FIRE IN BEIRUT: Israel's War in Lebanon with the PLO by Dan & Eliahu Salpeter Bavly

FIRE IN BEIRUT: Israel's War in Lebanon with the PLO

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Two informed, offhand lsraelis briskly wrap up the June 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon and then mull over its consequences. (For the findings of a sympathetic American military expert, see Gabriel, below; for an acute Israeli post-mortem, see Gavron.) On the delicate matter of who planned what: Defense Minister Sharon and Chief of Staff Eitan were clearly itching to eliminate the PLO military threat and destroy Syrian missile bases; to protect Israel's northern settlements from shelling and to thwart PLO opposition to his West Bank policy, Begin agreed to an attack; after the shooting of Israel's ambassador to London, the cabinet gave its assent--to driving the PLO back 40 kilometers, or 25 miles. ""And whether purposely or not, it seems in retrospect that both Begin and [Sharon] deliberately misled both their own cabinet and the Israeli public as well as Israel's friends, including the United States."" In any case, once Israeli forces crossed that 25-mile line, accompanied by pictures of Sidon and Tyre in ruins, the frail domestic consensus crumbled and foreign tolerance turned to censure. For Bavly and Salpeter, the crucial question is what Israel achieved. ""The war, if it did anything, increased international support for the idea"" of Palestinian statehood. Here, ""biased"" media coverage is implicated--the combined result of PLO manipulation, quick and careless reporting (much of the rubble was from Lebanon's civil war), post-Vietnam and -Watergate suspicion of officialdom, higher expectations of the Israelis than of their foes, and, in the authors' view, the special nature and impact of TV: ""Are the democracies being disarmed by the natural revulsion for images of war in their living rooms?"" ""Is this ultimate instrument of politics now reserved for dictatorships?"" (Much reference is made to Christian and Muslim Lebanese slaughter, and PLO depredations, out of media view; a sharp rap is administered to Jacobo Timerman.) Other, mixed results: no united, peaceful, fully sovereign Lebanon--but reduced PLO and Syrian interference, and the first steps toward normal relations; no end to the PLO, even in southern Lebanon--but its virtual eradication as a military force. (PLO or not, say the authors, a West Bank solution will require some Israeli concessions.) Additional outcomes are also reviewed--including Israel's value, much-argued by Sharon, as a ""strategic asset"" to the US. Among domestic factors aired is Begin's personality--also his unpopularity abroad and in the Israeli press. The book is repetitive, insistent. It combines unanchored assertions and undocumented detail. But the journalist-authors were in a position to know what they're talking about--Bavly, in the Israeli military spokesman's office, Salpeter with Ha'aretz, Israel's foremost newspaper. No great polish--plenty of raw material.

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 1984
Publisher: Stein & Day