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Peres Says Lesson of Lebanon War is That It Was Mistake, Especially Exceeding Original Objective

June 12, 1985
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Premier Shimon Peres said today that the most important lesson Israel learned from the Lebanon war is that it was a mistake. The most serious mistake, he said in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC), was the expansion of the war far beyond the limited objectives announced when the Israel Defense Force invaded Lebanon on June 6, 1982.

Peres was interviewed after the last IDF forces left Lebanon yesterday. He noted that his government had said the final pull-out would take “from seven to nine months” and was accomplished within eight months. A small cadre of IDF officers remained in Lebanon as liaison and advisors to the Israel-backed South Lebanon Army (SLA) in the security belt just north of the international border.

Israel has reserved the right to send the IDF back into Lebanon to deal with any terrorist threat to Israel’s border towns which might develop. Once the threat has been eliminated the IDF would withdraw.


Peres told the Canadian radio reporters, “The basic lesson is that if you make up your mind and decide on a limited operation, you shouldn’t be tempted to expand it even if the opportunity arises. If the operation ‘Peace for Galilee’ had remained within the framework decided on before it started, it would have been a quite useful and successful operation. But the minute it became more of a war and less of an operation and it lasted for more than four days as planned and extended beyond the planned 40 kilometers (25 miles) it became a mistake. Don’t make a mistake is the major lesson,” Peres said.

The Premier, who heads a Labor-Likud national unity coalition government avoided apportioning blame for the mistake. The invasion of Lebanon was launched by the Likud-led government of Premier Menachem Begin and was planned and executed by then Defense Minister Ariel Sharon. Its officially announced objective was to drive Palestine Liberation Organization terrorists beyond artillery and rocket range of Israeli towns and thereby guarantee “peace for Galilee.”

But the victorious IDF pressed northwards to Beirut and its objectives were expanded to the total destruction of the PLO and the establishment of a friendly Christian-led government in Beirut. While the PLO military infrastructure was destroyed and PLO fighters were forced to leave Beirut, Israel’s political objectives were not realized.


The war cost Israel 654 soldiers killed and 3,000 wounded and several billion dollars of the national wealth it could ill afford. The Lebanon war is acknowledged to be responsible in no small measure for Israel’s ongoing economic crisis. The PLO has returned to Lebanon and the government in Beirut is dominated by Syria which continues to occupy two-thirds of the country.

“Wars are easy to start but difficult to wind up,” Peres said. Asked under what circumstances the IDF would re-enter Lebanon, he said “We are not looking for any permanent presence in Lebanon. We have a functional responsibility. That is the difference. We are not looking to be stationed somewhere or have a presence somewhere. Surely not in Lebanon. We are not looking for the soil in Lebanon, the waters of Lebanon or the politics of Lebanon. We shall act or react only when an imminent danger will arise vis-a-vis our own villages and people,” Peres said.

Meanwhile, two groups claimed responsibility today for firing two Katyusha rockets from the Lebanese security belt into Israel yesterday. The rockets, aimed at an Israeli village, exploded in an orchard causing no casualties or damage. The groups claiming credit were the Lebanon National Resistance Movement believed to be a loose federation of small armed bands and the pro-Syrian Popular Struggle Front.

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