Horrors of war revisit Lebanon Israel's defense: Massive retaliation to renewed terrorism.

April 16, 1996

THE ISRAELI aerial and artillery onslaught uproots hundreds of thousands of Lebanese in a quarrel that is not theirs. They are victims of the Israeli military putting on a high-tech display as the U.S. did in the Gulf war. And they are victims of terrorists in the Party of God (Hezbollah) and its sponsors in distant Iran who will fight to the last Lebanese.

The first message, to Israelis and their enemies, is that Israel's security will not be sacrificed to its desire for peace. Hezbollah rockets increased on northern Israeli settlements after Israel's peace with the PLO materialized. The terrorists want the peace process to fail and they want Israel's opposition Likud party to win the May 29 election and stop it.

The action is also a message to Israeli voters that Prime Minister Shimon Peres is as tough as the late Yitzhak Rabin would have been. As a result, the Likud opposition, which had been gaining in the polls with every rocket attack, has nothing left to do but sputter its agreement with policy, as Mr. Peres' popularity returns.

Israel cannot root out Hezbollah with bombs, and will only recruit more young men to its ranks. But Israel hopes it is turning hundreds of thousands of displaced Lebanese into a pressure group on Lebanon's and Syria's governments for shutting down Hezbollah.

Several would-be intermediaries have come forward. The conflict threatens to split the European Union because France, with old interests in Lebanon and Syria, is acting unilaterally. The most interesting initiative was the request of Lebanon's prime minister that the king of Morocco intervene with Israel -- recognition that Israel is not isolated.

The governments of Syria and Lebanon always understood that something like this would recur if they did not restrain terrorists. Lebanon cannot be a weapons platform for potshots at Israel without receiving return fire. Hezbollah always knew that.

Pub Date: 4/16/96

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