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Lebanon Table of Contents




The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon had the difficult task of trying to separate the various combatants in southern Lebanon
Courtesy United Nations

Figure 10. Lebanon on the Eve of the 1982 Israeli Invasion

Israel had cultivated a relationship with Lebanon's Christian community almost from the advent of the Zionist movement. Some Zionist politicians had envisaged a Jewish-Maronite alliance to counterbalance Muslim regional dominance. After Israel's independence in 1948, some Israeli leaders advocated extending the northern border to encompass Lebanon up to the Litani River and to assimilate the Christian population living there. In 1955 Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and General Moshe Dayan conceived a plan to intervene in Lebanon and install a Lebanese Christian president amenable to improving bilateral relations.

The patriarchs of Lebanon's Christian community, particularly Pierre Jumayyil and Camille Shamun, were tempted by Israeli offers of assistance, but they nevertheless resisted entrusting the security of the Maronites to Israel and abjured close contact with Israel. But in 1976, threatened by the escalating Civil War, a new generation of Lebanese Christian leaders turned to Israel for military support against the ascendant PLO and the Muslim left. After a series of clandestine meetings between Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence agency, and militia leaders Bashir Jumayyil and Dani Shamun, Israel began supplying US$50 million per year to arm and equip the Christian fighters.

Covert Christian-Israeli cooperation tapered off after Syria intervened on the Christian side in June 1976 and quelled the sectarian fighting. When the Syrian-dominated ADF began to act like an occupying army, however, the Maronites' fear of Muslim dominance was replaced by fear of Syrian dominance. Jumayyil, recognizing that only Israel was powerful enough to expel the Syrians, renewed contact with Israel; his initiative coincided with the victory of the Likud Party in Israel's 1977 elections. The new prime minister, Menachim Begin, was more inclined to support the Christians than his predecessor, both for ideological and for tactical reasons. Begin empathized with the Christians as a kindred, embattled religious minority and promised to prevent their "genocide." At the same time, he perceived the Maronites as a fifth column in Lebanon to check the power of the Palestinians. Arms shipments were stepped up, hundreds of Phalangist and Tiger's militiamen were trained in Israel, and Israeli intelligence and security advisers were dispatched to East Beirut (see Appendix B).

Data as of December 1987