The Gamble That Failed: Israel’s Withdrawal From Lebanon
By Timothy Gordon
In May 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak fulfilled his election campaign promise and withdrew Israeli forces from Lebanon. Barak proclaimed the end of the “vicious cycle of tragedy in Lebanon for Israel” that had endured for almost two decades.1 The Israeli populace and the international community strongly endorsed the move. The UN certified that Israel had fully complied with UN Resolution 425 (1978), which called for Israel to remove its forces from Lebanese territory. Yet, in retrospect, the removal of Israeli forces from Lebanon did not bring Israel closer to achieving peace and security. For although many in Israel and around the world viewed the withdrawal as a significant step in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, many in the Arab world did not share this sentiment. For them, Israel’s retreat represented the first important victory over the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and a possible harbinger of even greater triumphs. The pullout encouraged both Palestinian militancy and the emergence of a significant threat on Israel’s northern border. The unintended consequences of Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon demonstrate that unilateral disengagement from the West Bank and Gaza Strip will only further undermine Israel’s security.
Israel’s Involvement in Lebanon: A Brief Summary
Israel’s first extensive foray into Lebanon came in 1978 with Operation Litani, an Israeli incursion into Lebanese territory that involved almost 20,000 troops. Following their violent expulsion from Jordan in 1970–1971, Yasir Arafat and his Fatah organization established Lebanon as their base to continue attacks against Israel. By 1978, Arafat’s forces had created a virtual state within a state in southern Lebanon. Terrorist attacks emanating from so-called Fatah Land made civilian life in Israel’s northern region less and less bearable. Israel launched Operation Litani in response to a terrorist hijacking of an Israeli civilian bus that resulted in the deaths of 37 civilians.
While international pressure ultimately compelled Israel to withdraw the bulk of its forces from Lebanon, Israel did establish a “security zone” within Lebanese territory to protect her northern flank. The Southern Lebanon Army (SLA), a Christian militia allied with Israel, assumed primary responsibility for manning this zone. But despite Operation Litani and the development of an Israeli-controlled buffer area in Lebanon, the guerilla attacks against Israel did not abate.
As a result, in June of 1982 the IDF commenced Operation Peace for Galilee, a full-scale invasion of Lebanon. The operation was designed to achieve what Operation Litani had failed to do: completely eradicate the terrorist threat from Lebanon. Yet Operation Peace for Galilee soon assumed a far more ambitious agenda—establishing a pro-Israel government in Lebanon and delivering a severe military blow to Syria, which had entered Lebanon in 1976. While Israel achieved rapid military success during the early stages of its attack, forcing the PLO to flee Lebanon and routing Syrian forces, the complexity of the ethnic and political situation in Lebanon ultimately undermined Israel’s military gains. Israel soon found itself engulfed in sectarian chaos that pitted Druse against Christian, Christian against Muslim, and Shia against Sunni. International opposition to Israel’s move intensified, particularly following the notorious massacre of over 800 Palestinian refugees by Christian militiamen in the Sabra and Shatila camps.2 Facing a deteriorating situation in Lebanon and mounting international political pressure, Israel withdrew its forces to an expanded security zone in 1985.3 With Israeli forces confined to this zone, Syria took control of Lebanon, beginning a military occupation that continues to this day.
During the mid-1980s, Hizbullah, a radical Shiite organization committed to ending the Israeli presence in Lebanon, emerged. Syria and Iran reached agreements for Iran to support Hizbullah with weapon shipments and advisors. Iran provided Hizbullah with the military and non-military support needed to forge a coherent and capable challenge to the IDF in Lebanon. As a recent book on Hizbullah noted, “without Iran’s political, financial and logistical support, Hizbullah’s military capabilities and organizational development would have been greatly retarded. By Hizbullah’s own reckoning, it would have taken an additional 50 years for the movement to score the same achievements in the absence of Iranian backing.”4 With Iranian backing, Hizbullah developed sophisticated recruitment, training, intelligence, and guerilla tactics.
Hizbullah’s relentless war against Israel became increasingly effective, both militarily and psychologically. The ratio of Hizbullah to IDF fatalities shifted from 5 to 1 during the 1980s and early 1990s to less than 2 to 1 during the late 1990s.5 During the late 1990s, the IDF lost an average of 20 to 30 soldiers per year.6 As the conflict in Lebanon began to look more and more futile, popular opposition to the Israeli presence in the security zone swelled. Israeli activists began holding a protest outside the Israeli Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv following the death of any IDF soldier in Lebanon. Petitions circulated with thousands of Israeli signatures demanding IDF withdrawal. In February 1997, two Israeli helicopters ferrying troops and ammunition to Lebanon collided, killing 73 soldiers. The catastrophe represented a turning point for many Israelis in their support of an IDF presence in Lebanon. In 2000, at the time of the withdrawal, 70 percent of the Israeli populace endorsed Barak’s decision to evacuate the security zone.7
The Decision to Withdraw
Israel made a grave miscalculation in withdrawing from Lebanon without commitments from Syria or Lebanon to prevent future Hizbullah assaults. Indeed, these countries explicitly stated they would not use their forces for this purpose. In March 2000, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud asked, “How can we protect the borders with Israel while in the Palestinian refugee camps there are tens of thousands of armed refugees who demand the right of return and who do not receive an answer?”8 Lahoud prophesized that “a unilateral Israeli withdrawal will lead to an additional war.”9 Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq Al-Shara asserted that a withdrawal “will lead Israel to suicide.”10 Syria would not allow Israel to extricate itself from the Lebanon quagmire in the absence of an Israeli agreement to return the Golan Heights to Syria. If Israel left Lebanon, Syria’s proxy forces would simply shift the focus of conflict to the Israeli side of the border.
The ideology and rhetoric of Hizbullah clearly shows that the group has no intention of ending its decades-long confrontation with Israel, despite the fulfillment of the organization’s original goal to drive Israel from Lebanon. As Hizbullah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, said in a 1997 interview with Der Spiegel: “Let us assume that hell freezes over and Israel does the unthinkable and withdraws from South Lebanon and the Golan Heights. Do you believe that peace and reconciliation between the Arabs and Jews will then prevail? There will be no peace or reconciliation as long as Palestine is occupied by the Zionist enemy… only our weapons and martyrs will bring peace to the region.”11 Hizbullah fundamentally rejects the legitimacy of Israel. The group sees itself as engaged in a violent struggle against the very existence of the Jewish state.12 Even if Hizbullah refrains from military operations against Israel for a period of time for political or tactical considerations, “when the conditions will change… we will return to combat the enemy in Palestine and drive it from Jerusalem” asserts Abdallah Quseir, a Hizbullah member of Lebanon’s parliament.13 Hizbullah will never accept the presence of a Jewish state in any portion of Palestine.
Despite UN certification that Israel had fully complied with Resolution 425, Syria and Lebanon rejected the validity of the Israeli withdrawal. They argued that the “occupation” had not ended because Israel still retained the Shebaa Farms area, a small strip of land 14 kilometers long and two kilometers deep. Yet Israel had not seized Shebaa Farms from Lebanon, but rather from Syria during the 1967 war. The UN report on the Israeli pullout declared Shebaa Farms Syrian land and dismissed the Lebanese and Syrian claim that Syria had ceded Shebaa Farms to Lebanon and, therefore, that Israel continued to hold Lebanese territory. The refusal on the part of Syria and Lebanon to accept UN conclusions regarding Israeli compliance with Resolution 425 was startlingly hypocritical. Previously, they had seized upon Israel’s non-compliance with the same resolution as a justification for armed resistance by Hizbullah. Moreover, despite its vocal and violent insistence that Israel adhere to UN resolutions, Syria itself remains in violation of UN Resolution 520 (1982), which calls for the pullout of all foreign forces from Lebanese territory. Syria apparently takes the novel position that international law involving Lebanese sovereignty applies to Israel but not Syria.
Following Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, the Lebanese government refused to deploy its forces in Southern Lebanon to prevent Hizbullah attacks against Israel. In April 2002, Syrian forces redeployed its units further from the Israeli border. This troop movement left Hizbullah in complete control of Southern Lebanon. So almost twenty-five years after Operation Litani, Northern Israel finds itself once again at the mercy of guerillas based in Lebanon.14
Reaction in the Arab World
The Israeli withdrawal confirmed to many in the Arab world the viability of the “military option” in dealing with Israel. The Arab media savored what they perceived as a dramatic and unprecedented triumph over Israel. The Daily Star of Beirut heralded Hizbullah as “the first Arab force to score any sort of victory over the vaunted Israeli military.”15 Hizbullah had shown that asymmetric warfare, the use of guerilla and terrorist tactics against technologically and numerically superior opponents, could defeat the IDF and demoralize the citizens of Israel. Nasrallah proudly declared: “In order to liberate your land you don’t need tanks and planes. With the examples of the martyrs you can impose your demands on the Zionist aggressors. Israel may own nuclear weapons and heavy weapons, but, by G-d, it is weaker than a spider web.”16 The Israeli withdrawal validated senior Hizbullah military commander Shikh Nabil Kauouk’s assertion that “it is possible to get back occupied land without any reward for the occupier.”17 The Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon occurred approximately two months before the start of the Camp David negotiations between Barak and Arafat.
The withdrawal from Lebanon made it far less likely that Palestinian negotiators would see the need to compromise on incendiary issues such as Jerusalem and the right of return of Palestinian refugees. The Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled paper Al-Heat Al-Jaded asked “what is the message Israel delivers to the Palestinians by its withdrawal: we will not give you your rights, unless you follow this [Hizbullah] model?”18 PA Treasury Minister, Muhammad Audi Al-Nashashibi declared, “the Lebanese have supplied the entire world with an example of steadfastness and they have taught everybody the strategy of strike after strike until the enemy’s defeat. What happened in Lebanon is a lesson for whoever wants to win in Palestine like in Lebanon.”19 Even if the Israeli retreat from Lebanon did not convince Arafat and other Palestinian Authority negotiators at Camp David that they could achieve a similar military victory over Israel, the withdrawal undoubtedly made it more difficult for them to convince their own people of the necessity of painful concessions for peace. The negotiators decided not to take the risk of presenting a compromise solution to their people.
The Nature of the Current Threat
By abandoning Southern Lebanon to Hizbullah, Israel has left a force on its border that serves as a critical source of inspiration for Palestinian rejectionists. The ubiquity of Hizbullah flags and emblems at Palestinian gatherings during the Intifada attests to Hizbullah’s hold on the Palestinian psyche.20 Through its sophisticated media machine, Hizbullah leaders incessantly exhort Palestinian “holy warriors to be in a state of psychological, emotional and physical preparation to face [the] challenge.”21 Its satellite TV station beams images of Hizbullah’s military actions against Israeli troops. Yet Hizbullah’s effort to supply the Palestinians with weaponry represents a far graver threat than its moral support.
Hizbullah has played a leading role in efforts to augment and enhance Palestinian military capabilities. Many analysts believe Hizbullah assisted in coordinating the attempted Iranian shipment of 50 tons of ammunition and weaponry, including Katyusha rockets, anti-tank missiles and mines aboard the Karine-A vessel that Israeli naval commandoes intercepted in January 2002.22 Hizbullah itself relentlessly used Katyusha rockets, which have a range of over twelve miles, to terrorize Israel’s northern towns while Israeli forces were in Lebanon. Fired from the West Bank by Palestinians, Katyushas could threaten major Israeli cities and Ben Gurion airport. In March 2002, Nasrallah stated that Hizbullah “will help the Palestinians in whatever way we can” and acknowledged Hizbullah efforts to smuggle the rockets to Palestinians.23 Israel has also captured Hizbullah operatives in the West Bank, suggesting that Hizbullah may not remain content to merely encourage and arm the Palestinians while watching from the sidelines.24
Hizbullah threatens Israel’s security not only by its efforts to aid the Palestinians but also through its own military capabilities, which have greatly increased since the Israeli withdrawal. Current IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon stated in an August 2002 interview that the situation “that exists today in Lebanon is far graver than it was in the period when we were in the security zone.”25 Both Syrian and Iran significantly increased their aid to Hizbullah following the Israeli pullout. According to an October 2001 issue of Janes Foreign Report, Hizbullah’s arsenal has reached “unprecedented” levels in quantity and sophistication since the Israeli withdrawal.26 Following the withdrawal, the article states, Hizbullah stationed enhanced batteries of Katyusha rockets close to the Israeli border and deployed new longer-range rockets deeper into Lebanon. In addition, the article notes that Hizbullah has upgraded its early warning systems, anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft batteries.27 The presence and activity of Iranian military advisors in Lebanon has also increased since the IDF departure.28 Syria has even begun directly supplying Hizbullah with arms, including longer-range 270mm rockets with a range of over 70 kilometers.29 Israel now faces an enemy on its northern border with a rocket arsenal that could “paralyze northern Israel” and strike targets as far south as Haifa.30 The risk inherent in any Israel operation to eliminate this menace has risen considerably due to Hizbullah’s upgraded artillery and electronic intelligence capabilities.31
The raids Hizbullah has launched against Israel since the withdrawal, including the kidnapping of three IDF soldiers in October 2000 as well as numerous artillery assaults, have put Israel in a dangerous predicament. Retaliation risks escalation against a heavily armed foe, while restraint means appearing weak and inviting further strikes. Some senior IDF officers have warned that with its steadily increasing military capabilities, Hizbullah may even be tempted to initiate a major military confrontation.32
Hizbullah also represents a threat to Israel because of the leverage it gives Israel’s implacable foes, Syria and Iran. Even after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, Syria has used Hizbullah attacks as a means of keeping military pressure on Israel and asserting its own regional power. Iran also utilizes Hizbullah to threaten Israel. Hizbullah represents a forward presence for the Iranian military. While Israel is over 1,000 kilometers from Iran, Iran now has a major proxy force on the Israeli border. This force serves as a deterrent against an Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities similar to the action Israel took against the Iraqi nuclear installation at Osirak in 1981.33 If Israel launched such an attack against an Iranian plant, Hizbullah missiles would surely hit Israel. Both Syria and Iran could also unleash Hizbullah in order to complicate an American campaign against Iraq or other actions in the U.S. war against terror.34 According to a front-page article appearing in The New York Times in September 2002, the Bush administration as well as Israeli officials harbor concerns that Hizbullah may indeed strike Israel in order to forestall an American assault on Iraq. Dennis Ross, who served as special envoy to the Middle East under Clinton, stated that “we may have to face this problem on the eve of going into Iraq. I think there is a strong impulse on the part of the Iranians and to a lesser extent the Syrians to head us off in Iraq because they fear they could be next. If suddenly there is a war waging between Israel and its neighbors, that creates pressure to deal with that issue first and shifts attention away from Iraq.”35 While a clash with Hizbullah may prove costly to Israel, especially considering the vast improvements in Hizbullah’s armaments and infrastructure since the withdrawal, it is the possibility that such a confrontation could lead to a regional war involving other Arab states that represents the most serious threat to Israeli security.
An Israeli-Syrian clash triggered by the persistence of Hizbullah attacks from Lebanon could lead to another Arab-Israeli war. Israel threatened to retaliate fiercely if Hizbullah raids against Israeli targets continued after their withdrawal. David Levy, Israel’s Foreign Minister at the time, warned that Lebanon would “burn” unless the guerilla attacks ceased.36 Israel also made it clear that it would hold Syria, the real power in Lebanon, responsible if the northern border heated up.37 Unfortunately, the withdrawal undermined Israel’s deterrent power. Border skirmishes, particularly in the Shebaa Farms area, continued despite Israeli threats. In April 2000, following the death of an Israeli soldier by anti-tank missile fire from Hizbullah, IDF jets attacked a Syrian radar station in Lebanon. The raid, which resulted in three Syrian fatalities, was the first Israeli strike against Syrian positions in Lebanon since 1996.
Despite its implications for wider conflict, the Israeli counter-attack did not intimidate Syria and its proxy, Hizbullah. Israel has subsequently sent multiple diplomatic warnings to Syria concerning the danger of its Lebanon policy. Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during a July 2002 meeting in Egypt that Hizbullah is dragging Israel into a confrontation with Syria.38 But a report in the London Sunday Times a few weeks later said Israel believes its warnings to Syria to reign in Hizbullah may have failed. With diplomatic options possibly exhausted, the article stated, the IDF had drawn up plans to launch an assault within Syrian territory if Hizbullah attacked Israel again. Former head of Israeli military intelligence Major-General Amos Malka said that “sooner rather than later we’ll be engaged in a conflict with Syria, unless Syria changes its attitude.”39 If Israel attacked Syria directly would other Arab states, such as Iraq and Iran, come to Syria’s aid? The prospects of a serious Syrian-Israeli confrontation over Lebanon grows with each new Hizbullah provocation, and the possibility that such a confrontation could result in a multinational conflagration cannot be ignored.
Implications for the Future
Even at the time of Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon certain prescient observers argued that the move would not succeed. Labor Knesset member and noted moderate Ephraim Sneh, who played a leading role in developing the security zone, dismissed the pervasively cited analogy between Israel’s involvement in Lebanon and America’s in Vietnam. He observed that Israel risked a great deal more by leaving Lebanon than America did when it pulled out of Vietnam. “The Vietcong was not trying to conquer America,” he said. “It did not engrave the Washington Monument on its symbols the way Hizbullah displays Jerusalem.”40 Moshe Arens, former Israeli Defense Minister and Foreign Minister, warned a few days after the withdrawal that if the Palestinians believed the reports in the Arab world that a few hundred tenacious guerilla fighters could coerce Israel into acceding to Arab demands, “our relations with them are headed for stormy weather.” He noted the irony of Israel’s threatening Syria with future reprisals while Syria watched Israeli forces retreat.41 Israel cannot afford another withdrawal under fire without further eroding its deterrent power and overall security.
A unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as some politicians and commentators currently advocate, would have a catastrophic impact on Israel’s deterrent power and would certainly not end Palestinian attacks against Israel. Can anyone doubt that the Palestinians, following an Israeli pullout, would soon unveil their own Shebaa Farms pretext to continue the armed struggle? Armed with the brash confidence of perceived triumph, the Palestinians would continue to utilize the tactics that led to victory, namely violence and terrorism. Israel cannot afford to disregard the ideology of groups such as Hamas, which explicitly calls for the annihilation of Israel. Nor can Israel risk disregarding the rhetoric of PA leaders, who call for an army of martyrs to liberate Jerusalem and who demand the right of return of millions of Palestinian refugees that would lead to the demographic destruction of Israel. A withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza will no more appease these parties than the withdrawal from Lebanon quenched the ambitions of Syria, Iran, and Hizbullah.
Israel cannot abandon the West Bank and Gaza and leave the terrorist infrastructure in these locations intact as it did in Lebanon. Israel should not insist on a cease-fire with Hamas and other terrorist forces as part of a peace agreement. Rather, Israel should demand that any future Palestinian government disarm and disband these groups before Israel leaves its defensive positions in the West Bank and Gaza. If these groups continue to exist following an Israeli withdrawal, they will soon resume military operations against Israel with enhanced firepower, using any available pretext. Arab states will undoubtedly seek to give the Palestinians the same caliber missile arsenal they have provided Hizbullah; indeed, they are already trying to do so. The IDF presence in the West Bank and on the Gaza-Egyptian border complicates and largely impedes these efforts. Israel could never construct a wall high enough to protect it from Katyusha missiles fired from the West Bank or Gaza.
The Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon was a gamble that failed. Israel must now disabuse its enemies of the notion that gripped much of the Arab world following the Israeli retreat from Lebanon—that guerilla tactics sap the strength and resolve of the Jewish state and can force Israel to surrender land in the absence of any security guarantees. Israel must reassert the quid pro quo principle underlying the land for peace formula. Israel should not simply cede land in the hope that its enemies, many of them ideologically committed to its liquidation, will simply renounce their violent ways. The lesson from the Lebanon withdrawal is clear: Israeli appeasement of radical groups and rogue states brings the Middle East closer to regional war— not to lasting peace.
Timothy Gordon, Harvard Class of 1996 and Harvard Business School Class of 2003, is from New York City.
1. “IDF Withdraws from Lebanon after 18 Years,” Haaretz, May 24, 2000.
2. “Flashback: Sabra and Shatila Massacres,” BBC News, January 24, 2002.
3. The U.S. dispatched American marines as peace keepers shortly after the Sabra and Shatila killings. The U.S. evacuated these forces following two horrific suicide attacks in 1983 against its embassy and a marine barracks that left over 250 Americans dead. These attacks are widely attributed to Hizbullah.
4. Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, “Hizbullah: Politics & Religion,” (Pluto Press, 2002), p. 18.
5. Anthony H. Cordesman, “Israel and Lebanon: The Risk of New Conflicts,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, Rough Draft copy, p. 23.
7. “Did Israel Swap One Lebanon for Another?,” Time.com, July 5, 2002.
8. Al-Quds, March 9, 2000 (Translation courtesy of Middle East Media Research Institute, Inquiry and Analysis Series 26).
9. Al-Hayat, March 11, 2000 (Translation courtesy of Middle East Media Research Institute, Inquiry and Analysis Series 26).
10. Al-Hayat, March 2, 2000 (Translation courtesy of Middle East Media Research Institute, Inquiry and Analysis Series 26).
11. Haaretz, October 29, 1997.
12. Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, “Hizbullah: Politics & Religion,” (Pluto Press, 2002), p. 142.
13. Al-Quds Al-Arabi, December 28, 1999 (Translation courtesy of Middle East Media Research Institute, Inquiry and Analysis Series 26).
14. “Hizbullah Resurgent,” Jane’s Defense Weekly, April 22, 2002.
15. “Impressed,” Jerusalem Post, November 26, 2001.
16. “Nasrallah: Israel Weaker than a Spiderweb,” Haaretz, May 28, 2000.
17. “Withdrawal from Lebanon Begins,” UK Guardian, June 1, 1999.
18. Al-Hayat Al-Jadid, May 24, 2000 (Translation courtesy of Middle East Media Research Institute, Inquiry and Analysis Series 29).
19. Al-Ayam, May 28, 2000 (Translation courtesy of Middle East Media Research Institute, Inquiry and Analysis Series 29).
20. “Missile Smugglers Try to Alter Balance of Power,” London Sunday Times, March 17, 2002.
21. “Hizbullah Calls on its Holy Warriors to Join Palestinian Uprising,” Jerusalem Post, August 12, 2001.
22. “A Chill Wind from Teheran,” Jerusalem Post, January 18, 2002.
23. “Missile Smugglers Try to Alter Balance of Power,” London Sunday Times, March 17, 2002.
24. “The Hidden Threat in the Mideast,” The Wall Street Journal, July 24, 2002.
25. Interview in Haaretz, August 28, 2002.
26. “Hizbullah Reinforced,” Jane’s Foreign Report, October 18, 2001.
28 . “Hezbollah Buildup in Lebanon Cited,” The Washington Post, June 15, 2002.
29. “The Hidden Threat in the Mideast,” The Wall Street Journal, July 24, 2002.
30. “Hebzollah Plays for High Stakes,” BBC News, April 3, 2002.
31. “Hizbullah Reinforced,” Jane’s Foreign Report, October 18, 2001.
32. “IDF: Conflict on Northern Border Unavoidable,” Jerusalem Post, January 24, 2002.
33. “A Chill Wind from Teheran,” Jerusalem Post, January 18, 2002.
34. “The Hidden Threat in the Mideast,” The Wall Street Journal, July 24, 2002
35. “Militants Are Said to Amass Missiles in South Lebanon,” The New York Times, September 27, 2002.
36. Anthony H. Cordesman, “Israel and Lebanon: The Risk of New Conflicts,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, Rough Draft copy, p. 23.
37. “PM Warns Syria, Lebanon to Keep Peace,” Haaretz, May 25, 2000.
38. “Report: Israel Threatens to Strike inside Syria for Hizbullah Attacks,” Jerusalem Post, July 22, 2002.
39. “Israel Plots Attack on Syria to Curb Hizbullah,” The London Sunday Times, July 21, 2002.
40. “Lebanon: Israel’s Vietnam?,” The Jerusalem Report, December 11, 1997.
41. “The Nation’s Big Gamble,” Haaretz, May 30, 2000.