Sneh calls for negotiated withdrawal

"We knew when we left that this was a time bomb waiting to explode."

peres sneh labor mtg 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
peres sneh labor mtg 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Although he left his post as the commander of the security zone in south Lebanon in 1982, Labor MK and Brig.-Gen. (res.) Ephraim Sneh always knew he'd be back. "We knew when we left that this was a time bomb waiting to explode," said Sneh. "When you withdraw and there is no agreement in place, you leave behind a vacuum… You set it up that one day, sooner or later, you have to enter again." Of all of the politicians setting policy in the current government, Sneh has some of the most extensive experience on Israel's northern border. After participating in the Entebbe rescue operation in 1976, he became the commander of the security zone in south Lebanon. Although he was widely expected to be named deputy defense minister this week, the current situation has made it unlikely that the Knesset will convene on the issue. He has, however, taken an increasingly active role in the Defense Ministry over the past several weeks. "We have known about these Hizbullah plans for some time, and I knew that when it achieved its goal of capturing Israeli soldiers we would go to war," said Sneh. Whether Israel had prepared itself for that war was another question, according to Sneh. The MK headed a parliamentary commission tasked with evaluating strategic targets in the North. That commission, however, only made recommendations on how to protect targets against terror attacks, and did not evaluate the vulnerability of those targets against rockets. Sneh, who was part of the government that oversaw the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, said he had always opposed unilateral withdrawals. Now more than ever, he said, Israel had to understand that only negotiated territorial withdrawals could lead to secure borders. "What has been created in south Lebanon for the past six years is not something that Israel can tolerate… Israel had to respond and we have known for a long time that we must respond," said Sneh. "Previous prime ministers simply didn't want to open up a second front in the North while we were engaged with the Palestinians in Gaza." As Sunday night wore on and rocket attacks continued Sneh made plans to sleep in a shelter on the northern border. Monday morning he will meet with the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, most of whose members have served in Lebanon, and together decide where to go from here.