JERUSALEM (Apr. 8)
A public debate has erupted in Israel over whether former Prime Minister Menachem Begin had been unaware of then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to bring the Israeli army to Beirut as part of the 1982 Operation Peace for Galilee.
Likud Knesset member Ze’ev “Benny” Begin, son of the late prime minister, submitted an affidavit last week that his father was not aware at the time of the incursion into Lebanon of his defense minister’s plans.
The affidavit was submitted to the Tel Aviv District Court as evidence in a libel case brought by Sharon against the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, which asserted in a 1991 article that Menachem Begin was unaware of Sharon’s intentions.
Sharon, now a Likud Knesset member, brought the libel suit charging that the Ha’aretz report was false. “I am sure the court will find that the Ha’aretz reporter perpetrated a libel,” Sharon said last week.
In his affidavit, Benny Begin said his father did not know of the plan until he read a lecture given by Sharon on August 14, 1987, in which he stated that the operation in Lebanon was planned from the start to reach Beirut.
“I did my utmost to avoid submitting the affidavit, but like every other citizen, I must honor the court’s ruling,” Begin was quoted as saying.
Israel launched an invasion of Lebanon on June 6, 1982, to destroy bases of the Palestine Liberation Organization and to stop attacks across its northern border.
The Israel Defense Force laid siege to PLO positions in Beirut by the end of the month, but withdrew in August after U.S. mediation efforts.
Israel reoccupied Beirut in September of that year, after which it authorized local Christian militias to round up any remaining PLO fighters from Palestinian refugee camps.
The subsequent massacres in the Sabra and Shatilla camps drew worldwide condemnation and sparked Israeli anti-war protests.
Israel later began a phased withdrawal from Lebanon, but left some 1,000 troops behind to patrol a nine mile-wide “security zone” in southern Lebanon.