Sanctuary and Survival:
The PLO in Lebanon
Boulder: Westview Press, 1990
by Rex Brynen
6) Countdown to Confrontation (1978-82)
If the PLO debate over UNIFIL deployment had reflected the extent to which issues of Lebanese policy had become inextricably bound up with broader ideological and political issues within the Palestinian movement, the 1978 invasion itself confirmed the extent to which the problems of PLO-Lebanese relations had become overshadowed by the threat of massive, direct Israeli intervention. In both policy debates and practical challenges, therefore, external considerations predominated.
Yet, as argued earlier, the calculus of confronting external threats to the PLO's Lebanese sanctuary was intimately tied to the security of its status in Lebanon. In one sense, this was as secure as ever: PLO-Syrian rapprochement had reactivated (if only partially) a key external alliance, while the PLO's military strength seemed to assure continued deterrence of any significant local threat. Yet this picture, against the backdrop of escalating Israeli pressure, was misleading. For while the vast bulk of the PLO's burgeoning physical infrastructure in Lebanon continued to emerge relatively unscathed from most Israeli attacks, the same could not be said of either the PLO's internal alliances or its position in Lebanese public opinion.
The toll, Lebanese and Palestinian, of Operation Litani had been severe. Up to two thousand persons had been killed. Six villages had been destroyed, and 82 others damaged. By Lebanese government estimate some 220,000 refugees-one-third of the area's population-had fled north from the fighting.1
Partly out of conviction, and partly out of concern at potential Lebanese repercussions, the PLO was quick to deny that the invasion had been a consequence of its own behavior. Israel's claim that the invasion was necessary for security purposes was labeled a mere "pretext." Instead, the PLO argued that the invasion was a reflection of "Zionist designs on south Lebanon," whereby "the Zionist leadership is revealing Israel's actual intention to occupy the southern and southeastern section of Lebanon, the underlying motive being access to and control over the waters of the Litani River."2 Nonetheless a broad range of Lebanese political figures, from the Sarkis administration and the Lebanese Front to Shi'i leaders and traditional figures in virtually every community, assigned a large portion of blame to the PLO. Large segments of public opinion followed suit, compounding an already serious deterioration of Palestinian-Lebanese relations at the popular level.
The seriousness of these problems soon became evident when, in April 1978, the Lebanese Chamber of Deputies came together to discuss what was termed the "Palestinian file" (al-milaf al-filastini). On April 10 a four person parliamentary committee was charged with finding a common denominator for the debate. The PLO Executive Committee responded three days later with a public re-endorsement of the ceasefire in the south. This gesture did not prevent the subsequent establishment of a larger committee to examine the Palestinian issue, nor the drafting April 23 of a six-point resolution on this and other aspects of the Lebanese conflict. On April 27 that resolution received the unanimous approval of the 74 members who attended a special session of the Chamber of Deputies for that purpose.
Two points of the parliamentary statement explicitly addressed the Palestinian presence in Lebanon. These called for "stopping all Palestinian and non-Palestinian armed action on all Lebanese territory" (point two), and "prohibiting any armed presence apart from that of the legitimate Lebanese authority, and applying Lebanese laws and regulations on all Lebanese as well as on all those present on Lebanese territory without any exception" (point three). The parliamentary declaration thus seemed to envisage a disarmed PLO presence in Lebanon, restricted to activities of a purely political nature.3
Even before the declaration had been formally adopted, the PLO had announced that as far as it was concerned "the decision to stop armed Palestinian action cannot be taken except by the Palestinian revolution alone."4 It also stressed that its military presence in Lebanon had been legitimized by the Cairo Agreement of 1969, which the declaration had not mentioned. Yet, as the Executive Committee met to discuss the parliamentary declaration, it faced a quandary. A sustained, frontal attack on the resolution adopted by the Lebanese Chamber of Deputies would be seen by many as an intolerable breach of Lebanese sovereignty-sovereignty for which, the PLO once more affirmed, it had the fullest respect. But, in view of its direct rebuttal of the PLO's acquired Cairo Agreement rights, the parliamentary resolution could hardly go unchallenged.
The response ultimately adopted by the Executive Committee was two-fold. It would look to its National Movement allies to bear the brunt of criticizing the declaration. At the same time, the PLO would take other steps to ease PLO-Lebanese tensions.
It was in pursuance of the latter that the Palestinian leadership initiated a round of discussions with Syria and Lebanese Prime Minister Salim al-Huss on the question of south Lebanon. Two months of talks culminated in a two and a half hour meeting between a PLO delegation led by 'Arafat and the Prime Minister on May 24. At the conclusion of that meeting, the Palestinian delegation issued a statement outlining a series of undertakings it had made:
1. The PLO assured the Prime Minister that it is interested in facilitating the mission of the UN forces to bring about complete Israeli withdrawal from the south and the restoration of Lebanese sovereignty there.
2. The PLO condemned all negative practices and excesses in the south. It expressed full readiness to exert every effort to prevent such excesses at the earliest possible time in order to preserve Palestinian-Lebanese relations.
3. The PLO emphasized that it intends to end armed manifestations in the south in order to help the legitimate authorities carry out their duties and exercise their sovereignty.
4. At the request of the Prime Minister, the PLO will seek to insure the departure of the volunteers who came during the Israeli invasion of the south.
5. It was agreed to hold further meetings to regulate Lebanese-Palestinian relations in such a way as to safeguard Lebanese sovereignty and serve the Palestinian cause.5
Two days later, a meeting of the tripartite Lebanese-Syrian-Palestinian technical committee was held. It was agreed to ban the establishment of arms depots or the presence of military vehicles in residential areas in the region between the Litani and Zahrani Rivers. The public appearance of armed men and the firing of weapons into the air during rallies was also banned, particularly in Sidon, Zahrani, and Nabatiyya. A new ceasefire was declared in the south. The PLO also relaxed its previous unwillingness to facilitate deployment of the Lebanese Army in the south. In spring 1979 an army battalion was permitted the passage through (but not deployment in) Joint Forces-controlled territory. The unit subsequently made its way, through Sidon, to Tibnin where it took up positions in the UNIFIL zone.6
The PLO insisted that such measures were designed to hasten an Israeli withdrawal from the south, and that they did not compromise Palestinian rights under the Cairo Agreement. There was, however, a major Lebanese public relations component to all this too, an aspect indirectly confirmed by Salah Khalaf when he warned that some guerrilla activities were seriously compromising the PLO's continuing status in Lebanon.7
The Decline of the National Movement
Before the civil war, the Palestinian movement had faced challenges to its position in Lebanon with the support of the Lebanese National Movement. It continued to do so afterwards. But the LNM which now stood by its side was a weaker, more divided version of its predecessor, a movement much less able to rally and coordinate the mass support it had so convincingly mobilized in 1969, 1973, and April 1975.
Of the several reasons for this, the assassination of Kamal Junblat was among the most apparent. The elder Junblat had been, whatever his weaknesses, an undeniably powerful political figure. He had been instrumental in welding a disparate assortment of reformist and revolutionary currents-Arab and Syrian nationalist, Nasirite and Ba'thist, social democratic and Marxist-into a loose but viable coalition with a common program and sense of direction. Moreover, Kamal Junblat's status was such that ties between the PLO and LNM reflected a rough equality between the two sides. This could prove a hindrance: according to one close observer Yasir 'Arafat would sometimes emerge from meetings with the PSP leader "almost crying with frustration" over the differences that had emerged between their respective political agendas.8 But the value to the PLO of an ally as powerful as Junblat and the LNM was clear.
With his assassination in March 1977, Kamal Junblat's son Walid had succeeded to the leadership of the PSP and LNM. Shortly thereafter the National Movement published a new program for the resolution of the Lebanese conflict.9 But Walid was not Kamal; the younger Junblat lacked the political experience and national appeal his father had enjoyed. In turn, this subjective change in leadership compounded a series of objective political developments then underway, accentuating the centrifugal tendencies the National Movement had always suffered.
One such factor was the low level of institutionalization the National Movement had achieved. Despite its claims to the contrary, the LNM had made little progress in creating a workable administrative and service infrastructure in the areas which had come under its control, or in strengthening political cooperation and military integration. According to Kamal Junblat, such weaknesses stemmed from a desire to avoid giving the appearance of participating in the de facto partition of the country.10 It was also, however, a product of Kamal Junblat's very personal leadership. During his lifetime this had tended to overshadow the need to attend to organizing or integrating the many groups that comprised the National Movement. Whatever the reason, it represented a lost opportunity to demonstrate and implement the movement's ideals. Instead, competition and lack of coordination sparked periodic bouts of internecine fighting amongst National Movement "allies," notably amongst the various small Nasirite groups in Beirut, and between the Murabitun and SSNP in November 1980. In Tripoli, an incident between Lebanese communists and pro-Iraqi Ba'thists punctuated continuing friction between (non-LNM) Sunni fundamentalists and the Syrian-supported (Alawite) Arab Democratic Party. It also allowed the local emergence of political and security vacuums, vacuums which local armed groups (many little more than street gangs with revolutionary labels) tended to fill. The neighborhoods of West Beirut and other National Movement areas were replete with these, each with its own checkpoints and leadership. Although their activities were outside the framework of the LNM, the movement could not help but suffer guilt by association in the minds of many Lebanese.11
A second development serving to weaken the National Movement was the increasingly sectarian nature of the Lebanese conflict during and after the civil war. Identity card murders and other sectarian atrocities had tended to reinforce communal identities; so too had the explicitly Islamic appeal of the traditional Sunni leadership and the militant Christianity espoused by the Maronite hawks of the Lebanese Front. This in turn strengthened zu'ama' whose political power rested on a confessional basis, while weakening those avowedly non-sectarian parties within the LNM. Certain aspects of National Movement policy and political analysis did not help. The notion of "sect-class" espoused by many on the Lebanese left, for example, had the effect of alienating many otherwise sympathetic Lebanese Christians.
In addition, the impact of Syrian policy on the LNM was substantial. Throughout the 1970s, Damascus played a skillful game of divide and influence, if not conquer. This strategy was evident in the formation of the National Front in 1976, in the death of Kamal Junblat, and in Syrian efforts to woo Walid Junblat into participating in a "Broad National Front" in 1977. Later, the pro-Syrian Lebanese Ba'th Party Organization rejoined the National Movement in an attempt to increase its influence from within. Amal, the Lebanese Arab Army, the SSNP and many other Lebanese organizations were deeply penetrated by Syrian intelligence. Meanwhile, Syrian pressure against some National Movement organizations (especially those associated with Iraq) was sustained and intense-even more sustained and intense than that exerted on the PLO. This represented a major reason why many LNM organizations expressed strong opposition to withdrawing from their last areas of autonomy in the south or permitting the deployment of the Lebanese Army there. By emphasizing traditional zu'ama' such as Rashid Karami and Sulayman Franjiyya as part of its "Broad National Front" strategy, Damascus reinforced the traditional figures of Lebanese political life, a strengthening that often came at the direct or indirect expense of the LNM.
Other Arab sponsors played the game too, each trying to advance its Lebanese interests through support for Lebanese organizations, or small splinters of organizations. As funds and arms (notably from Libya and Iraq) poured into the Lebanese cauldron, the National Movement grew ever more fragmented.
All of this had a dialectic affect on Palestinian-Lebanese relations. Throughout the early 1970s Palestinian organizations had also provided some material support to their Lebanese allies; during the civil war the joint command had been formed, and the PLO's military preponderance and expertise had led it to dominate the Joint Forces and military decision-making. Now, after Junblat's death, these seeds and the decline of National Movement fortunes provided the ingredients for a qualitative change in the nature of the ties between the LNM and the PLO. Fateh in particular stepped into the widening breach to become a major, and perhaps the major, sponsor of National Movement and local organizations. Fateh arms and funding flowed to many of the small neighborhood militias which sprang up, a policy that became known by its critics as the practice of setting up Lebanese "shops" (dakakin). These armed groups, or the security or military forces of a Palestinian organization proper, became a major source of employment for many Lebanese youth in Lebanon's post-civil war economic chaos. Divorced from dependence on a political following, such groups often also became a cover for theft, smuggling, and extortion. Their activities, and the LNM's consequent weakened independence, hastened the National Movement's decline. This in turn led Fateh to re-emphasize its contacts with the traditional Muslim conservative leadership-a "Broad Front" approach of its own, with equally deleterious effects on the LNM.
Such developments were criticized by the PFLP. For George Habash, it was a "major mistake" that "the very nature of the Lebanese-Palestinian national alliance during the period in question was guided by the Palestinian revolution." Similarly, the PFLP's Mustafa al-Zibri accused Fateh of having dealt with the LNM on a tactical basis, and of having thrust its own agenda upon its Lebanese allies:
This tactical outlook was shortsighted. If we review its history we discover many mistakes. A leader of a neighborhood would come to Fateh and say "I want to form an organization-give me money, give me arms." The next day-a new organization in the neighborhood. This was not the correct way to support the Lebanese National Movement.... Fateh considered itself responsible for everything, from anti-aircraft weapons to the post office in Beirut. They would not give the Lebanese National Movement a free hand to direct the fight.
As for Fateh's dealings with the "Islamic bourgeoisie," these resulted in "political compromises without any benefit to the Palestinian revolution" and further disturbed the position of the LNM.12
A similar critique was heard from the Democratic Front. Although it recognized "the objective factors that led to this situation," it argued that "it was in the interest of the Palestinian revolution to safeguard the independence of the [Lebanese] patriotic movement, to help it to overcome the internal weaknesses that it certainly did suffer from, to strengthen the position of the patriotic movement in the internal Lebanese formula instead of replacing it, instead of being a substitute for it."13
Yasir 'Arafat strongly denied that Fateh sought to dominate the LNM, and derided the suggestion that PLO should ignore the traditional Muslim elite. It was this group, he later argued, that constituted the "real power" in the country. Similarly, Fateh's Khalil al-Wazir subsequently suggested that the PLO had not gone far enough in this regard, and that the PLO erred in "neglecting others who were neutral, with whom we had to be on good terms-the other Islamic groups and the Christian groups.14
Some National Movement parties-the PSP, LCP, OCA-did remain influential players in their own right, with a central role in Lebanese and even Palestinian events. Within the LNM, Muhsin Ibrahim of the OCA, George Hawi of the LCP, and Inam Ra'ad of the SSNP all occupied positions almost as influential as that of Walid Junblat himself. As a coalition, however, the overall status of the nationalist and progressive movement was fading. To reverse this decline, the LNM adopted in the spring of 1981 a new charter and program of action designed to set the movement on firmer foundations. Among other things, it called for the National Movement to take a more active security and social welfare role in the areas it controlled. Political and military relations with the PLO were to be reorganized, with the latter's security duties primarily limited to defense of the Palestinian presence.15 In March 1982 the National Movement announced that elections would be held the following month for local councils in West Beirut. But neither of these initiatives made much progress. By virtue of its superior strength and resources, the PLO (or more properly Fateh) remained the dominant force in the Joint Forces. In Beirut, the council proposal was dropped in the face of vociferous opposition from the traditional Muslim elite, the government, Amal, and the Lebanese Front.
The Rise of the Lebanese Forces
In contrast to the gradual disintegration of the Lebanese progressive movement, the reverse process was underway in the conservative Christian camp. With single-minded determination, Bashir al-Jumayyil was building the militias of the Lebanese Front into a new, unified political and military power: the Lebanese Forces.
The Lebanese Forces had originally been established in 1976 as a military umbrella for the militias of the Christian right.16 Bashir had entered its leadership in July of that year, after the death of Phalangist commander William Hawi during the fighting around Tall al-Za'tar. When the fighting ended, the younger Jumayyil proceeded to use the Lebanese Forces to build a new power base for himself, distinct from that of the Phalange or any of the other traditional rightist parties. His was a new brand of Christian/Maronite militancy, in some ways more akin to that of Camille Chamoun than that of his father. Like Chamoun, Bashir saw in Israel a natural ally. Relations between the Lebanese Forces and the Begin government flourished. Unlike him, Bashir rejected as obsolete many of the traditional symbols and precepts of a "National Pact" Lebanon. His views and personality appealed to a young generation of Christian militiamen who (whatever their formal party memberships) became fiercely attached to their military commander.
Little was allowed to stand in his way. In June 1978, his forces attacked the Franjiyya mountain home at Ehdin, killing Tony Franjiyya (the former President's son, and commander of the Zgharta militia), his wife, and daughter. In July 1980 it was the turn of al-Numur, the LNP militia. In 1981 he even disarmed Phalangist militiamen loyal to his brother Amin in the Metn.
Bashir al-Jumayyil's actions soon put him on a direct collision course with Syria. Relations between the two sides had already become frosty as a consequence of the ADF's growing unwillingness to either suppress the Palestinians altogether or allow the LF to do so. Then, in February 1978, fighting broke out between the ADF and Christian rightist units of the Lebanese Army (supported by the LNP) at the Fayaddiyya barracks. In April, rightist leaders accused the ADF of bias when it intervened to contain fighting between the (Christian) 'Ayn al-Rummana and (Muslim) Shiyah districts of Beirut. The attack on the (pro-Syrian) Franjiyyas that summer provoked further fighting in June and July, culminating in the resignation of President Sarkis in protest over Syrian bombardment of East Beirut. (Sarkis later withdrew his resignation when the shooting stopped.) More fighting erupted in the fall, again followed by a ceasefire. In October, the foreign ministers of Lebanon and those countries contributing to the ADF (Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Sudan, Qatar, and the UAE) met at Bayt al-Din, south-east of Beirut. The outcome was essentially a reaffirmation of the role of the ADF and a strong condemnation of those dealing with Israel.17
On several occasions during this period the Lebanese Forces and Lebanese Front accused the PLO of engineering the clashes to damage their relations with Damascus. The PLO strongly denied the charge, asserting that, on the contrary, its forces had explicit orders not to join the fighting even if fired upon.18 While the PLO was undoubtedly pleased by the collapse of the Syrian-rightist alliance, Palestinian leaders could not help but be alarmed by the rise of Bashir al-Jumayyil and a strong, militant Lebanese Front:
These forces are well known for their isolationism. Two aspects of their isolationism have to be kept in mind: their affiliation to the West, and their extreme chauvinism in categorically rejecting Arabism. The socio-economic development of Lebanon coupled with the disintegration of the structure inherited from the French mandate era seriously threatened their privileges as a ruling class. These conditions created an objective situation for the conspiracy against the Palestinian Revolution as a dynamic mobilizing force of the exploited masses and the progressive nationalist forces in Lebanon.19
In the PLO's view such isolationism and conservatism provided strong grounds for the Lebanese Front to forge closer and closer ties to the Palestinians' Israeli foe.
In an attempt to offset this, Salah Khalaf met with Amin al-Jumayyil of the Phalange politburo in October 1978. In November, Palestinian academic Walid Khalidi and Palestinian businessman Hasib Sabbagh held discussions with Pierre al-Jumayyil, Camille Chamoun, and Sulayman Franjiyya. These latter meetings achieved nothing of substance. They did, however, set off a storm of protest from other Palestinian groups, Syria, and the PLO's Lebanese allies. The Central Council of the Lebanese National Movement quickly issued a statement demanding a formal explanation. On November 15 the PLO Executive Committee met to discuss the issue.
Support for Khalidi and Sabbagh was soon forthcoming from Khalaf, who defended the principle of dialogue and the right of the Palestinian movement to speak to whomever it pleased. He also recognized in the virulent condemnations of Khalidi and Sabbagh now being heard, attacks on his own earlier discussions with Amin al-Jumayyil. In a press conference held at the WAFA offices in Beirut, the Fateh leader stressed that the two men's initiative, taken on a personal basis, had nonetheless been told him in advance. It was hoped that it might lead to the extension of the present ceasefire into a permanent truce. The contacts had been established on the clear grounds that Khalidi and Sabbagh did not represent the PLO, and that there could be no dialogue with those who continued to cooperate with Israel. Finally, the discussions had been based on the principle that the permanent resettlement of the Palestinians in Lebanon was unacceptable, and that Syria must be part of any agreement.20
The political pressure exerted on the PLO by Syria and its Lebanese allies, combined with the unproductiveness of the actual meetings themselves, cut short the nascent dialogue. The PLO disavowed any official involvement. Khalidi and Sabbagh's efforts, stated Yasir 'Arafat, had been a "sincere personal initiative," but "we regret the uproar that has resulted." He added the PLO's official view that "we consider a Lebanese-Palestinian dialogue as necessary," but that such a dialogue "must come after, not before, a Lebanese-Lebanese dialogue."21
Shi'ite Stirrings: The PLO, Amal, and the South
Overshadowed by the military might of other militias and Palestinians, discredited by his wartime quietism and collaboration with Syria, Imam Musa al-Sadr's influence had fallen sharply in the two years immediately following the 1975-76 civil war. In 1978-79, however, a series of events was to revitalize the Amal movement.22
The first of these was the March 1978 Israeli invasion of south Lebanon. The continuing war in the south had visited massive destruction on the poor Shi'ite farmers of the area.23 Increasingly, the blame for this was placed on the Palestinian presence, and the attitude of many southern villagers to the PLO grew steadily more hostile. It was a trend which was encouraged by Shi'i notables, by the Lebanese Front, and by Israel. It was reinforced by the often insensitive and sometimes brutal behavior of members of the Joint Forces. And it was a trend which the PLO's Lebanese allies, displaced from their home villages in the south by Israel or Haddad's militia, could do little to counter. Local villages armed themselves, to resist by force any attempt by the Joint Forces to establish positions near their homes and fields which might invite Israeli retaliation. The degree to which Amal encouraged this is debatable; generally it was the product of local initiative rather than central direction. Shortly after his election as Chairman of the Amal Command Council in 1980, however, Amal leader Nabih Berri did acknowledge that he saw a conflict of interest between southerners and the PLO, and that "without the Palestinian presence in the south the residents of the south would not have had to carry the same heavy burden."24 Almost by default, Amal became an umbrella for Shi'ite anti-Palestinian organization, a situation that Amal in turn exploited to further its own mobilization of the Shi'ite community.
A second factor in the resurgence of Amal was the disappearance of Imam Musa al-Sadr while on a trip to Libya in August 1978. In the context of Shi'i religious and cultural tradition the "vanished" Imam took on a particular significance.25 Sadr provided a unifying symbol for the resurgent Amal, stimulating an appeal in his absence that he had failed to generate while at its helm.
Third, there was the effect of the Iranian revolution. Strong religious and social links had always existed between Lebanese Shi'ites and the larger Shi'ite population of Iran. Imam Musa al-Sadr himself was born in Iran. Dr. Mustafa 'Ali Shamran, who had worked with Sadr in Lebanon and operated a school near Tyre, later became Minister of Defense of the Islamic Republic until his death in 1981. After its 1979 revolution, Iran emerged as an important sponsor of Shi'ite political organization in Lebanon (and even more so after 1982, when units of Iranian Revolutionary Guards deployed in the Biqa' provided considerable support for Hizb allah, Islamic Amal, and other fundamentalist groups.) Perhaps most important of all, however, was the psychological feeling of community empowerment which the dramatic success of the (Shi'i) Islamic revolution against the Shah generated within the Lebanese Shi'ite community.
The growth of Amal in the early 1980s was accompanied by increasing friction between it and many of the constituent groups of the LNM and PLO. The disappearance of Imam al-Sadr, for example, fueled tensions between Amal and pro-Libyan Lebanese Nasirite groups; similarly, the eruption of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980 led to clashes with the (pro-Iraqi) ALF and Arab Socialist Ba'th Party. Political competition for recruits and influence within the Shi'a community set Amal against many National Movement organizations, notably the Lebanese Communist Party and OCA. On top of all this, local friction was generated by the deployment of the Joint Forces in the south, and the resistance to this by local groups under Amal's banner.
The first major clashes between Amal and the Joint Forces in Beirut erupted in February and March 1980, as the two sides jockeyed for position after a redeployment of the ADF out of many positions in west and south Beirut. In the spring, the assassination (in Iraq) of an Iraqi Shi'ite leader sparked fighting between Amal and pro-Iraqi groups. This was finally contained, although not entirely ended, in June by the formation of a Palestinian-LNM-Amal coordinating committee. Amal, however, continued to reject Fateh blandishments to join the Joint Forces or the PLO-LNM joint command.
Officially, the PLO maintained a position of neutrality in the fighting, seeking only its end. PLO leaders stressed that there was no conflict between the Palestinians and Amal, and that on the contrary relations were "good."26 But behind these public statements, Palestinian attitudes towards Amal were hardening. Many in the Fateh leadership saw Amal as a Syrian tool, one being used to weaken the PLO and LNM in the south with the active connivance of some Amal leaders:
From the beginning we had encouraged Imam Musa al-Sadr to create an organization to take a stand in the south and support it. We encouraged this creation, in the south, in the poor areas of Beirut. Imam Musa al-Sadr's slogan was one of "unity between those deprived of their land, and those deprived in their land." This was the beginning of [Fateh's] relations with Amal: we used to support them, train them, give them equipment, sometimes even financial support. And relations continued in a good way until 1976. In 1976 Syrian intelligence began to put their hands on Amal, and that created the beginning of differences between us and Amal...
In 1978 suddenly Nabih Berri reappeared in Beirut, and was able to take control of Amal from Husayn Husayni and Shaykh Muhammad Shams al-Din. At that time, Amal's relations with Syria were strong. Nabih Berri's plan was to destroy the relations between us and the Syrians, and between Amal and the National Movement. It was almost a daily plan: every day there was a clash between Amal and this Lebanese party or that Lebanese party, this Palestinian group or that Palestinian group.27
Fateh also sought to use its contacts with the new revolutionary government in Iran to improve Palestinian-Shi'a relations in south Lebanon. In the immediate aftermath of the Iranian revolution, PLO-Iranian relations were very warm: some members of the Iranian opposition had received military training in Palestinian camps in Lebanon during the Shah's reign, and 'Arafat himself visited Tehran on 17 February 1979 (less than a week after the collapse of the Bakhtiar government) to praise the new regime. But neither this, nor efforts to mediate between the combatants, made much progress:
In 1981 we began to understand Amal's game, because they began to play this game in the villages of the south. Of course when there was a clash between Amal and the Nationalist groups we used to intercede to stop the clash, so sometimes we had to use force. When we had to use force, when civilians were involved, this reflected on our relations with the population in the area....
We used to support the nationalist groups not directly, but indirectly. But Amal always accused the Palestinians, [saying] that every clash in south Lebanon was the responsibility of the Palestinians. Because they were Shi'a, these slogans had their effect on the civilians in the south. This was the point-this was the danger of Amal's behavior. It continued up until the last few days before the invasion in 1982.28
In fact, Fateh deployed increasingly heavy military force against Amal and pro-Amal Shi'i villages in the south, a move that only served to exacerbate Shi'a-Palestinian tensions.
Within the PLO, others shared Fateh's concern over the rise of Amal's military and political power. The ALF was particularly hostile to Amal, reflecting the state of relations between Iraq and Iran elsewhere in the region. The PFLP journal al-Hadaf declared that Amal was "seeking to liquidate the positions of the National Movement in southern Lebanon," and warned that there was "a limit to the Palestinian revolution's abstention from getting involved in the fighting."29
The DFLP, however, adopted a dissenting position, arguing that confrontation with Amal constituted a "grave political mistake." In its view what was taking place was "a struggle for influence, for prestige in the south," an "underground war against groups and tendencies that were considered in alliance with Syria at that time"-including Amal, "considered by the Fateh leadership as one of the stooges of the Syrians."
We were completely against this. And in some cases we in the Democratic Front were on the verge of military confrontation with Fateh in order to stop some of the aggressive acts against these groups-in spite of the fact that, neither in ideology nor in politics, were we very much in agreement. But we thought that it was not in the interests of the Palestinian resistance to reshape the Lebanese patriotic movement to its own image. By respecting the independence of this movement, by trying to help it to consolidate its influence in the internal Lebanese struggle, and by building up the political and military might of this movement-this we viewed as the main guarantee for the long-term objectives and interests of the PLO and the Palestinian resistance.30
The DFLP suggested that it was the task of the Lebanese left-not the PLO-to meet the challenge of Amal, and through political rather than military means. But this argument had little influence on events, leading only to serious difficulties between the DFLP and some of its Lebanese allies, especially the Lebanese Communist Party.
Clashes between the Joint Forces and Amal broke out once more in March, April, and August 1981, leading to the formation of a new Higher Security Committee comprising the ADF, PLO, LNM, and Amal. Some ADF troops were stationed in Beirut's southern suburbs, but this did not prevent a recurrence of the fighting in January 1982. In April the heaviest clashes yet broke out in Beirut, Zahrani, Nabatiyya, and around a dozen southern towns and villages. The PLO denied involvement, but such denials were quickly brushed away. Imam Muhammad Mahdi Shams al-Din of the Supreme Shi'i Council accused Palestinian and National Movement forces of shelling Shi'i villages in the south.31 The Council itself issued a strongly-worded communique calling for an end to the fighting and the effective reassertion of Lebanese authority in the area. Although the joint coordinating committee finally brought the shooting to an end, the situation remained explosive.
Destabilizing the "State Within the State"
The mounting public relations problems of the Palestinian resistance in Lebanon were compounded by the often poor behavior towards the Lebanese population exhibited by some PLO guerrillas themselves. Even such a strong supporter of the PLO as Kamal Junblat had been moved to comment in 1977:
It has to be said that the Palestinians themselves, by violating Lebanese law, bearing arms as they chose and policing certain important points of access to the capital, actually furthered the plot that had been hatched against them. They carelessly exposed themselves to criticism and even to hatred. High officials and administrators were occasionally stopped and asked for their identity papers by Palestinian patrols. From time to time, Lebanese citizens and foreigners were arrested and imprisoned, on the true or false pretext of having posed a threat to the Palestinian revolution. Such actions were, at first, forgiven, but became increasingly difficult to tolerate. Outsiders making the law in Lebanon, armed demonstrations and ceremonies, military funerals for martyrs of the revolution, it all mounted up and began to alienate public opinion, especially conservative opinion, which was particularly concerned about security.... I never saw a less discreet, less cautious revolution.32
The situation had deteriorated further amidst the anarchy that was the civil war. The collapse of state authority, the heavy fighting in urban areas, the proliferation of arms and organizations-all of this provided a cover under which personal interest was advanced. For some Lebanese militias, emerging from the qabaday tradition of local strong-arm politics, such activities represented as much their raison d'être as did any political objectives or beliefs.33 This was not the case for Palestinian organizations, which as organizations condemned such behavior, and of whose members only a minority were involved. Still some, including some senior leaders, did exploit the situation. Sa'iqa was particularly notorious in this regard, with its members accused of particular fondness for loot and its leader, Zuhayr Muhsin, winning the nickname al-'ajami ("The Persian") from his reputed fondness for stolen rugs. Again, Junblat was moved to comment (not disinterestedly) on his regret of "the chaos created by the Palestinians and nearly all the other parties, the tendency to unbridled self-indulgence and looting":
Al-Sa'iqa tore through Beirut like a cyclone, looting everything. Nearly half the Lebanese population imitated them, in an exhibition of moral decadence for which one can only blame the rapid or illicit enrichment of the few in the past, the disorganization of the state and the re-emergence of the "rapacious Bedouin" in the ranks of the combatants... The flea market was flooded with goods looted from the houses, villas, banks, shops and seraglios of Beirut. After all, Persian carpets are a good long-term investment.... Gangsterism, the ugly face of Bedouinism, reigned triumphant.34
After the fighting died down, smuggling, extortion, and theft continued. So too did corruption as some Palestinian or Lebanese militia officials translated their de facto control of large areas of Lebanon into yet more direct personal gain. Their conspicuous wealth at a time when ordinary Palestinians and Lebanese were facing bombings, shellings, and social hardship had a severely corrosive effect on the PLO's status, largely overshadowing the image of a decade earlier of the self-sacrificing fida'i struggling to regain usurped rights.35
The problem of criminality, damaging enough in itself, was compounded by political chaos. When fighting flared between or within Palestinian or Lebanese organizations, civilians were often caught in the middle. In the worst single such case in August 1978, as many as one hundred persons were killed when an apartment building housing the PLF headquarters in the Fakahani district of Beirut was blown up, most probably by the PFLP-GC.
Furthermore, Arab regimes continued to use Palestinian or Lebanese organizations to settle their own scores in Lebanon, with similar effects. As Salah Khalaf complained:
most analyses of the causes of the civil war attribute major responsibility to the fida'iyyin, who by their excesses supposedly pushed the Christian rightist parties to take action against the Palestinians.
Advocates of this thesis overlook the fact that most of the provocations to which they refer were committed by fida'iyyin organizations manipulated by various Arab regimes, which traditionally settle their scores on Lebanese territory. For instance, when an article offensive to Iraq is published it is the Arab Liberation Front, a mere puppet of the Baghdad regime, which takes the matter into hand by dynamiting the publication's building and killing about a dozen people in the process. And when Sa'iqa, which dances to the tune of Damascus, kidnaps Lebanese belonging to the pro-Iraqi Ba'th party, the PLO is accused of interfering in Lebanon's internal affairs. Or when Libya decides to seize an opponent it digs up some obscure Palestinian splinter group to do its dirty work.
All this put the PLO in an "intolerable position":
First of all, it goes without saying that we don't necessarily know who is responsible for every act. And secondly, even if we do know, it would be suicidal to incur the wrath of the various Arab regimes on the pretext of maintaining order. Could we afford the luxury of breaking with Syria or Saudi Arabia, for example?36
Tajawuzat ("excesses") was the generic title given to such militia crime, corruption, extortion, internecine fighting in Joint Forces' areas, violations of the Cairo Agreement, and friction arising from the Palestinian presence in the south. Palestinian leaders protested that the Palestinians were not responsible for much of what transpired, that agents provocateurs were at work, and that the situation was being exploited by those opposed to the Palestinian presence in Lebanon. And much of this was undoubtedly true. Certainly it could point to an effective campaign against it and its image by the Phalangist Voice of Lebanon radio,Voice of Hope in the Haddad enclave, the right-wing press, and Israel.37 In the Sunni, Shi'i, and Druze communities, many traditional figures were using popular irritation with the PLO as a means of recycling their own political power among their co-religionists. So too was Amal. And the Lebanese environment-a "machine-gun forest," in Salah Khalaf's words-was hardly conducive to the maintenance of order.38
But recognition of these mitigating factors made little practical difference. Car-bombings and assassinations were just as deadly, no matter who instigated them. Israeli attacks were apparently a product of the Palestinian presence, Palestinian allegations of long-term Zionist aspirations in south Lebanon not withstanding. And criminal acts or political violence, whether committed by Palestinians or Lebanese, were seen as occurring under the Palestinians security "umbrella," a view reinforced by the often hazy lines of demarcation between Palestinian and Lebanese organizations. The hostile propaganda (however exaggerated) retained enough basis in fact and day-to-day experience that it was readily accepted by large segments of Lebanese public opinion, Christian and Muslim alike.
The PLO made multiple attempts to halt and reverse the political damage it was suffering in Lebanese public opinion as a consequence of both tajawuzat and Israeli destruction in the south. Repeated declarations of support for Lebanese sovereignty, the Shtura and 'Arafat-Huss Agreements, the announcement of ceasefires in the south or freezes on cross-border military activity all comprised aspects of this policy. So too did a series of other measures announced (but rarely implemented) by the PLO, often in response to specific incidents or irritants in PLO-Lebanese relations. Thus on 1 February 1978, after fighting between the PFLP-GC and PLF in the Sidon refugee camps sparked a protest strike by the inhabitants of that city, the PLO and National Movement agreed to close most Palestinian offices and hand over vacated positions to the LNM. A joint committee was formed to oversee implementation of the agreement, first in Sidon and later in Tyre, Nabatiyya, and other southern towns, and to deal with violators and "undisciplined elements." Further provisions were announced by the National Movement a week later. In May 1978, a decree outlining and strengthening the powers of the PLO Military Prosecutor, its revolutionary courts, and the Palestine Armed Struggle Command was issued by PLO Chairman Yasir 'Arafat. In June 1979, the PLO-LNM joint command again promised the closure of offices in Tyre so as to "expose the excuses which the enemy uses to justify his aggression and to defend the masses and their sovereignty." In December, new PLO regulations were announced which, among other things, prohibited commercial activities by PLO employees and the illegal or unpaid acquisition of property. The PLO's intention to close offices outside the camps and end "armed manifestations" was reaffirmed. In June 1980, the PLO announced again that offices in Sidon outside of the refugee camps would be closed, and that armed men would be withdrawn from the streets. The undertaking was expanded and reiterated yet one more time in November, after clashes between the Muribitun and SSNP in Beirut.39
By the early 1980s, tajawuzat had become the single-most demanding Lebanese issue facing Fateh/PLO decision-makers. Reflecting this concern, the issue was debated at length by Fateh's Fourth General Congress in May 1980, which called for "eliminating all negative aspects that threaten relations with the [Lebanese] masses." A special committee of the Fateh Revolutionary Council was reportedly formed to examine appropriate policy measures to deal with the situation.40 But, given the nature of the PLO, LNM, and the sensitivity of the Palestinian position in Lebanon, the matter was not so easily resolved. Restrictions on Palestinian deployment, behavior and activities were rarely implemented, in large part because of the multiplicity of competing organizations and sometimes poor command and control at the local level. Any attempt to force acceptance of such measures, or to impose strict security procedures, would generally be resisted by LNM and PLO groups seeking to preserve their freedom of action. Even when the mechanisms of internal Palestinian discipline did operate, the outcome was usually less than effective. Because of the Lebanese security situation, prison terms for offenders lasted a matter of days or weeks at worst. Formal death sentences (except in the case of flagrant car-bombings) were rare, in part because of 'Arafat's unwillingness to condone them.41
Moreover, increased security measures tended to reinforce the very impression the PLO leadership was seeking to avoid: that the Palestinians considered themselves a "state within the state." This view had first been promoted by the Lebanese right in the aftermath of the Jordanian débâcle in 1970, when PLO institutions and cadres forced from Jordan had been relocated to Lebanon. It gained currency after the civil war, reflecting growing Lebanese dissatisfaction with the Palestinian movement, the expansion of the PLO's military and social infrastructure, and fears that Egypt's unilateral peace with Israel would result in permanent Palestinian settlement in Lebanon. The scope of Palestinian institution-building-always an important part of the modern revitalization of Palestinian identity, but nowhere more evident than in Lebanon-further strengthened perceptions that Lebanon was becoming the Palestinians' watan badil, or "alternative homeland."
In Lebanon, the development of Palestinian social and political institutions had been equally propelled by the collapse of Lebanese central government in 1975-76 and by the Palestinians' post-1969 political autonomy.42 Thus the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, which had opened clinics in Lebanon in 1969, opened its first hospital in Beirut in 1975 to deal with the exigencies of the civil war. By 1976, it was operating three hospitals; six years later, the PRCS operated no less than 10 hospitals and 30 clinics in the Lebanese camps, 2 physiotherapy centers, a residential rehabilitation center, an orthopedic workshop, a nursing school, and multiple pharmacies. A further 47 other clinics were run by non-Fateh guerrilla organizations. SAMED (the Palestinian Martyrs Works Society), relocated to Lebanon from Jordan in 1971, emerged as a major source of vocational training after the civil war. By 1981 its 46 workshops and factories in Lebanon employed 5,000 persons and had trained some 30,000 more, with reported earnings of $40 million.
Palestinian political organization kept pace with this expansion. The two largest Palestinian mass organizations-the General Union of Palestine Workers and the General Union of Palestinian Women-each boasted tens of thousands of members, most of them in Lebanon. The PLO had grown from a loosely organized collection of fida'iyyin to a vast bureaucratic network, centered in Lebanon, employing perhaps eight thousand civil servants and a budget (including that of constituent organizations) in the hundreds of millions of dollars, three-quarters of which went to support the PLO's social and administrative programs. Despite undertakings in the Milkart Protocols and elsewhere not to entangle Lebanon in its informational activities, Lebanon had become the center of much of the Palestinian press, and of the PLO's Voice of Palestine radio network. And, of course, it was the PLO that was the major military force in those areas of Lebanon under the nominal control of the LNM.
Recognizing the political dangers that Lebanese perceptions of a Palestinian "state within the state" posed, efforts were made to use Palestinian institutions to ameliorate Lebanese conditions. A "hearts and minds" campaign of sorts was launched in the south, with the PLO reportedly providing assistance in rebuilding homes destroyed by Israeli attack, digging shelters. Up to L£19 million was paid in compensation. After July 1981 and the particularly heavy Israeli attacks of that summer, a further L£18 million was paid: in the heavily-bombed Fakahani/al-Tariq al-Jadid district of Beirut, L£2,000 was offered to those whose houses had been destroyed or rendered uninhabitable, and L£1,000 to those whose houses had been damaged or who had been forced to seek temporary accommodation. In the south, the PLO reportedly purchased the harvests of farmers whose crops had been destroyed or otherwise rendered unmarketable by damage to local roads and bridges.43
In 1979 alone, the PLO spent a reported L£9 million treating Lebanese civilians wounded in Israeli or rightist militia attacks. The number of cases treated by the PRCS in Lebanon rose from 373,328 in January-June 1980 to 425,682 in the same period in 1981. Of these 156,209 (37%) were civilians, and 44,183 (34%) of these civilians Lebanese. In direct competition with Israel's own "Good Fence" policy of trying to win support from the local population, the PRCS offered free medical treatment to inhabitants of the border zone. Ironically, this meant that at times Palestinian doctors in Tyre would treat Lebanese civilians with Israeli, even IDF, medical records.44
At the time, the Palestinian military commander at Nabatiyya painted an optimistic view of the scope and effectiveness of such relief efforts:
On the administrative level, we cooperate with the regional command of the LNM and the Lebanese Arab Army to provide the inhabitants with medical and food assistance. The shelling has caused great damage to water, telephone and electricity networks, and we have had to repair the damage and restore as many essential services as possible. We have two medical centers here. One is run by the Palestinian Red Crescent medical service and the other is run by the LNM. Both of them provide medical treatment free for everyone. Even those medical centers and their personnel have come under attack by Israeli shelling.
Our efforts in these fields are fruitful. The bonds between ourselves and the people of the area are strengthened, their morale is raised and they have a greater opportunity to continue living on their land in their villages.45
Others were less glowing in their assessments. One senior DFLP leader warned that neither the PLO nor the LNM had yet undertaken effective political mobilization so as to reverse the "reactionary political effects" in Lebanon of Israeli attacks. He suggested that more could be done to address the housing, medical, and economic needs of displaced southern refugees.46 In fact, Nabatiyya camp and town had by now been abandoned by much of their civilian and refugee population in the face of incessant attacks by Israel and Haddad's militia.
Yet, for the time-being at least, the Lebanese themselves (including the LNM) seemed unwilling or unable to undertake either security or administrative responsibilities themselves. Compounding the dilemma, January-March 1980 saw the ADF remove the bulk of its troops from the Beirut-Sidon coastal strip and West Beirut itself, leaving the PLA and the Joint Forces primarily responsible for these areas.
On top of this, a wave of bombings struck Palestinian and LNM-controlled areas beginning in the autumn of 1981. On 17-18 September 1981, car-bombs exploded in Sidon, near Tripoli, and in West Beirut. On September 20, a bomb exploded in a West Beirut cinema. On October 1 another explosion rocked the western part of the capital. Over 300 persons were killed and wounded in these attacks, for which a hitherto unknown "Front for the Liberation of Lebanon from Foreigners" claimed responsibility.47
The PLO and LNM placed blame on the Lebanese Front, Haddad, the Deuxième Bureau and Israel, pointing to the Israel detonators and Hebrew markings found on a car-bomb which improperly detonated in Sidon in February 1982. Salah Khalaf warned the instigators that there was a limit to the PLO's patience: if the bombers did not desist, there would be "no safe areas"-meaning LF-controlled East Beirut and the Haddad enclave to the south. But he also placed blame elsewhere, noting that "many Arab intelligence services are tampering with the Lebanese arena" and citing the particular case of an attempted bombing of an apartment building containing a leftist radio station. Around the same time, a wave of assassinations and murders also struck foreign embassies and diplomatic personnel in West Beirut; the targets (primarily Iraqi and French diplomats) suggested a connection to the Iran-Iraq war. Thus, as well as the Lebanese and Arab-Israeli conflicts, other regional tensions continued to find expression in violence in Lebanon.48
By late 1981, the scope of this violence finally led to wide public support for stricter security measures. A meeting of the ADF, LNM, and PLO under the auspices of the Higher Coordinating Committee led to a decision to use ADF troops (including PLA units) to patrol West Beirut. The decision was also taken to ban the presence of other armed men on the streets, to remove heavy weapons from residential neighborhoods, and to halt the illegal construction or occupation of buildings. For a while, the security situation improved. Then, on 26 April 1982, Shaykh Ahmad 'Assaf (a prominent Sunni religious figure) was assassinated. This led to a nation-wide protest strike on April 28. On May 5, a car-bomb exploded near the home of Shaykh Hasan Khalid, the Sunni Grand Mufti. Popular revulsion at these acts damaged the credibility of the LNM still further, and strengthened at its expense the position of the traditional Muslim leadership.
There were also incidents in Sidon. In March and again in May, Voice of Lebanon reported clashes between Fateh and members of the local Popular Nasirite Organization. In mid-May a prominent member of the PNO was killed. The rightist press promptly accused Salah Khalaf's PLO security department of responsibility.49 A strike by city residents followed.
According to PLO sources, the clashes and murder stemmed from a dispute between groups within the PLO and Popular Nasirite Organization, rather than differences between the two organizations per se. The fact that the PLO quickly arrested and handed over to a Lebanese military court for trial the chief suspects in the murder-something it scarcely would have done had the men been acting under orders, as the rightist media charged-seemed to confirm this. But this and other incidents nonetheless illustrated the severe damage being done the PLO's status in Lebanon by undisciplined elements within its ranks, and the effective exploitation (even provocation) of the resulting incidents by hostile elements. It also showed, as Voice of Palestine ruefully admitted, that efforts by the PLO and LNM to correct the mistakes of the past had generally resulted in a "quick, temporary solution" which allowed the problem to reappear elsewhere in a slightly different form. Support for the Palestinian armed presence in Lebanon, as distinct from Lebanese support for the Palestinian cause, was at low ebb.50
Such problems of security, PLO-LNM relations, and tajawuzat were inextricably tied to the PLO's military situation and policy in the south. As Khalil al-Wazir explained:
We can't neglect the circumstances. It was a war. Look at the years after the 1978 war when the Israelis invaded the south. 1979, 1980, 1981-it was continuous war, it didn't stop. A week or even two days wouldn't go by without Israeli attacks by sea, by air, by special forces, by helicopters. Every day for three years, and if not this day, then the next. It was a continuous war, everywhere and all the time. This left us always in continuous battle. We were not paying attention to building [Lebanese] relations because we were in battle...[we] made some mistakes here or there because we, as the Palestinian leadership, were busy facing continuous Israeli attacks.51
By the same token, the destruction wrought by war in the south only served to fuel antipathy towards the Palestinian armed presence.
Camp David and the War in the South, 1978-81
On 17 September 1978, American President Jimmy Carter, Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel, and President Anwar al-Sadat of Egypt had signed at Camp David an agreement on a "framework for peace in the Middle East." The following year, on 26 March 1979, the same parties signed a full and formal Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. Neither agreement was to bring much peace to the Palestinians, nor the Lebanese. On the contrary it had the opposite effect as the south of Lebanon became one of the chief remaining arenas of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
For the PLO, Camp David had made it imperative to force recognition, through armed and diplomatic struggle alike, of the centrality of the Palestinian question in any lasting and meaningful Middle East peace settlement. But there were dangers in doing so, and concerns that "the Zionist-isolationist plan in Lebanon will try to exploit the results of the liquidationist Camp David Agreement to escalate their aggression against the Lebanese nationalist forces, the Palestinian revolution, and Syria."52
For Syria, the Camp David process had heightened the political and strategic importance of the triangular Syrian-Lebanese-Palestinian relationship, and hence the importance of maintaining maximum influence over Lebanese and Palestinian events. Under such circumstances, Damascus was even less inclined to tolerate independence on the part of the PLO or LNM.
For Israel, military pressure on south Lebanon represented an important means of achieving both security and diplomatic goals. Israeli attacks on the PLO in south Lebanon were deliberately intended to undermine the position of PLO "moderates," thus reducing the likelihood that the PLO would make the sort of diplomatic initiatives and concessions necessary for contacts with the US, and in the longer term abort pressure on Israel for direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.53 Later, with the conclusion of the Camp David Accords and the effective neutralization of Egypt-the most powerful of the Arab confrontation states-Israel acquired a position of massive regional strategic superiority, a virtual carte blanche of realpolitik that could now be applied to its remaining opponents in Lebanon.
In the wake of "Operation Litani," significant fighting between Israel and the PLO in south Lebanon had resumed in December 1978, three months after Camp David. The IDF raided a Palestinian base near Tyre; the PLO responded by firing rockets into northern Israel. A similar pattern continued into the new year, aggravated by a DFLP guerrilla attack on Ma'alot and subsequent Israeli shelling of Sidon and Nabatiyya. On January 24, UNIFIL managed to achieve an informal and irregularly-observed ceasefire.
Then, in April 1979 and only one month after the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, the Israeli government announced its adoption of a new policy of "preventative" or "preemptive" Israeli attacks against the PLO. Four major raids and a host of unacknowledged shellings of Palestinian positions in south Lebanon followed. On its part too the PLO declared its determination to escalate the armed struggle against Israel. But at the same time, it emphasized that Palestinian fighters were acting from within the occupied territories or by sea, as in the case of an abortive sea-borne attack by Fateh in March and another by the PLF on Nahariya in April, rather than infiltrating across the Lebanese border. In June 1979, 'Arafat claimed that only two cross-border infiltrations by PLO forces had taken place in the past two years.54
By late August 1979 fighting had escalated to include intensive Israeli shelling and bombing of Nabatiyya and other southern towns. This, and other shellings over the past year, had by now left some two hundred Lebanese and Palestinian civilians dead, and many more wounded. International reaction was strongly negative, forcing Israel to announce a suspension of its bombardments as of August 26.
The fighting in south Lebanon was not stilled for long. In September, Haddad's Israeli-backed militia launched new attacks on the Joint Forces, and later against UNIFIL itself. In the skies above, Israeli and Syrian jets tangled on several occasions, to the cost of several of the latter's MiGs. Cross-border activities did stop, however, for six months-until an ALF attack on an Israeli kibbutz on April 6 sparked several Israeli raids in response. In August, Israeli forces resumed artillery bombardment of Nabatiyya and the Arnun heights. Over the next seven months (September 1980-March 1981) the IDF conducted another 13 acknowledged raids in Lebanon, as well as shellings in support of Haddad's militia. During the same period it reported 4 Palestinian cross-border infiltrations and 16 shellings of northern Israel, most of the latter related to fighting in the border enclave or in apparent retaliation for previous IDF attacks.55
Armed Struggle: Developments and Difficulties
In Lebanon, the Palestinian movement's strategic dilemma as to how best confront the Camp David process was complicated by increasing operational and political constraints on PLO military action. True, the deployment of UNIFIL and the consolidation of the Haddad enclave along the entire length of the Israeli-Lebanese border had not rendered Palestinian cross-border infiltration impossible. It had, however, made it a much more difficult affair. So too had the pledges made by the Palestinian leadership to the Lebanese government to freeze cross-border activity, and the state of Lebanese public opinion. The PLO thus faced after 1978 a complex strategic calculus in the south, a set of unstable and ever-changing equations in which it was forced to balance regional developments, internal Palestinian politics, Lebanese opinion, Syrian views, Israeli policy and the political and practical difficulties of operations in the south with its own commitment to pursue, even escalate, the armed struggle.
All of this was reflected in changing military tactics. Infiltration from Lebanon across the Israeli border was discouraged. Instead, the obstacles involved with attempts at ground infiltration through UNIFIL, rightist, and finally Israeli lines were overcome by turning to sea-borne operations and other techniques.56 The PLO also sought to step up the pace of its operations on other fronts, especially within the occupied territories but on a few occasions through Jordan.
There was also a steady expansion of the artillery component of Palestinian forces, thus allowing the PLO to engage Israel or Haddad over the heads of UNIFIL forces, and to respond in kind to the shelling of Nabatiyya, Tyre, even Sidon by its opponents in the border enclave. Protection of these weapons in turn required heavier anti-aircraft defenses, and their supply and maintenance a larger logistic "tail." Coupled with the expanded security responsibilities forced on the Joint Forces by the ADF withdrawal from Beirut and the coastal zone south to Sidon, and stepped-up Israeli raids against PLO transportation, supply, command, and training facilities, this necessitated even greater attention to communications and rear-echelon security. And all this required a more efficient and centralized control mechanism for the scattered forces of the PLA, camp militias, and various Palestinian resistance organizations. The changing military environment in Lebanon thus served to accelerate organizational and doctrinal developments within the PLO that had been underway since the early 1970s.
A key element of this change was the process of "regularization" (tajyish) of the military forces of the PLO outside of Palestine. In the occupied territories, the need for small guerrilla bands (al-'isabat al-thawriyya) was still accepted. In Lebanon, however, the trend was towards building a more structured semi-regular army (jaysh nizami). From the late 1970s Fateh forces in south Lebanon had been organized into three larger, brigade-sized (liwa) units.57 Heavier and more sophisticated weapons were acquired. By 1982 these included BRDM-2 reconnaissance vehicles, BTR-152 armored personnel carriers, ZSU-23-4 radar-directed self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, SA-9 vehicle-mounted surface-to-air missile launchers, various calibers of towed artillery, multiple rocket launchers (Katyushas) and, most controversial of all, a quantity of obsolete, WWII-era Soviet T-34 tanks.58
Development of the external military forces of the PLO was, from 1980 onwards, complemented by a Palestinian recruiting drive. During that year, the unstable Lebanese security situation and increasing fears of an even larger, post-Camp David Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon, had led to the formation of a General Mobilization Committee under the PLO's Supreme Military Council. Provisions were drawn up for establishing and training a Palestinian reserve force. In February and April 1981, these provisions were then ratified by the PLO Central Council and PNC respectively as part of a formal General Mobilization Order. Shortly thereafter, the General Mobilization Committee issued formal orders for the reserve call-up and training of Palestinian men aged 16 to 49.59
Finally, the early 1980s also saw the increasing centralization of the command and control of Palestinian militia, guerrilla, and PLA forces under the authority of the Supreme Military Council (chaired by Yasir 'Arafat as PLO Commander-in-Chief) and the PLO's Central Operations Room (directed by Brigadier General Sa'd Sayil, with Colonel Sa'id Musa Muragha as his deputy). Specific recommendations to this effect were reiterated by the Military Committee of the Palestine National Council in April 1981. In large part, this was a natural concomitant of the organizational and doctrinal changes and military expansion noted above. But there was, it can be argued, another aspect to it too. Since 1978-79 the PLO had faced an extremely delicate situation in the south in several respects: with regard to the likelihood of major military confrontation with, and possible invasion by, Israeli forces; with regard to interaction with UNIFIL, and the diplomatic ramifications thereof; and with regard to relations with Syria, Lebanon, and the local population. Provocations in any of these areas had to be avoided if the PLO was to retain its status in the south. Accordingly, it grew increasingly vital to exert tighter political control, by the mainstream Palestinian leadership, over Palestinian military action. A more centralized and structured command and control system and the regularization of Palestinian guerrilla ranks would undoubtedly facilitate this. Within the smaller Palestinian groups some expressed the concern that such measures could be used (or might even be intended) to further extend Fateh's military and political dominance. In the context of an increasing Israeli military threat, however, few opposed or argued the necessity of bolstering Palestinian military capabilities or coordination.60
South Lebanese Diplomacy: Bayt al-Din and the Tunis Summit
From 1976 on, the Sarkis administration had sought to use its Syrian ally to contain the PLO. By 1978, however, it was clear that this was not being achieved, a fact evident in the failure of the the Bayt al-Din Conference of ADF foreign ministers to produce in their final declaration any explicit reference to the PLO, other than a reaffirmation of the Riyadh and Cairo Arab Summit resolutions. There were several reasons for this: the resistance of the Palestinian movement; Syrian-Palestinian rapprochement; mounting internal problems in Syria which deflected attention and energy from the Lebanese situation; and growing differences between Syria and the Lebanese Front, which affected Sarkis' own relations with Damascus. The Lebanese government tried once more in an implementation proposal drawn up by the cabinet. This called for the ending of armed manifestations, the departure of PLA troops, and the surrender of excess Palestinian weaponry.61 With only lukewarm support from Syria and the Bayt al-Din Follow-Up Committee (consisting of Syrian, Saudi, and Kuwaiti representatives) the plan made little headway.
Because of this, and in view of the rapidly deteriorating situation in the south, the Lebanese government began to cast a wider international net in search of support for its position.
Short-lived support from the United States came in the autumn of 1979, after the informal ceasefire had taken hold in the south. In September, Washington set forth a series of proposals for a more enduring truce. These reportedly called for the withdrawal of PLO forces from Nabatiyya and the Tyre salient; the ending of Israeli attacks; a commitment by other militias not to expand the areas under their control; the reinforcement of UNIFIL; and the deployment of more Lebanese troops in the south. Former Under-Secretary of State Philip Habib was sent to the Middle East to follow up on the plan. But no progress was made, either by Habib, or by an official of the French Foreign Ministry who traveled to Beirut to discuss the same issue at around the same time. September 1979 also saw a direct meeting between 'Arafat (with Salah Khalaf) and Sarkis. In it, the Lebanese President asked for a freeze on Palestinian operations in the south, and the deployment there of the Lebanese Army. The PLO leader responded by blaming the LAA for placing obstacles in the army's way.62
When this failed, renewed emphasis was placed on securing inter-Arab agreement on dealing with the south Lebanese issue, an objective in which Sarkis was supported both by al-Huss, and by his successor as Prime Minister that autumn, Shafiq al-Wazzan. In September, the Lebanese government issued a formal call for the convening of an Arab summit conference to discuss the south. Others agreed, and a meeting of Arab heads of state and government was slated for November 1979.
The position that the Lebanese government planned to take in the summit was made evident a few days earlier, during a preparatory meeting of Arab foreign ministers held in Tunis November 15-17. At that time, the Lebanese delegation had distributed a report on the destruction inflicted on south Lebanon, a study of the growth of the Palestinian presence and Lebanon's involvement in the Palestinian issue since 1948, and a Lebanese government working paper outlining the Sarkis administration's proposals for dealing with the problems of the south. Specifically, the working paper proposed the reactivation of the Bayt al-Din Follow-up Committee, and the mobilization of diplomatic pressure (especially through the United States) on Israel to halt its attacks. With regard to the PLO, it proposed that "the Palestinian resistance refrain from staging military actions from Lebanon, including infiltration," or from announcing actions against Israel from Lebanon. It also proposed that "all armed presence of the Palestinian resistance in the areas outside the international forces' zone of activity... should be minimized." Finally, it stressed the need to re-establish Lebanese sovereignty in the south through the deployment of the Lebanese Army, and called for the elimination of all other armed presences within the UNIFIL zone.63
The PLO (in this case, supported by Syria) submitted its own working paper to the Tunis Summit. This contained another PLO restatement of support for Lebanese sovereignty, unity, and independence. But it also stressed the legitimacy of the Palestinian armed presence in south Lebanon under the terms of the 1969 Cairo Agreement. It proposed that closer forms of Palestinian-Lebanese coordination be instituted, that Arab financial aid be made available to the south, and that those in the south who cooperated with Israel be prosecuted.64 Further papers submitted to the foreign ministers by the Lebanese National Movement and the Shi'ite community generally supported the PLO and the Sarkis administration respectively.
The outcome of the foreign ministers' meeting was inconclusive. So too was the main Tunis Summit Conference (November 20-22) itself, where the distance separating the Palestinian and Lebanese positions led to heated debate between 'Arafat and Sarkis, precluding any real agreement. The summit session devoted to south Lebanon was finally abandoned without the benefit of a final public communique. It was reported, however, that Arab leaders did endorse a minimal seven-point "secret" resolution. This was said to re-endorse the prior Riyadh and Cairo Summit Resolutions, stressing the need to re-establish Lebanese sovereignty in the south and supporting the deployment of the Lebanese Army there. It noted a commitment by the PLO to refrain from military operations from Lebanon, while upholding the PLO's right to a military presence in the UNIFIL zone under the terms of the Cairo Agreement. Blame for the destruction in the south was placed squarely on Israel. Finally, the Arab leaders agreed to reactivate the Bayt al-Din Follow-Up Committee, and to initiate a major program of economic and social aid for Lebanon.65
In the end it all made little difference. The Follow-Up Committee achieved nothing; only a portion of the economic aid was delivered. When in February 1980 the Lebanese government demanded that positions vacated by the ADF to be occupied solely by the Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces, both the LNM and PLO objected. The latter suggested that the Army first take up positions in the Haddad zone, and reemphasized the guarantees for a Palestinian armed presence in the south contained in the Cairo agreement.66 And in any event, it was clear by now that the initiative in south Lebanon no longer lay with the Lebanese, Syria, the United Nations, the Arab League, or even with the PLO. It lay with Israel.
The July Crisis
In April 1981, Phalangist militiamen loyal to Bashir Jumayyil attacked Syrian troops in and around the town of Zahla in the Biqa' Valley. Syria responded with a major attack on the town, and on Phalangist positions on Mount Sanin to the north of the city.
The Lebanese Forces' attack on the ADF seemed a deliberate attempt to provoke a crisis in which Israel would become involved on the LF's behalf against Syria. If so, the desired result was not long in coming. On April 28, Israel intervened in support of its Lebanese allies by shooting down two Syrian supply helicopters, on the grounds that such Syrian use of airpower constituted a violation of the 1976 "Red Line" Agreement. The next day Syria deployed SA-3 and SA-6 anti-aircraft missile batteries into previously-prepared positions in Lebanon. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and his government immediately denounced this as a further and unacceptable violation of the "Red Line," and threatened to destroy the Syrian missile sites. A full-scale "missile crisis" developed, to which the US responded by sending special envoy Philip Habib to mediate between the two sides and forestall further escalation.
Meanwhile, the tensions generated by the Syrian-Israeli confrontation heightened the already explosive political and military situation in the south. On April 9-10, the IDF had conducted a raid against Fateh positions north-east of Nabatiyya. In retaliation, the PLO had rocketed several Israeli settlements in the northern Galilee. This, and the April 16 landmine death of an Israeli officer in the Haddad enclave, led to an expansion of the Israeli attacks, including cross-border shellings and air raids against Damur (April 10), Tyre (April 16), Qal'a al-Shakif (Beaufort Castle) and Nabatiyya (April 20)-the heaviest bombardments of the south since the Israeli invasion of 1978. The PLO again responded in kind, with five rocket attacks against northern Israel on April 20-21, and the shelling of the border enclave. A similar pattern was repeated again the next week, with an Israeli attack on PLA and PFLP-GC installations near Sidon and Nabatiyya being followed by intense exchanges of cross-border artillery fire. In May and June the pace slackened somewhat. The IDF launched four more major raids on Palestinian positions in the south. The PLO leadership, anxious not to let matters get out of hand, refrained from retaliating either by Katyusha or cross-border infiltration. It could not do so indefinitely, however, without serious political risk.
Palestinian restraint finally came to an end on July 10, after Israel launched air-raids on Palestinian artillery positions near Sidon and Nabatiyya, and further attacks against Sidon and Damur four days later. PLO artillery bombarded Qiryat Shemona (July 10, 15), Nahariya (July 15), and targets in the Haddad zone. More Israeli shelling of south Lebanon, and three more Katyusha attacks against northern Israel, followed.67
Then, on July 17, Israeli aircraft launched a major bombing raid on Fateh and DFLP headquarters in the Fakahani district of Beirut. Massive, and overwhelmingly civilian, casualties resulted: somewhere between 90 and 175 dead, and perhaps 400-600 injured. At this the PLO unleashed its heaviest riposte yet, with ten salvos of artillery fire on Israeli settlements July 18. Shellings and counter-shellings continued at this rate for the next several days.
Israel's bombing of Beirut also produced a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to the fighting. UN Undersecretary-General Brian Urquhart and UNIFIL commander William Callaghan pressed the PLO to accept a mutual ceasefire. Following a meeting with Callaghan in Beirut on July 20, 'Arafat communicated his willingness to do so provided that the Haddad enclave not then be used as an umbrella for Israeli attacks. Privately, however, the Palestinian leadership held out scant hope that a ceasefire could be achieved given Israel's massive military superiority and its prior rejection of any negotiations, even indirectly, with the PLO.
Meanwhile, a similar diplomatic track was being pursued in Israel by US mediator Philip Habib, as the US pressured Israel to bring an end to the fighting. By July 24, some 33 Israeli settlements had been the subject of 88 attacks, involving more than 1,200 Palestinian rocket, cannon, and mortar shells over a ten-day period. Casualties had been light (six dead, 59 wounded) in comparison with the hundreds of Palestinian and Lebanese casualties in Beirut and the south. Still, the Palestinian shelling did result in the flight of thousands of Israelis from Qiryat Shemona and other northern towns, while those who remained sheltered in bomb-shelters night after night. Such panic and flight was a new phenomenon, unknown in previous Arab-Israeli wars. And the IDF seemed unable to silence the Katyushas. The Israeli cabinet was alarmed, and under mounting public pressure to do something. It thus finally decided to give Habib the green light to secure a cross-border ceasefire with the PLO. Later that day, the US diplomat announced in Jerusalem a suspension of all hostile action between Israel and Lebanon (including the border enclave) effective from 1:30pm local time.
In the meantime, Israel's desire for a ceasefire was negotiated to the PLO by the US through Saudi and UN channels. When the news of Israeli acceptance came through, the PLO leadership was "astonished."68 It was even more surprised to learn that Israel, after failing to achieve more extensive restrictions on Palestinian military activities, had agreed to the terms the PLO had previously outlined. That afternoon Yasir 'Arafat, in his personal capacity as Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, informed General William Callaghan of UNIFIL of the PLO's acceptance of the ceasefire. Shortly thereafter, a joint meeting of the Palestinian and LNM leadership was held, and the formal decision made to accept the ceasefire terms.69 Reaffirmation by the PLO Executive Committee and the Fateh Central Committee followed. In the south, the guns and rockets fell silent.
The July 1981 ceasefire agreement was, as the UNIFIL issue had been three years earlier, a momentous decision with political ramifications far exceeding its immediate military significance. To its proponents, it was a major diplomatic victory, an indirect Israeli recognition of the PLO and an opportunity to demonstrate the Palestinian movement's status and credibility on the international stage. In this respect it represented a further advance of the diplomatic strategy pursued by 'Arafat since the mid-1970s.
To critics already concerned by such changes in the PLO's position, however, it was (like the 1978 deployment of UNIFIL before it) yet another diminution of the Palestinian armed struggle. They argued that there could not be a ceasefire with the enemy, nor could there ever be until Palestinian national rights were achieved. This feeling was shared not only by the rejectionist organizations, but also by many al-'Asifa field commanders who often did not understand the need or reason to stop fighting.70 Concerns were also expressed on practical grounds. There was little confidence that Israel would abide by the agreement. And, in terms of the agreement's Lebanese effect, there was the view (notably from the DFLP) that by accepting a ceasefire the PLO was sending the wrong message to the Lebanese people, telling them that the Palestinian presence-and not Israeli aggression-was responsible for their misfortunes.
Nevertheless, on July 24 the decision to accept the ceasefire had been made, and endorsed unanimously by the PLO Executive Committee. When it was later reaffirmed by the Central Council, only verbal objections were raised by rejectionist members.71
Objective military and political factors had played the major role in the decision to accept the ceasefire on July 24. During and immediately after the fighting, there was broad agreement among those Palestinian leaders in Lebanon at the time that the PLO had little option but to agree. The PLO's military forces and infrastructure were, after two weeks of intense combat with the most powerful armed forces in the Middle East, on the point of collapse. "Breathing space" was imperative.72 Furthermore, there was the Lebanese factor to consider: most parties in the LNM, and the vast majority of the Lebanese themselves, wanted a ceasefire. To be seen to be willfully prolonging the terrible destruction being wrought on Lebanese towns and villages in the south would cost the PLO dearly in terms of its already-weakening popular Lebanese support. Last but not least, there was support for the ceasefire from many of the PLO's major allies (notably Saudi Arabia and the USSR), and from the US. Even the Syrians, angry at the prominent Saudi and American role in the negotiations, were anxious to avoid further escalation, and hence were not opposed.
The content of subsequent Palestinian public statements reflected both pride at the PLO's accomplishment, and the need to sell the ceasefire to PLO commanders and the Palestinian rank-and-file. The fighting was hailed as the "Palestinian Ramadan War" and the "Sixth Israeli-Palestinian War," a war in which the Palestinians and their Lebanese allies had, alone, faced down the might of the Israeli military machine and exposed serious contradictions within Israeli society and politics.73 To assuage internal opposition, the view often presented was that the July 24 ceasefire was not a "cease-fire" but a "cease-shelling," that is to say a commitment only to halt cross-border bombardments. Furthermore, it was not an agreement with the "Zionist enemy" through US mediation; it was a Palestinian decision taken pursuant to a request from the United Nations. Voice of Palestine had first announced the ceasefire in precisely these terms on the afternoon of July 24. Another Voice of Palestine broadcast to the Joint Forces stressed that "what has been announced today cannot exactly be called a ceasefire," because "there is a difference between a ceasefire and the cessation of shelling," and because "our revolution will not cease firing until we realize the full national rights of our people." Fateh's Colonel Sa'id Musa Muragha (Abu Musa)-himself personally critical of the ceasefire-sought to justify the decision at greater length:
Actually, there is a big difference between ceasing fire and ceasing the exchange of shelling between the Joint Forces and the Israeli forces. The ceasing of shelling means a certain thing. Such a decision is usually made in light of certain circumstances and to serve the tactical and strategic action of the Palestinian revolution.
As for ceasing fire, I say that when the Palestinian revolution erupted in 1965, it defined its strategic objective, namely, the emancipation of the Palestinian land and the return of the Palestinian people to their own homeland. In order to bring about this objective, the Palestinian revolution adopted armed struggle as a method. Armed struggle means continuing the struggle against the occupying Zionist enemy. Hence, we would like to clarify things here and say that the ceasing of shelling does not mean ending armed struggle. On the contrary, this struggle will continue against the occupying Zionist enemy. Moreover, the decision to cease shelling was made to protect civilians in the innocent, non-belligerent villages in southern Lebanon and to prevent more victims among them...
Because of all this, we hereby adhere to the appeals addressed to the Palestinian revolution by the UN Security Council and by [UN Secretary General] Kurt Waldheim to cease the shelling-the shelling only. Armed struggle will continue inside our occupied land wherever the Zionist enemy is present.74
To underline to Israel (and undoubtedly to PLO cadres too) that the ceasefire agreement did not constrain the PLO on non-Lebanese fronts, the PLO immediately planned, and later undertook, an operation against Israel through Jordan.75
Despite attempts to define the ceasefire as a "cease-shelling," however, the Fateh/PLO leadership was clearly committed to maintaining a suspension of all operations across the Lebanese border, infiltration included. This commitment was soon put to the test. First the PFLP-GC and later the PFLP disowned the assent given the ceasefire by their own Executive Committee representatives. Fateh-controlled Voice of Palestine immediately lambasted this disavowal, accusing the PFLP-GC of a "lack of responsibility" and of "toying with the sons of the Palestinian and Lebanese people in the market of cheap and mercenary one-upmanships." More to the point, Fateh made it clear that it would move militarily against Jibril or any other group which tried to sabotage the ceasefire. Where necessary, it backed up these threats by forcibly confiscating artillery ammunition in the possession of PFLP-GC and PFLP units. On July 27, a statement was issued after a meeting of 'Arafat, Ahmad Jibril, and Muhsin Ibrahim of the National Movement pointedly noting that the three had reaffirmed the ceasefire decision.76
Because of Fateh's military predominance, and a general fear among the Palestinian leadership that a full-scale Israeli invasion of Lebanon was in the works, this position prevailed. The PFLP-GC and PFLP were restrained. The DFLP and ALF, although critical of aspects of the ceasefire commitment, unofficially suspended cross-border operations.77 For nine months the ceasefire held, as both sides prepared for the final showdown.
Readying for the Invasion, July 1981-June 1982
Almost immediately upon concluding the July 1981 ceasefire agreement, political and military pressures mounted on and within the Begin govern-ment. The course of the July fighting was one major reason for this: stung by the damage inflicted by the PLO's artillery, "hawks" within the IDF joined with officials from northern Israel in arguing for a major ground operation to destroy the PLO's growing military infrastructure. Moreover, to the extent that most members of the IDF and cabinet saw a breakdown of the ceasefire as inevitable, preemption was urged. But perhaps more important yet were the arguments made against the political consequences of the agreement. The ceasefire agreement had served to heighten the PLO's international stature and reputation. Its maintenance suggested that, contrary to what Israel had always charged, the Palestinian movement was capable of making and keeping agreements. The ceasefire promised to allow the PLO to promote its cause and identity, and further its struggle, from within a relatively secure Lebanese sanctuary. Finally, destruction of the PLO's infrastructure in Lebanon was seen by many Israeli officials as necessary to force local Palestinian leaders to accept Israel's autonomy proposals in the occupied territories. As one Israeli columnist noted in the spring of 1982:
Behind the official excuse of "we shall not tolerate shelling or terrorist actions" lies a strategic view which holds that the physical annihilation of the PLO has to be achieved. That is, not only must its fingers and hands in the West Bank be amputated (as is now being done with an iron fist), but its heart and its head in Beirut must be dealt with. As Israel does not want the PLO as a partner for talks or as an interlocutor for any solution in the West Bank, supporters of confrontation with the PLO hold that the logical continuation of the struggle with the PLO in the territories is in Lebanon. With the loss of its physical strength, in their opinion, the PLO will lose not only its hold over the territories but also its growing international status.78
Such political, rather than military, considerations appear to have been the prime factors motivating the chief architect and proponent of an Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon. In the words of another Israeli analyst:
[Sharon believed that to] halt its rise to political respectability, the PLO would have to be dealt a blow from which it would not recover for years. To achieve this the PLO would have to be denied an independent territorial base. It would have to lose its command center, its depots, and its organizational hold over the Palestinian population in the refugee camps of Lebanon. Ideally it should not only lose its independent infrastructure but also come under the tight control of Syria. This would not necessarily destroy Palestinian nationalism but it would weaken substantially the burgeoning PLO establishment, deny it any real autonomy, make it perhaps verbally more extreme but politically and militarily far less potent.79
To achieve this, a massive military operation, reaching as far as Beirut itself, would be necessary. This required that Syria be confronted and defeated, in Lebanon at least. And if this was going to be achieved, Israel might as well take advantage of the political vacuum that would inevitably result to put into power its close Lebanese ally Bashir al-Jumayyil, whose ambitions for the forthcoming 1982 Lebanese presidential elections were scarcely veiled. Sharon traveled to East Beirut in January 1982 to discuss his plans with Bashir and Camille Chamoun; a month later his trip was repeated by General Rafael Eitan, the IDF's Chief-of-Staff.
The PLO leadership was aware of these preparations. It had collected together from a variety of sources-friendly Arab and European governments, the USSR, the Israeli press, informants in the Lebanese rightist parties, and its own sources-considerable information on Sharon's war plans. In Beirut, 'Arafat, al-Wazir and others were busy sketching these plans out to Arab and Western diplomats and reporters, as if in the forlorn hope that broadcasting details of the proposed invasion might forestall its eventual implementation.
In August 1981, 'Arafat convened a meeting of the PLO's Supreme Military Council to make preparations for the invasion that all felt was coming. Based on the experience of July, additional artillery was acquired in the hopes that this might act as a deterrent to an Israeli attack. Military supplies were stockpiled, and defenses fortified and dug. Parallel preparations were undertaken by the Palestine Red Crescent Society and other Palestinian and LNM relief and social support agencies, in expectation of the flood of casualties and refugees that would inevitably result.80 To avoid providing Israel with a pretext for invasion, the July 1981 ceasefire was to be scrupulously kept. But Palestinian leaders were aware that this could not indefinitely postpone the coming confrontation, nor could any amount of Palestinian military preparations ultimately defeat a determined Israeli attack. The best that could be hoped for was that the Joint Forces could inflict sufficient casualties and win sufficient time for diplomatic intervention to stop the IDF, as had been the case in 1978.
Consequently, the PLO leadership launched a series of efforts designed to improve the political climate in which it would face Israel. In November, on the eve of an Arab summit conference at Fez, 'Arafat met personally with President Sarkis to assure him of the PLO's commitment to the ceasefire agreement. At the summit itself both Lebanon and the PLO pressed for the development of a unified Arab strategy for dealing with the south Lebanese problem. 'Arafat, Faruq Qaddumi, and other Palestinian leaders made the rounds of Arab capitals, hoping to mobilize both greater Arab material support, and Arab diplomatic pressure on the United States to restrain its Israeli ally. The PLO chairman undertook a trip to the USSR and Eastern Europe for a parallel purpose. And the PLO also signalled to the US that it would be prepared to negotiate a consolidation and expansion of the ceasefire in the south.
But the PLO was to be disappointed by the response it received from both from its external allies and from the US. There seemed little inclination on the part of Arab leaders to proffer anything more than verbal encouragement for the PLO in Lebanon. In Washington, the Reagan administration's strongly pro-Israeli Secretary of State Alexander Haig was sympathetic to Sharon's arguments for military action in Lebanon, and disinclined to discourage it.
In desperation, Salah Khalaf and 'Atallah 'Atallah even tried to use their remaining contacts to reopen a dialogue with the Phalange, hoping that some Palestinian concessions might woo it away from its Israeli alliance. But Bashir Jumayyil, and not the Phalange as such, was the dominant force now in "Christian" Lebanon, and when 'Atallah 'Atallah met with Bashir in February 1982, the Lebanese Forces commander demanded "return" of Damur as a precondition for any further discussions. The dialogue, such as it was, was aborted.81
All that remained was for the PLO to seek greater strategic cooperation with Syria. This option was favored by most Palestinian groups, but not by 'Arafat and a segment of the Fateh leadership. PLO-Syrian, and more specifically Fateh-Syrian relations had continued somewhat clouded ever since 1976. More recently, additional irritants had entered the picture: political competition between Fateh and Syria in Lebanon, and particularly within the LNM and in the south; the lack of support Syria had provided during the Israeli invasion of 1978; reports that some Fateh leaders were funding the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, a major source of President Asad's domestic troubles; 'Arafat's close ties to Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi (and US) role in the 1981 ceasefire. There was serious disagreement between Damascus and some of the Fateh leadership over the 1981 Fahd (and later Fez) Peace Plan. There was considerable Palestinian resentment of Syria's support for a recent decision (never implemented) of the Arab Follow-Up Committee to ban all non-government arms imports into Lebanon, a move that was seen as an attempt to make the PLO more dependent on Syrian sources of supply. Many within Fateh blamed Syria-not Israel-for several of the car-bombs which had rocked Beirut, Sidon, and other Joint Forces-controlled areas, believing them part of a Syrian program to isolate the PLO from its remaining public support and Lebanese allies. And, whether this latter charge was true or not, it was acknowledged that Abu Nidal had moved his anti-'Arafat organization from Baghdad to Damascus. From there, he continued his terrorist campaign against Jewish and Fateh targets alike around the world.
Nevertheless, in February 1982 Fateh's Revolutionary Council took the decision to open talks with Damascus on strategic cooperation. Later that month, a Fateh delegation led by Salah Khalaf traveled to the Syrian capital, where they held extended talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Khaddam. In April, 'Arafat and Asad met. These discussions produced a joint agreement on strategic principles, as well as some concrete defensive measures in Lebanon. The redeployment of some Palestinian units in the southern Biqa' was part of this, a move to deter a possible Israeli strike by moving closer to Syrian positions north of the Red Line. (A related Palestinian, although not Syrian, intention of any such redeployment was to assure that when Israel did strike Syrian forces would be dragged into the fray as quickly as possible.) But the "strategic cooperation" established by the talks was limited, a fact that was to become amply evident during the 1982 war. Indeed, the two sides seemed unable to even agree on the exact text of their agreement, with different versions being released in Damascus and Beirut.82
The PLO's careful maintenance of the July 1981 ceasefire, as intended, left Begin and Sharon searching for almost a year for a sufficient pretext under which an invasion of Lebanon could be mounted. To facilitate this, official Israeli interpretation of the July 1981 ceasefire agreement was expanded to include clashes between the Joint Forces and Haddad's militias, and Palestinian attacks on other Arab-Israeli fronts or abroad, whether conducted by the PLO or not. In December 1981, an explosion on a Greek ship bound for Haifa led Begin to order the preparation of a military operation against Lebanon, only to rescind the order a short while later when mechanical failure was identified as the cause. The following month, Sharon attempted to secure permission for a similar operation on the basis of a guerrilla raid from Jordan, but was refused. Two more requests were made by the Defense Minister in March. Finally, on April 3, an Israeli diplomat was shot in Paris. Eight days later, a major Israeli air-raid struck Beirut.83
Palestinian military forces were immediately placed on alert for an impending Israeli invasion. A general mobilization of all Palestinian males aged 16-39 was ordered. But 'Arafat, anxious to provide no excuse for further escalation, refused internal pressures to fire back.
When an Israeli soldier was killed by a mine in the Haddad border zone on April 21, Israel once again bombed Lebanon, again provoking no response. Another Israeli air-raid followed on May 9.
This time, the provocation was too much. In an emergency meeting of the PLO Executive Committee held immediately afterward, the PLO Chairman once more counseled against retaliation, arguing that it would invite even more Israeli attacks and further damage the PLO's precarious relations with Amal and the local population in the south. He was, however, under intense pressure from the more radical organizations, and his own field commanders. Moreover, as 'Arafat himself recognized, the PLO's image in Palestinian and Arab eyes would be badly tarnished if it continued to ignore Israeli ceasefire violations. Thus a limited response was ordered, and six rocket salvos deliberately targeted on unpopulated areas of northern Israel as a deterrent warning. At a subsequent meeting of the PLO's Supreme Military Council, new guidelines were adopted concerning how the PLO would react to Israeli military action. In exchange for an undertaking from the more radical groups not to initiate fire, it was agreed that henceforth the PLO would automatically reply to artillery fire in the sector from which it originated. The response to Israeli air-raids would remain the prerogative of the senior PLO leadership.84
The May exchanges were still not yet sufficient grounds for an invasion, or at least grounds which could be defended to international opinion. These were provided on June 3, when Arab gunmen shot and seriously wounded the Israeli ambassador to Britain, Shlomo Argov. Almost immediately the Israeli government was aware that Abu Nidal, and not the PLO, was responsible for the act. Indeed, the PLO's own London representative was on the gunmen's list of targets. But this nuance did not prevent Begin and Sharon from seizing upon the shooting to order further Israeli bombing of Beirut on June 4. This time the PLO responded with Katyusha fire from south Lebanon, leading to IDF shelling and further air attacks. On June 5, the Israeli government accused the PLO of violating the ceasefire. On 6 June 1982, it invaded Lebanon.
For some 76 days, from the first unleashing of the IDF in the south on June 6, through the inferno of a nine week siege of West Beirut, the PLO and Joint Forces would face in Lebanon an estimated 100,000 Israeli troops and the most powerful and sophisticated arsenal in the Middle East. Under such pressure, the PLO agreed in mid-August to a US-negotiated withdrawal agreement. On August 21, as a Multi-National Force (MNF) of American, French and Italian troops deployed to assure the safety of both departing personnel and "other persons in the Beirut area," the first contingent of Palestinian fighters left the city. By 1 September 1982 the evacuation of 8,144 fida'iyyin, 2,651 PLA and 3,603 Syrian troops from Beirut was complete.85
1. James A. Reilly, "Israel in Lebanon, 1975-1982," MERIP Reports 108/109 (September/October 1982): 17.
2. "Zionist Designs on South Lebanon: A Historical Perspective," Palestine 4, 5 (15-30 March 1978): 10-13; a similar perspective is offered by: "Israeli Terror and Expansionism in Lebanon," Palestine 5, 8 (1-15 May 1979): 10-12; "Israeli Colonization of South Lebanon," Palestine 6, 13 (16-31 July 1980): 24-25; "Israeli Expansionism in South Lebanon," Palestine 7, 19 (16-31 October 1980): 3. The Zionist movement's early territorial claims to south Lebanon and Moshe Dayan's 1955 proposals to establish a pro-Israeli Christian Lebanese mini-state were both cited as evidence of Israeli ambitions in the area.
3. Text of Lebanese parliamentary declaration in ARR, 16-30 April 1978, p. 288.
4. Voice of Palestine, 25 April 1978 (FBIS).
5. Statement by Talal Naji (PFLP-GC/PLO Executive Committee), quoted by Beirut Domestic Service, 24 May 1978 (FBIS). The meeting was also attended by Interior Minister Dr. Salah Salman, ADF commander Colonel Sami al-Khatib, Salah Khalaf, Sa'd Sayil, PLO UN representative Basil 'Aql, Zuhayr Muhsin, and Yasir 'Abd Rabbu of the DFLP. Over time, relations between Sarkis and al-Huss had deteriorated. According to Pakradouni, La Paix Manquée, pp. 109-110, the PLO took advantage of this to secure the Prime Minister as a valuable ally.
6. There had been two previous attempts to deploy the Lebanese Army in the south, both of which failed. In April 1978 a detachment of Lebanese troops was sent to take control of the Army barracks in Nabatiyya, but it dissolved after being harassed by units of the LAA. Later that summer a full battalion of Lebanese soldiers had advanced south from the Biqa', only to be shelled and blocked by Haddad's militia at the village of Kawkaba. This unit too eventually broke up.
7. Salah Khalaf, quoted by QNA, 29 May 1978 (FBIS).
8. Interview with Dr. Nabil Sha'th, 9 November 1986. This was particularly true when Junblat was able to mobilize support for his position from within the PLO, among Fateh radicals, the DFLP or Rejectionist elements.
9. "The Transitional Program of the Lebanese National Movement," in MERIP Reports 61 (October 1977).
10. Junblat, I Speak for Lebanon, p. 110; cf. Inam Ra'd (SSNP, Vice-chairman of the LNM Central Political Council) in MERIP Report 73 (December 1978): 14-15.
11. By 1981 the LNM comprised sixteen member organizations: the PSP, LCP, OCA, SSNP, the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party, the Organization of the Ba'th Party, the Front of Patriotic Christians, the Arab Socialist Action Party, the Democratic Lebanese Movement, the Kurdish Democratic Party, the Independent Nasirites Movement (Murabitun), the Arab Socialist Union, the Popular Nasirite Organization, the Arab Socialist Union-Nasirite Organization, the Unified Working People's Forces-Nasirite Forces, and the Arab Socialist Union-Arab Legions. Above and beyond this, a host of other "parties" were associated with the LNM, including the Revolutionary Nasirite Organization, the Movement of Arab Lebanon, the Arab Revolutionary Movement, the Partisans of the Revolution, the Arab Socialist Union-Political Bureau, the Arab Socialist Union Party, the Vanguards of Popular Action, the Organization of Arab Youth, the Units of the Arab Call, and the Movement of Arab Revolution. Other organizations, like the Arab Democratic Party and the October 24 Movement (both in Tripoli) remained outside the National Movement orbit, aligned with Syria or Libya. MER, 27 June 1981, pp. 13-18, 4 July 1981, pp. 12-16. In July 1981, Salah Khalaf noted that 58 armed groups operated in the West Beirut area alone. Petran, Struggle Over Lebanon, p. 270.
12. George Habash in al-Khalij, (Abu Dhabi) 4 October 1987 (FBIS); interview with Mustafa al-Zibri, 10 February 1987.
13. Interview with Abu Layla, 10 February 1987.
14. Khalil al-Wazir did suggest, however, that "our way of dealing with the Lebanese National Movement was also in need of a different approach-we were not reviewing with them the lessons of the long relations between each other, and neglecting to deal with those who were dealing only with their own benefits." He placed primary blame for this on the pressure of events. Interviews with Yasir 'Arafat, 29 December 1986; Khalil al-Wazir, 30 December 1986.
15. MER, 11 April 1981, pp. 18-20, 18 April 1981, pp. 22-23.
16. Randal, Going All the Way, p. 109-155; MER, 31 January 1981, pp. 9-11, MER, 20 June 1981, pp. 13-17. A more sympathetic account of the Lebanese Forces examining their formal organization is provided by Lewis W. Snider, "The Lebanese Forces: Wartime Origins and Political Significance," Middle East Journal 38, 4 (Winter 1984).
17. Text of Bayt al-Din declaration in MER, 21 October 1978, pp. 17-18.
18. WAFA, 5 October 1978, Salah Khalaf in al-Kifa al-'Arabi (Beirut), 9 October 1978, in ARR, 1-15 October 1978, p. 716.
19. "The Lebanese Fascists: Pawns on the Chessboard of Eretz Israel," Palestine 4, 5 (15-30 March 1978): 14.
20. Salah Khalaf in MER, 13 November 1978, pp. 2-3; MER, 14 November 1978, p. 3-4; interview with Salah Khalaf, 24 January 1987. Despite Abu Iyad's comments regarding Syria, the dialogue was also in part an attempt to outflank Damascus by re-establishing a direct line of communications between the PLO and the Lebanese right.
21. Voice of Palestine, 28 November 1978, in ARR, 1-15 December 1976, p. 876. A similar position was set forth by Faruq Qaddumi in Monday Morning, 15-21 December 1978.
22. On the political revitalization of the Lebanese Shi'ite community during this period, see: the excellent analysis by Norton, Amal and the Shi'a, pp. 48-58; see also Picard, "De la 'communaute-classe' à la resistance 'nationale': pour une analyse du rôle des Chi'ites dans le systeme politique libanais (1970-1985)," Revue française de science politique 35, 6 (December 1985): 999-1028; Fouad Ajami, The Vanished Imam: Musa al-Sadr and the Shi'a of Lebanon (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986).
23. According to figures released by the Lebanese government in the spring of 1981, by early 1980 the war in the south had killed 1,300 civilians, created over 8,000 invalids and 10,000 orphans, and displaced 259,000 persons. Eight towns and villages (including al-Khiyam, with a pre-war population of 30,000 persons) and some 10,000 homes had been destroyed; 21,500 houses had been damaged. 11,000 dunums (hectares) of tobacco crops, 51,000 dunums of olive groves, and 70,000 dunums of citrus orchards were also totally destroyed. MER, 4 April 1981, p. 9.
24. The Middle East, August 1980, p. 22; MECS 1979-80, pp. 618-620.
25. The disappearance-and eventual reappearance-of the twelfth Imam is a central tenet of "twelver" Shi'ism, to which the great majority of Lebanese Shi'ites belong. See Moojan Momen, An Introduction to Shi'i Islam (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), pp. 161-171.
26. Salah Khalaf to al-Watan (Kuwait), 25 November 1981, in Norton, "Harakat Amal," in Edward E. Azar et al., The Emergence of a New Lebanon: Fantasy or Reality (New York: Praeger, 1984), p. 188. For its part, Amal publicly expressed nothing but strong support for the Palestinian cause and revolution.
27. Interview with Salah Khalaf, 24 January 1987. Reflecting this, Khalaf issued an appeal to Amal in February 1982: "We address our brothers in the Amal movement, not the schemers in Amal, but the brother nationalists whom we know-take the initiative in the Amal movement and participate in the joint command and the joint forces in the south so that we can prevent all evil elements and schemers in various areas from scheming in southern Lebanon. We reaffirm that we are concerned about the Amal movement...that they will be with us in the same trench..." Voice of Palestine, 3 February 1982 (FBIS). To observers in the south, however, Amal generally appeared on the defensive, and the Syrian role secondary at most. Personal communication, Richard Norton, 8 February 1989.
28. Interview with Salah Khalaf, 24 January 1987.
29. AWW, 24 April 1982, p. 18.
30. Interview with Abu Layla, 10 January 1987.
31. al-Nahar al-'Arabi wa al-Dawli, 24-30 May 1982, pp. 13-15 (FBIS,).
32. Junblat, I Speak for Lebanon, p. 55. It is interesting to note that throughout the period 1969-82 and despite the close alliance between the two, the PSP would not permit the stationing of significant numbers of Palestinian troops in Druze-held areas of the Shuf Mountains.
33. This was particularly true of the mafia tradition of the Franjiyya clan, and of the less sophisticated gangsterism of many of the innumerable armed groups of Sunni urban neighbourhoods. The LNP and Phalange were heavily involved in Lebanon's lucrative smuggling and "protection" rackets. See Randal, Going All the Way, p. 125, 133-134.
34. Junblat, I Speak for Lebanon, p. 12, 111.
35. "The situation in the south was particularly severe, where the Azmis of the "Revolution" committed ugly acts of theft, crimes, rape and oppression Like the neighbouring Arab regimes, Fateh ruled the territories under its control through its amn (security) services." As'ad Abu-Khalil, "Druze, Sunni and Sh'ite Political Leaderships in Present-Day Lebanon," Arab Studies Quarterly 7, 4 (Fall 1985): 47. The reference here is to Lt. Colonel 'Azmi Sughayyir, commander of PLO forces in Tyre, who was later killed in action in June 1982. Other senior Fateh officers in Lebanon gained notorious reputations for corruption, notably Colonel Hajj Isma'il, the PLO commander at Sidon (who in June 1982 fled his post in the face of the Israeli invasion, taking his unit's funds with him) and Colonel 'Atallah 'Atallah, the chief of Fateh military intelligence. Within the PFLP, Abu Ahmad Yunis (a member of the PFLP Politburo, and one of its chief experts on Lebanese affairs) was executed for corruption some time before the PFLP's 1981 Congress. Abu-Khalil, "Internal Contradictions in the PFLP," p. 368. For Palestinian commentary on the extremely negative impact of such corruption, see: Khalidi, Under Siege, pp. 32-33; Fouad Moughrabi, "The Palestinians After Lebanon," Arab Studies Quarterly 5, 3 (Summer 1983): 212, 214-215.
36. Abu Iyad, My Home, My Land, pp. 175-176.
37. Nabil Hadi, "Lebanese Isolationist Propaganda and the Palestinian Resistance," Shu'un filastiniyya 102 (May 1980): 5-30 [in Arabic]. Although Voice of Lebanon exaggerated or often manufactured incidents, it gained a wide audience by virtue of the even greater unreliability of the "progressive" radio stations.
38. Interview with Salah Khalaf, 27 January 1986. Fouad Moughrabi has argued that "In the era of petrodollars, Beirut was a corrupting influence on the PLO. The Palestinians became 'Lebanonized' in the process-adopting the political style of traditional Lebanese sectarian politics." See: Moughrabi, "The Palestinians After Lebanon," p. 12. A similar observation has been voiced by 'Isam al-Qadi of al-Sa'iqa (in whose view Beirut was "like pre-revolutionary Havana," interview 20 December 1986) and 'Abd al-Rahim Ahmad of the ALF (interview, 28 December 1986).
39. Voice of Palestine, 1 February 1978, SNA, 3 February 1978 (FBIS); AWW, 4 February 1978, pp. 4-5; ARR, 16-31 January 1978, pp. 50-51, 72-73; AWW, 11 February 1978, pp. 23-24; text of decree in Palestine 4, 11 (June 1978): 30-34; Voice of Palestine, 6 June 1979 (FBIS); MER, 6 June 1979, pp. 2-3; MER, 5 December 1979, pp. 3-4; al-Watan, 2 July 1980, p. 11; MER, 5 July 1980, pp. 16-19; MECS 1979-80, p. 251.
40. Filastin al-thawra, 9 June 1980; MECS 1979-80, p. 251. Dr. Nabil Sha'th estimated that dealing with the deteriorating security environment by now took up 90% of the PLO's Lebanese decision-making. Interview, 8 January 1987.
41. Hart, Arafat, pp. 40-44; interviews with Dr. Nabil Sha'th, 9 November 1986, 8 January 1987; and 'Isam al-Qadi, 20 December 1986. According to the latter, "We called for two or three to be hanged to deter the others. We didn't succeed because 'Arafat wasn't interested in such things."
42. The information of Palestinian institutions that follows is drawn from: Rubenburg, Institutional Infrastructure; Filastin al-thawra, 2 June 1984, pp. 29-31; Yonis, "L'invasion du Liban et la situation sanitaire des Palestiniens," pp. 39-52; PRCS Information Bulletin (Cairo: PRCS, c1984); Michael Hudson, "The Palestinians After Lebanon," Current History 88, 480 (January 1983): 5-9, 34; Rashid Khalidi, "The Palestinians in Lebanon: Social Repercussions of Israel's Invasion," Middle East Journal 38, 2 (Spring 1984): 255-266; 'Arafat, al-Sihha wa-al-harb [Health and War], (Nicosia: PRCS Central Organization for Information and Education, 1984).
43. Minutes of meeting between Soviet and PLO delegations, Moscow, 13 November 1979, in Raphael Israeli, ed., The PLO in Lebanon: Selected Documents (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1983), p. 53; MECS 1981-82, p. 326; Voice of Palestine 25 July 1981 (FBIS).
44. Interviews with Dr. Fathi 'Arafat, 4 February 1987, and with former director of PRCS hospital in Tyre, Cairo, 4 February 1987; Yonis, "L'invasion du Liban et la situation sanitaire des Palestiniens," pp. 39-52.
45. Palestine 5, 11 (June 1979): 15-16.
46. "Abu Leila [Layla]: Confronting the Dilemmas of the PLO in Lebanon and Jordan," MERIP Reports 83 (December 1979): 15-16. PLO attempts to maintain basic services such as electricity and water often provoked still greater Lebanese resentment of the Palestinian role; Khalidi, Under Siege, pp. 30-31.
47. Lee O'Brien, "Campaign of Terror: Car Bombing in Lebanon," MERIP Reports 118 (October 1983): 23-26; MECS 1981-82, pp. 707-708. According to Monday Morning, 5 October 1981, no less than 544 bombs exploded in Lebanon that year, and 107 others were dismantled.
48. Reilly, "Israel in Lebanon," p. 19; Voice of Palestine, 2 October 1981 (FBIS); interview with Salah Khalaf, 24 January 1987; Khalaf to Voice of Palestine, 18 May 1982 (FBIS).
49. Voice of Lebanon, 28 March 1982, 11 May 1982 in MECS 1981-82, pp. 707-708, 729.
50. Voice of Palestine, 18 May 1982 (FBIS); interview with Salah Khalaf, 24 January 1987.
51. Interview with Khalil al-Wazir, 30 December 1986.
52. Statement by PLO Executive Committee on Camp David Accords, WAFA, 19 September 1978, p. 15, in IDP 1978, p. 506.
53. Avner Yaniv, Dilemmas of Security: Politics, Strategy, and the Israeli Experience in Lebanon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 67-68.
54. Reilly, "Israel in Lebanon," p. 19; Voice of Palestine, 2 June 1979 (FBIS).
55. MECS 1980-81, p. 215, 220.
56. The PFLP-GC and PLF were particularly inventive in this regard, adopting such methods as balloons and motorized hang-gliders to circumvent Israeli defences.
57. Yezid Sayigh, "Palestinian Military Performance in the 1982 War," Journal of Palestine Studies 12, 4 (Summer 1983): 3-24, and "Palestinian Armed Struggle," pp. 95-112. For the theoretical grounds for "regularization" by one of its leading exponents, see the interview with Sa'd Sayil in Shu'un filastiniyya 105 (August 1980): 33-48. Fateh's three brigades were the Qastal forces (the largest), deployed in the Sidon-Tyre-Arnun-Nabatiyya area; the Yarmuk forces, deployed south of Jizzin in the Rihan-'A'ishiyya area; and the Karama forces, deployed in the 'Arqub. Their total strength was put by Israeli sources at 8,000 fighters, supported by 6-7,000 other guerillas and militia in Beirut and Tripoli, and 4-5,000 PLA in West Beirut (Hittin, Qadisiyya) and south of Damur ('Ayn Jalut), for a total armed strength (1982) of 20,000. MECS 1981-82, pp. 132-134; IDF Journal 1, 2 (December 1982): 12-14. Sayigh suggests a lower figure of 4,000 fighters (including Lebanese allies) in the south, 6-7,000 members of the Joint Forces in Beirut, and 3,000 in the Biqa' and Tripoli.
58. Sayigh, "Palestinian Military Performance," p. 9. Up to one hundred T-34s were acquired in 1979, although fewer than this were actually deployed in Lebanon. Ostensibly acquired as mobile gun-platforms, the purchase also seems to have been motivated by a desire to match the several dozen tanks given Haddad and the Phalange by Israel; by the prestige involved; and by the usual self-reinforcing dynamics of arms acquisition processes. Interviews with Khalil al-Wazir, 30 December 1986; Salah Khalaf, 27 January 1987; Sa'id Musa Muragha, 10 February 1987.
59. General Mobilization Order in MECS 1980-81, pp. 318-319; see also pp. 298-300. Previous mobilizations had been ordered in 1978 and during the civil war.
60. Recommendations of the PNC Military Committee, in MECS 1980-81, p. 318. Although Khalil al-Wazir insisted that the regularization of the Palestinian military forces was a natural evolutionary process (interview, 30 December 1986), some members of the PLO Executive Committee saw it as part of a broader process of assuring central command and control over Palestinian military forces in Lebanon; interviews with Majdi Abu Ramadan, Cairo, 16 November 1986; Dr. Ahmad Sidqi al-Dajani, 9 December 1986.
61. Text of Bayt al-Din implementation plan in ARR, 16-31 October 1978, p. 771.
62. MECS 1979-80, p. 142; Pakradouni, La Paix Manquée, pp. 199-200.
63. al-Nahar, 17 November 1979, in MECS 1979-80, p. 598.
64. al-Nahar, 17 November 1979, in MECS 1979-80, pp. 598-599.
65. MECS 1979-80, pp. 599-600; interview with Yasir 'Arafat, 29 December 1986.
66. Statement by PLO Executive Committee, Voice of Palestine, 6 February 1980, in IDP 1980, p. 43.
67. The following account of the July 1981 fighting is based on: MECS 1980-81, pp. 215-218; Yaniv, Dilemmas of Security, pp. 85-90. Muhammad Salah, al-Harb al-filastiniyya - al-isra'iliyya, 10-24 tammuz 1981 [The Palestinian-Israeli War, 10-24 July 1981], (Beirut: Manshura Filastin al-Muhatala, 1981); Ahmad Shahiyn, "Events of the War," Shu'un filastiniyya 119 (October 1981): 146-160 [in Arabic], and Urquhart, A Life in Peace and War, pp. 304-305.
68. Interview with Khalil al-Wazir, 30 December 1986; Hart, Arafat, pp. 443-444; WAFA, 25 July 1981, in IDP 1981, pp. 249-251; minutes of a meeting of the al-'Asifa Forces General Command (25 July 1981), in Israeli, ed., PLO in Lebanon, pp. 174-176.
69. Voice of Palestine, 25 July 1981 (FBIS). According to one member of the Executive Committee at the meeting, 'Arafat presented a summary of the current political and military situation to the assembled Palestinian and LNM leaders (whom he had tactfully not informed of his prior acceptance) and urged them to agree to the ceasefire. At this point, a PLO liaison officer entered the room and despite broad hints from the PLO chairman that the subject was still under discussion and had not yet been formally decided, announced that the PLO's acceptance of a ceasefire had been acknowledged by the UN command. Considerable laughter followed; 'Arafat thanked the officer and asked the participants for their formal decision. A short while later the meeting agreed.
70. Interview with Major A. (al-'Asifa forces), Baghdad, 4 January 1987.
71. Interview with Dr. As'ad 'Abd al-Rahman, Amman, 23 December 1986.
72. Interview with Khalil al-Wazir, 30 December 1986.
73. The five previous Palestinian-Israeli wars were, by the PLO's count, those of 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, and the Israeli invasion of south Lebanon in 1978. By the Islamic calendar, both the 1973 and 1981 wars fell in the month of Ramadan. Yasir 'Arafat to Voice of Palestine, 26 July 1981 (FBIS); Khalil al-Wazir to Monday Morning, 27 July 2 August 1981, pp. 56-63; Shu'un filastiniyya 119 (October 1981), especially the articles by Shafiq al-Hut ("The Sixth Arab-Israeli War"), Mahmud Sa'id ("The Triumph and the Dilemma"), Mahjub 'Amr ("The Palestinian Ramadan War: The Situation and Results"), Hanna Shahiyr ("Israel's Appraisal of the Results of the July War: 'Our Military and Political Fiasco'," Muhammad 'Abd al-Rahman ("The Israeli Appraisal of Military Performance in the July War"), and Shu'un filastiniyya's interview with Sa'd Sayil: "We Created a Psychological Gap Between the Israeli Citizen and his Leaders."
74. Voice of Palestine, 24, 26 July 1981 (FBIS).
75. Interview with Khalil al-Wazir, 30 December 1986. That the ceasefire applied to both cross-border shelling and infiltration was indirectly admitted by al-Wazir to Monday Morning, 27 July- 2 August 1981, pp. 56-63.
76. Voice of Palestine, 26 July 1981 (FBIS). According to one then-member of the Fateh Central Committee, 'Arafat was prepared to "liquidate" the PFLP-GC if they attempted to sabotage the agreement (interview with Samih Abu Kuwayk, Damascus, 17 December 1986). Similarly, a member of the PFLP Politbureau confirmed that his organization reached the "edge of [military] conflict" with Fateh over the 1981 ceasefire decision (interview with Sabir Muhi al-Din, 18 December 1986.) See also Schiff and Ya'ari, Israel's Lebanon War, p. 84-86.
77. Interviews with 'Isam al-Qadi (al-Sa'iqa), Damascus, 20 December 1986; Dr. Jamil Hilal (DFLP), 20 December 1986; 'Abd al-Rahim Ahmad (ALF), 28 December 1986.
78. Yoel Marcus, "The War is Inevitable," Ha'Artez, 26 March 1982, in Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle, p. 199.
79. Yaniv, Dilemmas of Security, pp. 100-101. Sharon's broad strategic ambitions in Lebanon were evident in his rejection of US proposals (put forward by Habib in September 1981) for a withdrawal of PLO heavy weapons in the south in exchange for an IDF withdrawal from the Haddad enclave and an end to low-level overflights. Instead, the Israeli defence minister demanded an evacuation of PLO and Syrian forces from Beirut and north Lebanon. Schiff and Ya'ari, Israel's Lebanon War, pp. 41-42.
80. Interviews with Khalil al-Wazir, 30 December 1986.; Dr. Fathi 'Arafat, 4 February 1987; 'Arafat, al-Sihha wa-al-harb.
81. Ya'ari and Schiff, Israel's Lebanon War, p. 88-89.
82. Interview with Samih Abu Kuwayk, 17 December 1986, who was one of the members of the Fateh delegation to Syria. The dispute over the text of the agreement centered around a reference to Iran; the original Damascus text referred to the Islamic Republic as a "strategic ally," while the Beirut text merely noted Iran's support for the Palestinian cause-a revision which no doubt reflected 'Arafat's desire not to alienate Iraq and others over the issue.
83. Yaniv, Dilemmas of Security, pp. 107-108.
84. Ya'ari and Schiff, Israel's Lebanon War, pp. 91-92; MECS 1981-82, p. 131. According to Fateh's Abu Da'ud, 'Arafat could only have resisted internal pressures to return fire at the risk of an open rebellion; Hart, Arafat, pp. 450-451.
85. Text of the withdrawal agreement in Department of State Bulletin 82, 2066 (September 1982): 2-5. On the course of the fighting and the PLO's decision to withdraw from Beirut, see Khalidi, Under Siege.