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Argov Denounces War in Lebanon

Shlomo Argov Israel’s Ambassador to England whose attempted assassination on June 3, 1982 triggered the invasion of Lebanon, bitterly criticized the war as unjustified.

In remarks dictated to a friend from his hospital bed and published in the weekend edition of Haaretz, Argov branded the war policy as one of “adventurism” and said “Those who thought of (launching) the war should have thought twice and thrice. Particularly, they should have thought of the cost in lives … Israel does not have vast human resources to throw around. We cannot afford to conduct experiments in the hope that one of them will be successful. And what is success anyway when it entails loss of life and limb?”

Israel launched its invasion of Lebanon a few days after Argov was shot outside a London hotel. A London court later convicted and jailed three Arabs for the shooting. Argov is still fighting to regain his full faculties in the wake of the head wound he sustained in the attack. He is said to be partially paralyzed.

His wife, however, reads to him a great deal of printed material — books and newspapers — and his published remarks seem to show he has thoroughly grasped the course of events that followed after he was shot.

Some of Argov’s references in his remarks are elliptical, and he does not name names. But Haaretz columnist Yoel Markus, to whom Argov sent the transcript for publication, terms it a “searing critique of the war.”

SAYS WAR WAS A FAILURE

According to Argov the war was a failure from Israel’s standpoint. “Our nation emerged from this war weaker than it was before, ” he asserted. “Israel must always avoid embroilment in unreasonable military adventures… Our soldiers should always have the right (to know) that they will not be sent to war unless war is the sole option for survival.”

The envoy drew a distinction between no-option wars, such as the Six-Day War, and other wars which are not over the survival of the nation. “We are a nation that lives by its sword. We need not to be ashamed of that, for it is not our fault (but the Arabs) … War must not be waged lightly. Sometimes history imposes drastic action — and then there is no option. That was the case in the Six-Day War …

“The time has come to cease adventurism. The question is if those who foresaw the (Lebanon) war foresaw the extent of adventurism in it. Perhaps had they done so they would have spared hundreds of our finest lives.”

Referring to the buildup period before the Lebanon war, Argov said that after a lengthy period of relative quiet Israeli policymakers “discerned an opportunity to achieve cataclysmic changes. Some hoped — without quite knowing what they hoped for for…” Argov spoke bitterly of “generals who tried their hand — and were found wanting, ” and of “those who gave advice — but did not save the situation…”

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