Last updated on: 6/26/2008 2:37:00 PM PST

Why Did Israel Withdraw from South Lebanon in 2000?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Ian J. Bickerton, PhD, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern and United States History at the University of New South Wales and Carla L. Klausner, PhD, Professor of Modern Middle East, Medieval Europe and Judaic Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, wrote in their 2002 fourth edition of A Concise History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, that:

"[Israeli Prime Minister] Barak's election promise [in 1999] to leave [the security zone in southern] Lebanon within a year had been one of the main reasons for his victory, and although Israel would have preferred to pull out of Lebanon after reaching a peace deal with Syria [who had been in control over all of northern and central Lebanon, including all of Beirut and as far south as Sidon since 1990], there was growing consensus on both sides of the political divide for a unilateral withdrawal. Even Ariel Sharon, one of the architects of Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982 said that the withdrawal should start immediately.

On March 5, 2000, the Israeli cabinet pledged a withdrawal from Lebanon by July. The Israeli decision surprised and alarmed the Arab states, depriving Syria of its main pressure point against Israel...

Before dawn on Wednesday, May 24 [2000], six weeks before they planned to shut down the buffer zone, Israeli troops abandoned Beaufort Castle and their few remaining outposts in Lebanon, bringing home their last troops without suffering any casualties."

2002 - Carla L. Klausner, PhD 
Ian J. Bickerton, PhD 

Map created using information from the United Nations

Benny Morris, PhD, Professor of History at Ben-Gurion University, in his 2001 book Righteous Victims, wrote:

"In spring 1999, during his campaign for the premiership, Barak had promised that Israel would withdraw its troops from the Security Zone back to the international frontier 'within a year.' After taking office, he began to speak of 'July 2000' as the deadline. He hoped that the withdrawal would be a part of a general peace agreement with Syria and Lebanon, which would include a Syrian guarantee of the security of northern Israel and, perhaps, a deployment of Syrian troops in South Lebanon. But the deadlock in the Israeli-Syrian peace talks had gradually persuaded Barak that the withdrawal from the Zone would most probably be unilateral and without agreement either with Syria or Lebanon. The IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] General Staff opposed a withdrawal without an agreement; but on March 5, 2000, the Israeli cabinet unanimously endorsed a withdrawal by July, 'with or without an agreement,' back to the international frontier...

On the night of May 23-24, in a well-orchestrated operation, backed by columns of heavy Merkava tanks and helicopter gunships, the last Israeli troops pulled out under sporadic Hizbullah fire."

2001 - Benny Morris, PhD 

The UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) website contained the following account of the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Southern Lebanon (accessed Dec. 18, 2003):

"Israeli Withdrawal

On 17 April 2000, the Secretary-General received formal notification from the Government of Israel that it would withdraw its forces from Lebanon by July 2000 'in full accordance with Security Council resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978)'. He [Kofi Annan] was further informed that in so doing the Government of Israel intended 'to cooperate fully with the United Nations'. The Secretary-General informed the Security Council of this notification on the same day, stating that he had initiated preparations to enable the United Nations to carry out its responsibilities under those resolutions. On 20 April [2000], the Council endorsed the Secretary-General's decision to initiate those preparations.

As a first step, the Secretary-General sent his Special Envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen (Norway), together with the Force Commander of UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] and a team of experts, to meet with the Governments of Israel and Lebanon and concerned Member States in the region, including Egypt, Jordan and the Syrian Arab Republic. The delegation also met with the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] and the League of Arab States. During the mission, United Nations cartographic, legal and military experts examined the technical issues that would need to be addressed in the context of the implementation of resolution 425 (1978). Parallel to that mission, which took place between 26 April and 9 May 2000, the Secretary-General consulted with interested Member States, including those contributing troops to UNIFIL.

Starting on 16 May, much sooner than anticipated, IDF/DFF [Israeli Defense Forces / Lebanese de facto Forces] began to vacate its positions, amid exchange of fire. Beginning on 21 May [2000], large crowds of Lebanese, accompanied by armed elements, entered villages in the Israeli-controlled area, and IDF/DFF vacated their position in great haste. At the same time, a large number of the de facto forces, together with their families, crossed into Israel. Others surrendered to the Lebanese authorities. Within a few days, those forces had completely disbanded. On 25 May [2000], the Government of Israel notified the Secretary-General that Israel had redeployed its forces in compliance with Security Council resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978).

The requirements and tasks related to the implementation of those resolutions in the new circumstances were outlined in the Secretary-General's report of 22 May and endorsed by the Security Council on 23 May.

Withdrawal Confirmed

From 24 May to 7 June, the Special Envoy travelled to Israel, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic to follow up on the implementation of the Secretary-General's 22 May report. The United Nations cartographer and his team, assisted by UNIFIL, worked on the ground to identify a line to be adopted for the practical purposes of confirming the Israeli withdrawal. While this was not a formal border demarcation, the aim was to identify a line on the ground conforming to the internationally recognized boundaries of Lebanon, based on the best available cartographic and other documentary evidence.

The work was completed on 7 June. A map showing the withdrawal line was formally transmitted by the Force Commander of UNIFIL to his Lebanese and Israeli counterparts. Notwithstanding their reservations about the line, the Governments of Israel and Lebanon confirmed that identifying this line was solely the responsibility of the United Nations and that they would respect the line as identified. On 8 June [2000], UNIFIL teams commenced the work of verifying the Israeli withdrawal behind the line.

On 16 June [2000], the Secretary-General reported to the Security Council that Israel had withdrawn its forces from Lebanon in accordance with resolution 425 (1978) and met the requirements defined in his report of 22 May 2000 -- namely, Israel had completed the withdrawal in conformity with the line identified by the United Nations."

Dec. 18, 2003 - United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL)