR. Once these efforts were made and their goals accomplished, the government proceeded to call for a Security Council meeting. From then on, the burden of diplomacy would fall on the Lebanese ambassador to the UN, Ghassan Tueni.
One of the basic factors leading to the success or failure of negotiations and bargaining is the negotiator himself. Governments spend a great deal of effort and time in choosing their delegates whenever negotiation and bargaining are involved. The negotiator is considered to be a political and diplomatic investment on the part of the government. The first attribute that a negotiator has to enjoy is his ability to understand the scope of the situation, that is, to understand all the aspects of the conflicts, and the underlying causes of attitudes and behaviors. Therefore, the negotiator has to be an expert at understanding human psychology in order to assess, evaluate and determine the psychological attitudes of his counterparts. At the same time, he has to possess the ability to understand the subtle politics of each government. Negotiators are human beings, but they do not only represent their personal weaknesses and strengths, but also those of their own governments. Needless to say, social and cultural attributes of the negotiator tend to influence his thinking, attitudes and behaviors during negotiations. Similarly, the ability of the negotiator to communicate with counterparts; that is to understand their point of views and statements, and to make them understand his, are among the most valued assets of the negotiator.
The role that Ghassan Tueni played in the issuance of Resolution 425 can be considered as a rich case study in which the personal, psychological and social attributes of the negotiator are considered among the leveraging assets of the government involved in the process of negotiation. Ghassan Tueni is considered to be one of the most popular and experienced journalists. As the owner and editor of a conservative daily newspaper (Al-Nahar), Tueni eventually developed a very wide perception of the Lebanese and Middle Eastern crisis. A negotiator should have full knowledge and deep understanding of all the issues that are involved in the crisis before hand. During the Security Council debates, Tueni utilized his experience in politics as a journalist to avoid mixing between the Lebanese-Israeli crisis and the Middle-Eastern question. Indeed, Tueni emphasized on the crimes involved in the invasion, through his famous debate, entitled “Let my people live”. This was a peace cry addressed by Tueni to the World Community through the Security Concil. It calls upon all the peace loving countries and friends to save Lebanon a Member State from a suffering situation. Because he did not want Lebanon to remain the only country for other people’s conflict, he went and raised the matter before the Security Council . In the 19th of March 1978, Resolution 425 was voted by the Security Council. It calls upon “Israel to immediately cease its military action against Lebanese territorial integrity and unconditional withdrawal of its forces from all Lebanese territory.” And, it led to the creation of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) which was to assist the Lebanese government in restoring its sovereignty through the peace building and peace making. In this presentation, Tueni isolated Lebanon from the Middle-Eastern question and emphasized the human rights of the Lebanese civilians, who were suffering from civil war and Israeli invasion. Tueni was thus able to discredit the Israeli claim of invading Lebanon to save the Lebanese from PLO guerrillas. He was also capable of presenting the Lebanese complaint as a humanitarian cause that could not tolerate any controversy or conflict. In an unprecedented move that shows expertise and political insight, Tueni even convinced the Security Council to issue the resolution draft before the speakers finished their discussions, interventions, debates and comments. This was unanimously approved on the basis that an early resolution would bring the crimes against Lebanese civilians to halt. Tueni’s ability to evoke the personal human feelings of the Security Council delegates was certainly successful. He brought in front of them not a political case that can tolerate delay or negotiation, but rather, an explicit aggression against human rights of innocent civilians in the face of an organized army. While in the face of a political issue, the Security Council might have shown reluctance, in a case of crime against humanity, the Security Council had no choice but to issue the resolution, despite all Israeli attempts to connect the invasion to the Middle Eastern question. The tactic that Tueni used in his debate was to evacuate the political nature of the crisis and emphasizing the humanitarian instead. Moreover, Tueni also succeeded in avoiding any political confrontation between the members of the Security Council. For example, had the complaint taken a political trend, conflicting ideas between the US and the USSR may have prevented the issuance of the resolution, or in the best cases, the issuance might have been postponed until all parties had presented their points of view. Issuing Resolution 425 by the Security Council represents an assertion of Tueni’s personal attributes on all levels, that is, the personal, psychological, and cultural levels. Tueni’s contribution to Resolution 425 is one of other factors, such as international support that Lebanon enjoyed.
It is one of the rare events at the Security Council that a resolution be reached on a major crisis taken in the Middle East, mainly due to the wide gap among the perspectives of the major powers and the countries of the region. When the Israeli troops launched their attack leading to the occupation of South Lebanon in 1978, they were not only invading a neighboring country under the title of national security. They were also breaching one of the most important laws among nations, that of sovereignty and independence. Since 1945, weak nations have perceived the United Nations as the acceptable international and legal medium through which disputes could be resolved. Lebanon, being the weak victim in the assault, was identified with by world nations that perceived the Israeli invasion as a threat to the international custom that calls for respecting the sovereignty and independence of other states. Attacked by its stronger neighbor on the basis of national security, Lebanon did not need much time to win the support of world nations, including superpowers.
National security as a justification for invading other nations has always been perceived with suspicion and fear by most world countries. In fact, it is a double-edged policy that can also be used to pursue aggressive policies onto other nations. Aware of this, world nations were impulsive in mobilizing international support for Lebanon against Israel.
By looking at the votes at the end of the debates, it is noticeable that not one single member voted against the resolution, except for two, namely, the USSR and the Czechoslovakian delegates who abstained from voting. Throughout the debates, it was evident that all the members of the Security Council had adopted supportive stands with regard to the Lebanese complaint. Hundreds of civilians were killed daily, and the international community was convinced that a decision had to be taken in order to bring an end to the bloodshed as soon as possible.
Although Resolution 425 is considered to be one of the few resolutions made by the Security Council on a major Middle East issue with the consent and approval of all the member states, controversy is often raised as to whether the interests of the superpowers were actually shared with respect to the crisis. For three decades, the USSR and the US had not been able to agree on the Middle East question, especially that the two superpowers had very diversified interests in the region. Historically, the US was allied with Israel against the Arab attempts to end the Palestinian crisis through force. In all the wars fought between the Arabs and the Jewish state, the US had openly supported Israel militarily and politically, to the extent that the veto power used in the Security Council to prevent any punitive measures against the aggressive Israeli policies was taken for granted by the Arabs.
On the other hand, the USSR was allied with Syria and the PLO, both of which were considered leftist forces in the region. The USSR supported its allies with all political and military support necessary to continue in their hostile policies towards the west and the US in particular.
When the Israeli invasion started on March 14, 1978, the two superpowers reacted in almost the same way, that is, openly reflecting that Israeli troops had to unconditionally withdraw from Lebanon. Even though the reactions were similar, the objectives and motives underlying these reactions were totally different. On the one hand, the USSR feared that an international intervention in Lebanon would eventually undermine the capability of the PLO to act in South Lebanon against Israel. If a UN peacekeeping force was to be sent over to South Lebanon, the PLO forces would certainly be shaped and limited, thus limiting the Soviet influence in the region and its capability of intimidating Israel and the US interests. Consequently, during the debates at the Security Council, the USSR delegate made it clear that it objected to the intervention of international forces, especially if these forces were to be peace-enforcing troops. In such a situation, the function of these troops might extend to demilitarize the PLO troops, which was inconsistent with the Soviet plans for the region. At the same time, the USSR was concerned that the ineffectiveness of the Security Council might paralyze international pressures on Israel, and might consequently assert Israeli presence in the South. In such a situation, the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) might be easily able to subdue the PLO guerrillas, something which was inconsistent with the picture that the Soviets drew in their plans. Eventually, when the draft of the resolution was finally reached, the Soviet Union could neither accept nor reject it. Refusing the resolution could endanger the PLO and accepting it would also lead to the same result. However, since Resolution 425 was not clear as to the role of the UN troops in South Lebanon, nor was it comprehensive in explaining the exact mission of these troops, the Soviets felt that it was unlikely for the US to plan for a peace-enforcing mission for the UN troops. This particularly would weaken the American plans for the peace settlement in the region. As a result the USSR did not support Resolution 425, but it did not reject it either, choosing to abstain from voting, together with the Czech delegate.
On the other hand, Resolution 425 found its way into being without being vetoed by the US government for a number of strategic causes. First of all, the US was still busy with the peace negotiations taking place between Egypt and Israel. The US feared that the invasion of Lebanon could have negative outcomes upon the attitudes of the Arab countries towards the peace process. American policymakers believed that the success of the Camp David talks may eventually attract other moderate Arab countries to peace talks with Israel. However, with an Israeli invasion of South Lebanon, this was almost impossible. Hence, when the US voted for the resolution, its major interest was the continuity of the peace talks with Egypt, as well as in attracting other possible candidates for peace talks with Israel.
More emphatically, the US believed that Resolution 425 could be a primary step towards the implementation of Lebanese sovereignty over Lebanese territories. Under the auspices of Resolution 425, the US could equip and upgrade the Lebanese army so that it would fill in the gap that would result upon the withdrawal of the Israeli troops. As a result, the PLO guerrillas would be replaced and contained, hence, providing for peace at the northern Israeli borders. This, however, was only the apparent US thinking, but it was by no means the actual American interest in the region.
On one level, the US believed that the Israeli invasion would only complicate the peace process in the Middle East, but at the same time, the US did not openly reject military action against the PLO. On the contrary, the US hoped that the invasion could be used as a political tool to enhance the peace process. Resolution 425, nevertheless, was inevitable, specifically that the American administration believed that this resolution would eventually be dissolved in a wider peace process. The US administration’s stake was launching a bilateral peace process between Lebanon and Israel, similar to the Camp David talks, which means that Resolution 425 would eventually be forgotten long before it was implemented.
Obviously, the two superpowers had very different views relating to the Israeli invasion of South Lebanon. In spite of these differences, Resolution 425 represented an outlet for the crisis, and a possible solution for the crisis without actually solving the problem. The USSR hoped that the resolution would maintain the status quo, that is, maintain PLO flexibility in South Lebanon, whilst the US hoped that the resolution would represent a station towards the bilateral peace process between Israel and Lebanon.
However, the different interests of the superpowers with reflect to the Lebanese-Israeli crisis, Resolution 425 was issued. Apart from the fact that the resolution represented a common ground on which all interests were compromised, it was international support for Lebanon that helped generate the adequate conditions for issuing the resolution. For example, after the invasion, Britain immediately expressed deep concerns towards the security and sovereignty of Lebanon. Similarly, in its attempt to revive its influential role in the Middle East, France also expressed its concerns towards the conflict and called the two sides to resolve the issue peacefully. Even though the two European powers displayed a shy rejection of the invasion, their attitudes were positive towards Lebanon. Even the US, Israel’s historical ally, hoped that the attack would cease, since it believed that the invasion could harm the peace process-taking place between Egypt and Israel. Condemnation of the Israeli invasion and support for the Lebanese position flowed from the Arab countries on individual levels, since the Arab League was divided after the initiation of the peace process between Egypt and Israel. Moreover, Lebanon enjoyed international support from the majority of Third World Countries and the Non-Alignment Bloc, which considered the invasion an assault against the sovereignty of Lebanon.
Resolution 425 can be seen as the fruit of the international support and the prevalence of international friendly relationships among the sides involved in discussing the Lebanese-Israeli crisis. The Lebanese government was able to invest in this friendly atmosphere, even to the extent of avoiding raising any conflict in the Security Council that could give rise to US use of veto against the issuance of a resolution. Lebanese diplomatic efforts aimed at the issuance of a resolution that would preserve its international rights of sovereignty, rather than relating the invasion to the Middle Eastern issue.
Despite the conflict of interests between the US and the USSR with respect to the Lebanese-Israeli dispute, it is important to point out that both superpowers wanted to avoid a further escalation of the conflict. While the US supported Resolution 425 as a means to reduce tension and set basis for future bilateral peace talks between Lebanon and Israel, the USSR did not reject the resolution because it was the only way available at that time to restore the situation and to prevent an Israeli elimination of the PLO military power in South Lebanon. Consequently, the issuance of Resolution 425 was more circumstantial than strategic, but it does not in any way represent the agreement of the superpowers or the coincidence of their interests with respect to the Lebanese-Israeli conflict. On the contrary, Resolution 425 can be seen as a settlement which satisfied all the involved parts in the conflict, in addition of course, to the international community represented by the UN and the Security Council.