May 24, 2000
Communicated by the Israel Foreign Ministry
On May 24, 2000, the Government of Israel completed the withdrawal of
its forces from southern Lebanon to the international border, in
accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425. The primary
objective of this action is to ensure the security of Israel and its
citizens, and to promote stability and peace in the region. Israel
has no territorial aspirations in Lebanon, and hopes to see the
Lebanese government restore and exercise its sovereignty and
authority throughout the border region from which Israeli forces have left.
This background paper is meant to provide an overview of the various
aspects of the Israeli withdrawal, the implementation of Resolution
425, and the ramifications for the region.
- The implementation of Resolution 425 constitutes an
important step forward, meant to bring about an end to the
on-going terrorism and confrontation on the northern border,
and to facilitate further progress in the peace process.
Israel has reiterated that it remains committed to its goal
of concluding peace treaties with Syria and Lebanon, and
will continue in its efforts to achieve this.
- Following the withdrawal, Israel hopes that peace and
security will be restored to both sides of the international
border. Israel further expects that the Government of
Lebanon will take effective control of southern Lebanon,
confident that the UN and the international community as a
whole will undertake an effort to promote this goal.
- Israel endeavored to carry out the withdrawal and the full
implementation of Resolution 425 in cooperation with
Lebanon. However, this option was not available, due to
pressure brought to bear against Lebanon by external
parties. Israel then chose to carry out the withdrawal
unilaterally, rather than allowing its policy to be held
hostage to the will of these parties.
- Israel is aware of the intention of various parties to
continue to wield the ‘terrorist weapon’ in Lebanon, even
after Israel’s withdrawal.
- If, after the withdrawal, terrorism continues, Israel will
react forcefully, in keeping with its legitimate and
internationally recognized right of self-defense. This
reaction will be directed against both the terrorist
organizations and those parties which extend aid to these
- If any party encourages, aids or facilitates terrorism
against Israel from Lebanon following the withdrawal, Israel
will view this as a clear act of aggression, and will
respond in the appropriate manner. Any other country would
act similarly under such circumstances.
2. The Implementation of 425:
- Israel has announced that its withdrawal of forces from
Lebanon has been undertaken in full compliance with UN
Security Council Resolution 425 (1978).
- In keeping with Resolution 425, Israel has redeployed its
forces along the recognized international border between the
- According to Resolution 425, the UN will take action to
fill the vacuum that is created following the withdrawal of
Israeli forces, and will deploy appropriate armed forces
with the capacity to ensure the return of Lebanon’s
“effective authority” in the area.
- Israel expects that, subsequent to its withdrawal from
Lebanon and the restoration of Lebanese authority, the
Government of Lebanon will fulfill the remaining obligations
of Resolution 425, primary among them, the restoration of
“international peace and security” to both sides of the
- As part of its obligations under 425, the Government of
Lebanon will bear the responsibility for preventing
terrorist attacks against Israel from within its borders, as
well as terrorist reprisals against individuals in those
areas from which Israel has withdrawn. Furthermore, as long
as other parties maintain presence and control in Lebanon,
they also bear responsibility for events in the area.
- Following the stalemate of the Israeli-Syrian peace talks,
Syria is now conducting a diplomatic campaign to obstruct
the full implementation of Resolution 425, while continuing
to view Lebanon as a ‘bargaining chip’ to further Syrian
interests in its conflict with Israel.
- Syria has been laying the groundwork for continued attacks
against Israel even after the withdrawal. To this end, Syria
has been preparing Palestinian terrorist groups for armed
operations, and has given free rein to Iran and its
Hizbullah proxy, to establish and maintain an infrastructure
meant to undermine stability and bring about escalation and
violence in the area.
- Similarly, Syria is pressuring the Lebanese government to
raise a variety of objections as a pretext to obstruct and
prevent a successful implementation of 425. An example of
this would be linking 425 with an implementation of the
“Right of Return” for Palestinian ‘refugees’ in Lebanon.
- The Syrian objection to the implementation of Resolution
425 independently of Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973)
(claiming that this would violate the ‘unity of the
negotiating tracks’) is unfounded. Resolution 425 was
adopted in the limited context of the ‘Litani Operation’ of
1978, and not as part of the overall settlement of the
Arab-Israeli conflict, which is to be based upon 242 and
338. Lebanese Foreign Minister Bouez confirmed this in his
address to the 1991 Madrid Conference, in which he stated
that 425 is to be considered a “separate and complete resolution”.
- The implementation of Resolution 425 has been a
long-standing goal of Lebanese policy.
- A large segment of the Lebanese public and leadership,
from all of the country’s various communities, opposes the
Syrian attempt to subjugate Lebanese national interests to
the Syrian political agenda.
5. The International Community
- The Israeli withdrawal is being conducted in full
coordination with the UN, and constitutes an Israeli
fulfillment of its obligations under Security Council
Resolution 425 (1978).
- With this in mind, Israel has worked closely with the UN,
coordinating the withdrawal, marking the border and
determining the character of the future role of the UN
Interim Force (UNIFIL) which is active in the area.
- Israel greatly appreciates the actions taken by the UN
prior to the withdrawal, and is confident that the Security
Council will act quickly to expand UNIFIL as called for by
the Secretary General.
- Israel has also briefed and coordinated its actions with
world leaders, in order to make clear its intentions
regarding the withdrawal and its future security options.
- In discussions held with the highest political echelons in
the United States, Europe, Russia and Asia, Israel’s
positions were well received, understood and supported.
- Israel has made its position clear to all regional actors,
both directly and through third parties. Today, there should
be no room for misunderstandings or lack of clarity
surrounding possible Israeli actions and reactions stemming
from events in the north.
6. The Population of Southern Lebanon
- Israel is morally and politically committed to the safety
and security of the soldiers of the South Lebanon Army (SLA)
and the civil administration officials who worked alongside
Israel for many years to protect the southern Lebanese
population from the encroachment of terrorist organizations.
This commitment forms an integral part of the Israeli
government’s March 5 decision to withdraw from Lebanon.
- In this context, Israel is prepared to absorb any SLA
soldiers or civil officials who choose to relocate to
Israel, together with their families.
- Israel is working closely with elements in the
international community in order to promote the welfare and
safety of those who decide to remain in southern Lebanon.
- The restoration of peace and security to both sides of the
border requires the Lebanese government to move beyond the
events of the past, and to reintegrate the soldiers and
citizens of southern Lebanon into the fabric of Lebanese life.
- The oft-repeated declarations of Hizbullah leaders,
stating their intention to ‘execute’ SLA soldiers following
the withdrawal, are intended primarily to obstruct the full
implementation of 425. These declarations stand in stark
contrast to the feelings of the great majority of the
Lebanese public and leadership which strive for national
reconciliation after the Israeli withdrawal.
Together with its goal of achieving calm and tranquility along its
northern border, Israel also views this withdrawal as being a
catalyst for the achievement of peace with all of its northern
All parties who are interested in promoting Arab-Israeli
reconciliation must remember that a stable Lebanon is an
indispensable element of a comprehensive Middle East Peace. Lebanon
and Israel desire this peace and the people of the region deserve it.