Menu JTA Search

Highlights of the Year 5743

The year 5743 was highlighted by the continuing crisis in Lebanon, where one year after Israel launched its “Peace for Galilee” operation, the Israel Defense Force appeared bogged down in Lebanon’s internal factional fighting.

There was, however, an agreement concluded between Israel and Lebanon for an Israeli troop withdrawal, but the accord lay dormant as Syrian President Hafez Assad stubbornly refused to agree to a simultaneous withdrawal of Syrian troops, contrary to what the United States was earlier led to believe.

U.S. diplomacy, besides being ruffled by Assad’s intransigence, was shaken by the failure of President Reagan’s highly touted September 1 Mideast peace initiative. The proposal needed support from King Hussein of Jordan. But while he appeared to stand behind it, Hussein was undercut by the Palestine Liberation Organization whose approval he needed to enter negotiations with Israel on behalf of the Palestinian people. Without a PLO mandate for Hussein, the Reagan proposal appeared all but finished, lying by the wayside of many failed Middle East peace efforts.

SEARCH FOR PEACE REMAINS ELUSIVE

Israel’s search for peace remained elusive. And its peace with Egypt, although intact, unravelled at certain points. The Egyptian Ambassador to Israel was recalled after the massacre of Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, and at year’s end, the Ambassador was not returned.

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, however, continued to affirm his commitment to the Camp David accords, although there was no movement on the autonomy talks as outlined in the agreements.

The massacre at the Palestinian camps resulted in Israel’s condemnation from the world community. On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Christian Phalangist forces loyal to assassinated Lebanese President-elect Bashir Gemayel were allowed, under Israeli supervision, to enter the west Beirut camps to root out terrorists suspected of hiding there.

The result was the killing of more than 600 civilians. Israel’s judicial commission of inquiry into the massacre assailed Israel’s highest ranking leaders for willfully ignoring the possibility of vengeance against the Palestinians by Gemayel’s loyalists.

With more than 500 casualties suffered in Lebanon since the start of the war, Israel reluctantly agreed to begin a redeployment of its forces to more defensible and safer lines, raising fears that Lebanon would be partitioned into separate Israeli and Syrian spheres of influence. Premier Menachem Begin, who turned 70 this year, unexpectedly cancelled a scheduled visit to Washington and speculation rose anew that he was becoming more dismayed with the Lebanon situation and that he remained deeply saddened by the death of his wife and confidante, Aliza.

THE MIDDLE EAST:

SEPTEMBER 1982– President Reagan proposes a Mideast peace initiative calling for the creation of a Palestinian “entity” on the West Bank and Gaza Strip in “association” with Jordan, while demanding a freeze on Jewish settlement activity on the West Bank. Israel rejects the proposal, saying it deviates from the Camp David accords.

The Arab League member states issue a peace proposal at the conclusion of a summit conference in Morocco, later to be known as the Fez Plan, which calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank with Jerusalem as its capital. Despite a call for guaranteed “peace among all states in the region,” Israel denounces the Fez proposal as a “renewed declaration of war on Israel.”

Pope John Paul II, in a highly controversial move, meets privately for nearly 30 minutes with PLO chief Yasir Arafat. Israel expresses “profound disappointment with the meeting, saying it will be “recorded in the national memory of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”

Israeli troops enter west Beirut following the assassination of Lebanese President-elect Bashir Gemayel. Within 48 hours, the world is shocked when hundreds of Palestinian civilians are massacred by Gemayel’s Christian Phalangist forces. Premier Menachem Begin condemns all criticism of Israeli involvement in the massacre as a “blood libel,” but eventually succumbs to intense domestic pressure to establish a commission to conduct a formal inquiry into the circumstances of the massacre.

OCTOBER–An Arab League delegation headed by King Hassan of Morocco confers with Reagan in Washington, but according to Administration officials, fails to meet U.S. requests for Arab recognition of Israel and for negotiations without preconditions.

Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon tells the judicial commission of inquiry that while it was assumed that when Israel sent the Phalangists into the Palestinian refugee camps there would be civilian deaths, “None of us, myself included, ever for one moment in our worst dreams anticipated or feared a horror like that.”

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak issues a sharply worded denunciation of Israel’s actions in Lebanon and warns that it could have “grave repercussions” on their relations. Egyptian Ambassador to Tel Aviv, Saad Mortada, is recalled to Cairo.

Lebanese President Amin Gemayel, elected to succeed his older brother, Bashir, makes an official visit to Washington indicating that he will look to the U.S. as his main source of financial and military assistance, and in a speech to the United Nations, notes his reluctance to sign a peace treaty with Israel at this time.

NOVEMBER–Begin tells the commission of inquiry “none of us ever imagined” that the Phalangists would perpetrate a massacre in the refugee camps. The commission later issues a bombshell, notifying Begin and eight other top Israeli officials that they “may be harmed” if certain potentially damaging conclusions are reached on the basis of their testimony to date.

A Defense Ministry report concludes that the collapse of a seven story building housing the Israeli local military headquarters in Tyre, which kills 90 people, including 76 Israelis and 14 Arabs, was caused by a leak from cooking gas cylinders in one of the first floor rooms.

The West Bank civil administration announces it has withdrawn the requirement that all foreigners seeking permits in the territory must sign a pledge to refrain from “any act or rendering of any service” to the PLO “or any other hostile organization as defined by law.”

DECEMBER–Hussein meets with Reagan in Washington and while he reiterates his support for the President’s September 1 peace initiative, does not provide any indication that he is willing or able to join the U.S., Egypt and Israel in negotiations based on the Camp David formula.

Israel and Lebanon begin their long awaited negotiations, with the U.S. as an active partner, to establish the framework for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon and future relations pertaining to normalization and security arrangements.

Chinese Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang says in Cairo that if Israel withdrew from occupied Arab territories and allowed for the establishment of a Palestinian state, his country would acknowledge Israel’s “right to existence and independence.”

(Continued Tomorrow)

NEXT STORY