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Israel–Lebanon relations

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Israel–Lebanon relations
Map indicating locations of Israel and Lebanon



Israel–Lebanon relations have never existed under normal economic or diplomatic conditions, but Lebanon was the first Arab league nation to signal a desire for an armistice treaty with Israel in 1949. Lebanon did not participate in the Six-Day War in 1967 nor the Yom Kippur War in 1973 in any significant way, and until the early 1970s Lebanon's border with Israel was the calmest frontier between Israel and any of the other adjacent Arab League states. Historically, both are Ottoman successor states. The two countries are full members of the Union for the Mediterranean and many other international organizations.

Israeli law enforcement treats Lebanon as an "enemy state".[1] Israeli citizens or any other person who holds any passport bearing stamps, visas, or seals issued by Israel are strictly prohibited from entry to Lebanon and may be subject to arrest or detention for further inspection.[2][3][4] In 2008 A Pew Research Center survey found that negative views concerning Jews were most common in Lebanon, with 97% of Lebanese having unfavorable opinion of Jews.[5] In a 2011 survey again by the Pew Research Center, on the Muslim-majority Middle Eastern countries polled held strongly negative views of Jews. In the questionnaire, only 3% of Lebanese reported having a positive view of Jews.[6]

Country comparison

Common name Israel Lebanon
Official name State of Israel Lebanese Republic
Native name מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל (Medīnat Yisrā'el)
دَوْلَة إِسْرَائِيل (Dawlat Isrāʼīl)
الجمهورية اللبنانية (al-Jumhūrīyah al-Lubnānīyah)
République libanaise
Coat of arms Emblem of Israel.svg Coat of arms of Lebanon.svg
Flag Israel Lebanon
Population 8,840,020 (2018) 6,082,000 (2017)
Area 20,770/22,072 km² (8,019/8,522 sq mi) 10,452 km² (4,036 sq mi)
Population density 401/km2 (1,037/sq mi) 582/km2 (1,507/sq mi)
Capital Jerusalem Beirut
Largest city Jerusalem Beirut
Government Parliamentary republic Parliamentary Multi-confessionalist Republic
First Leader David Ben-Gurion Bechara El Khoury
Current Leader Benjamin Netanyahu Michel Aoun[7]
Official languages Hebrew, Arabic Arabic, French (daily life)
Main religions Judaism 75%, Islam 15%, Christianity 7%, Druze and other 3% Islam 54%, Christianity 40.5%[8]
GDP (nominal) $305.707 billion ($38,004 per capita)[9] $49.919 billion[10]
($11,068 per capita)
GDP (PPP) $288.244 billion ($35,833 per capita) $81.122 billion[10][7]
($17,986 per capita)[11]
Currency Israeli new shekel (₪) (ILS) Lebanese pound (LBP)


The armistice agreement between Lebanon and Israel[12] was relatively straightforward. Unlike the other armistice agreements, there was no clause disclaiming the Blue Line as the international border between Lebanon and the former British Mandate of Palestine (unrelated to the now government of Palestine) continued to be treated as the de jure international border. As a result, Israeli forces withdrew from 13 Lebanese villages it had seized during offensive operations in October 1948.[13]

Unlike other Arab states, the Jewish population of Lebanon grew after the 1948 founding of the State of Israel, mostly due to large Christian population in Lebanon.

In the early 1950s, direct flights linking Beirut with East Jerusalem were not uncommon. In 1951, Middle East Airlines, Lebanese national flag-carrier, expanded its regional network to include East Jerusalem, Jordan. Also, Air Liban, another Lebanese airline carrier, had flights routes linking Beirut with Jerusalem since 1945. However, the 1967 Six-Day War disrupted Middle East Airlines's operations for about two weeks, and led to the suspension of flights to Jerusalem.[14]

Lebanese Civil War

Lebanon's civil war began in 1975 when Phalangist gunmen ambushed a bus killing the 27 Palestinian passengers on board. The complexities of the war were tied to Lebanon's sectarian political structure dividing Shia and Sunni Muslims and Christians. It was exacerbated by the influx of Palestinian refugees in 1948, and the expulsion of the Palestinian Liberation Front from Jordan after Black September into Lebanon.[15][16] In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon in the middle of the civil war after a gunman from Abu Nidal's organization attempted to assassinate Shlomo Argov. The Israeli Prime Minister blamed the PLO for the incident, and used it as an excuse to begin Operation Peace for Galilee and the 1982 Lebanon War.[17] The aim was to eject the PLO from Lebanon following the 1978 South Lebanon conflict.

UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) wrote that from the beginning of the Israeli attack on June 4 to August 15, 1982, 29,506 Lebanese and Palestinians had been killed as a result of the Israeli bombardments, 80 percent of them civilians.[18] Several thousand people were arrested and kept in Israeli-controlled prisons. The Israeli army cut off electricity and water supply to West Beirut, depriving at least 300,000 civilians of water and electricity for about three months.[19] The MacBride Commission published a report in 1983 which said that the scale of the destruction showed that the Israeli Army had blanket-bombed areas instead of attacking defined targets.[20][19] Their bombardment of residential neighborhoods of West Beirut was extensive, and there was widespread destruction of civilian properties.[19] In cases of hospital destruction the commission said there were no weapons or ammunition in the establishments, yet the Gaza hospital was bombed heavily for three hours.[19]

During the invasion Israel allied with the Phalangist Christian militant group against the PLO and Shia militias. After the PLO was ejected from Beirut in the summer of 1982, they hoped to help put Christian Bachir Gemayel in power as Lebanese president. Bachir Gemayel flew to the Israeli coastal town of Nahariya to talk with Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon. Begin and Sharon proposed that Israel and Lebanon establish full diplomatic relations, but Gemayel proposed a kind of formal non-aggression pact. When Sharon reminded Gemayel that Israel controlled most of Lebanon at that time and that it would be wise to follow Israel's instructions Gemayel held out his hands and replied "Put the handcuffs on. ... I am not your vassal."[21] Gemayel left Israel without making any formal agreement. Before the elections, he was assassinated by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, throwing Lebanon again into crisis.

Following the assassination, the Israeli army occupied Beirut, and allowed the Lebanese Forces (LF) to enter the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, where the LF carried out a massacre of mostly Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites. Between 1,390 and 3,500 civilians were massacred.[19] It sparked international outrage for Israel's actions, particularly because the PLO had already been removed from Lebanon. The Kahan Commission by the Israeli government found Defense Minister Ariel Sharon personally responsible for the bloodshed. The incident led to his resignation as Defense Minister, however he remained in the Israeli Cabinet and would later become Israeli Prime Minister in 2001.

After the assassination of Gemayel, Israel and Lebanon signed an agreement on May 17, 1983 which was a peace treaty in all but name.[22] Lebanon signed the agreement under American and Israeli pressure, but it was opposed by Syria. The agreement was conditional on Syrian withdrawal, which did not occur until April 2005. Much of the content of the treaty was contained in secret protocols and memoranda, and it did not win expected Jordanian and Saudi endorsement. The Lebanese legislature ratified the treaty by a margin of 80 votes, but in a very weak and unstable domestic position president Amine Gemayel abrogated the peace treaty on March 5, 1984 under unrelenting Syrian pressure, after the U.S. Marines withdrew and after Israel had begun withdrawing from Lebanon.

The 1990s

The success of the First Persian Gulf War created new opportunities for Middle East peacemaking. In October 1991, under the sponsorship of the United States and the then Soviet Union, Middle East peace talks were held in Madrid, Spain, where Israel and a majority of its Arab neighbors conducted direct bilateral negotiations to seek a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 (and 425 on Lebanon) and the concept of "land for peace." Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and representatives of the Palestinians continued negotiating until the Oslo interim peace accords were concluded between Israel and the Palestinians in September 1993 and Jordan and Israel signed an agreement in October 1994. In March 1996, Syria and Israel held another round of Madrid talks; the Lebanon track did not reconvene.

During this time Israel continued to militarily occupy 10% of Lebanese land, in a southern strip called the "South Lebanon Security Belt". In response, the militant Shia group Hezbollah formed with Syrian and Iranian backing. They conducted guerrilla warfare against Israel to resist the occupation. In 1990, the Israeli army burned down olive groves to "deprive Hezbollah guerrillas of cover".[23] The Israeli army planted some 130,000 land mine throughout the strip, making farming deadly.[23] As tensions continued to grow, in 1993 Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin launched "Operation Accountability", with the intention of cutting Hezbollah's supply lines, destroying its camps, and forcing Lebanese civilians to flee north.[24] In early April 1996, Israel conducted the military operation "Grapes of Wrath" in response to Hezbollah's actions on Israeli military bases in south Lebanon. The 16-day operation caused hundreds of thousands of civilians in south Lebanon to flee their homes. On April 18, several Israeli shells struck refugee compounds, killing 102 civilians sheltered there.

Throughout the 1990s discontent had been growing in Israel about the occupation of parts of Lebanon. Discontent increased as a result of a 1997 helicopter crash that killed 73 Israeli soldiers bound for Lebanon. Ehud Barak campaigned for prime minister on a platform of withdrawing from Lebanon. On June 28, 1999 Farid Abboud, the Lebanese ambassador to the USA, addressed the Los Angeles World Affairs Council[25] to give an update on the peace process.[26] Finally, on May 23, 2000, the Israeli military carried out a withdrawal of Israeli troops from the south and the Bekaa valley, effectively ending 22 years of occupation. The SLA collapsed and about 6,000 SLA members and their families fled the country, although more than 2,200 had returned by December 2001. With the withdrawal of Israeli forces, many in Lebanon began calling for a review of the continued presence of Syrian troops, estimated in late 2001 at approximately 25,000.

The destruction of Lebanese infrastructure that the Israeli military left behind, particularly water infrastructure, was devastating to Southern Lebanon. The Lebanese government turned to organizations such as the Arab Fund, the Kuwait Fund, and the Council for Development and Reconstruction, who invested around $50 million to rebuild water networks, and $63 million to rebuild schools, hospitals, and electricity infrastructure that had been destroyed.[23]

Post-withdrawal period

On June 16, 2000, the UN Security Council adopted the report of the Secretary General verifying Israeli compliance with UNSCR 425 and the withdrawal of Israeli troops to their side of the demarcated Lebanese-Israeli line of separation (the "Blue Line") mapped out by UN cartographers. (The international border between Lebanon and Israel is still to be determined in the framework of a peace agreement.) In August, the Government of Lebanon deployed over 1,000 police and soldiers to the former security zone, but Hezbollah also maintained observation posts and conducted patrols along the Blue Line. While Lebanon and Syria agreed to respect the Blue Line, both have registered objections and continue to argue that Israel has not fully withdrawn from Lebanese soil. As regional tension escalated with the Palestinian intifada in September 2000, Hezbollah cited Blue Line discrepancies when it reengaged Israel on October 7, taking three Israeli soldiers captive in an area known as Shebaa Farms. This largely unpopulated Israeli controlled territory along the border between Lebanon and Syria is claimed by Lebanon, although the United Nations and Israel agree that Shebaa Farms is part of Syria.[27] Hezbollah sought to use the captives for leverage to release Lebanese prisoners.

Since the beginning of the Cedar Revolution, hopes had increased of an Israel-Lebanon peace treaty. In a May 2005 Newsweek interview Saad Hariri said "We would like to have peace with Israel. We don't want wars. We hope that the peace process moves ahead with us, with the Syrians, with all the Arab countries," but he added that Lebanon would not sign a separate peace treaty as Jordan and Egypt have done. Other Lebanese leaders draw an even harder line.

2006 Lebanon War

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said in August 2006 that Lebanon would be the "last Arab country to make peace with Israel" because of the large number of civilians that were killed in the 2006 Lebanon War.[28] Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, proclaimed "Death to Israel" and promises the "liberation" of Jerusalem.

It was uncovered in the cache of diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks that in 2008, Lebanese Defense Minister had sent messages to Israel via the United States stating the Lebanese Army would refrain from getting involved in a future conflict between Israel and Hezbollah and that the army, as quoted in the cables "will move to pre-position food, money, and water with these units so they can stay on their bases when Israel comes for Hezbollah — discreetly, Murr added."[29] Additionally, he advised Israel to ensure not to "bomb bridges and infrastructure in the Christian areas." According to former U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Michele Sison, the dispatcher of the cable, "Murr offered some ideas aimed at avoiding turning the Christian population against Israel when the next war with Hezbollah occurs... Murr also outlined his orders to the Lebanese Army when/if Israel invades to counter Hezbollah."

Alleged spying

In the period of April 2009-July 2010, Lebanese authorities arrested almost 100 people suspected of spying on behalf of Israel. Many were expected to receive the death penalty, which the Lebanese cabinet announced it intended to carry out.[30] Yet, it ended up not being the case, and death penalties were sequently de facto suspended in Lebanon, substituted with life imprisonment as the maximum penalty.[31][32]

Natural gas dispute

In 2010, Israel discovered massive deposits of natural gas off its coast in the Mediterranean Sea. While Israel's find is within its territorial exclusive economic zone, the dispute stems from the possibility that the gas field spans to Lebanon's boundary. A general principle in such a situation is the Rule of capture where each side is permitted to lift as much as it can on its side. Israel has already started exploration and construction on its side, while Lebanese authorities have not yet officially demarcated its exclusive economic zone or initiated a process of attracting bids for exploration rights. [33] Lebanese Energy Minister Gebran Bassil warned that Lebanon would not allow Israel or any company "serving Israeli interests" to drill gas "that is in our territory". Beirut had previously warned the American Noble Energy company not to approach its territory. In response, Israeli Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau warned Lebanon that Israel was willing to use force to protect the gas reserves discovered off its shores.[34]

On 17 August, the Parliament of Lebanon passed a law authorising exploration and drilling of offshore oil and gas fields. The law called for the establishment of a treasury and a committee to oversee exploration and drilling. Speaker Nabih Berri's advisor, Ali Hamdan, said that he expected rights to be up for auction by the end of 2011. "This is definitely a major cornerstone in Lebanon's oil policy... and will help Lebanon divide its reserves into blocks an eventually bring in tenders and start looking into power-sharing agreements."[35]

Border incidents

IDF soldier rescues a Lebanese elderly woman in November 2010.

On August 3, 2010, a clash took place near the Lebanese border village of Adaisseh between the Israel Defense Forces and Lebanese Armed Forces after an Israeli patrol operating on the border clashed with Lebanese troops. Israel claimed that the troops had stayed within Israel, while Lebanon claimed that the soldiers had crossed the border to uproot trees. An ensuing firefight resulted in the deaths of three Lebanese soldiers and one senior Israeli commander; two Israeli soldiers and five Lebanese soldiers were also wounded. A Lebanese journalist was also killed. Israeli artillery and helicopter gunships then struck several Lebanese Army posts and the Lebanese Army's southern headquarters, destroying several military vehicles.

On November 13, 2010, Israeli Defense Forces patrolling along the Israeli northern border detected an 80-year-old Lebanese woman whose clothes had tangled in the Lebanese side of the border fence. The elderly woman was caught in a part of the fence which was adjacent to a mine field and when it became clear the Lebanese Army could not assist her, the IDF stepped in. A joint military force of engineering, scouts and Golani troops, pulled the woman into Israeli territory while the Lebanese Army observed the rescue operation.[36] After making sure the woman was not injured UNIFIL representatives contacted the Lebanese Army and coordinated her return to Lebanon via the Rosh HaNikra Crossing.

On December 15, 2013, a Lebanese soldier shot and killed an IDF soldier at the Rosh HaNikra Crossing.

On 2 September, a day after rocket strikes toward Israeli's border, Hassan Nasrallah said Hezbollah would begin targeting Israeli drones flying in Lebanese airspace, and announced there were “no more red lines” in the fight against Israel. If attacked again, he said, Hezbollah would strike “deep inside” Israel.[37]

See also


  1. ^ Maher Abukhater (17 April 2014). "Israeli arrest of Arab citizen over Lebanon visit angers rights groups". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  2. ^ https://www.timaticweb.com/cgi-bin/tim_website_client.cgi?SpecData=1&VISA=&page=visa&NA=ps&AR=00&PASSTYPES=PASS&DE=LB&user=KLMB2C&subuser=KLMB2C
  3. ^ http://www.timaticweb.com/cgi-bin/tim_website_client.cgi?SpecData=1&VISA=&page=visa&NA=IL&AR=00&PASSTYPES=PASS&DE=LB&user=KLMB2C&subuser=KLMB2C
  4. ^ "Lebanon". travel.state.gov. Retrieved 2016-06-27.
  5. ^ Unfavorable Views of Jews and Muslims on the increase in Europe Pew Global Attitudes Research September 17, 2008, page 10
  6. ^ "Muslim-Western Tensions Persist". PEW Global Attitudes Report. 21 July 2011. Retrieved 19 September 2013.
  7. ^ a b "The World Factbook". www.cia.gov. Retrieved 2016-06-27.
  8. ^ "2012 Report on International Religious Freedom". U.S. Department of State. 2013-05-20. Retrieved 2013-11-15.
  9. ^ "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects". International Monetary Fund. April 2014. Retrieved September 22, 2015.
  10. ^ a b "Lebanon". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  11. ^ "2015 Revision of World Population Prospects". United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
  12. ^ Lebanon Israel Armistice Agreement UN Doc S/1296 23 March 1949
  13. ^ "Israeli-Lebanon Armistice Agreement". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2012-11-15.
  14. ^ "Notes on the history of airtravel in Lebanon". Retrieved 2014-03-04.
  15. ^ MacLeod, Scott (23 Feb 1985). No Peace for Galilee Now. The Nation.
  16. ^ Lebanon's Legacy of Political Violence. International Center for Transitional Justice. Sep 2013.
  17. ^ Bird, Kai (2014). The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames. Random House. p. 288.
  18. ^ "Lebanon's Legacy of Political Violence" (PDF). International Center for Transitional Justice.
  19. ^ a b c d e "Lebanon's Legacy of Political Violence" (PDF). International Center for Transitional Justice.
  20. ^ MacBride, Sean; AK, Asmal; B, Bercusson; R. A, Falk; G, De la Pradelle; S, Wild (1983). Israel in Lebanon. London: Ithaca Press.
  21. ^ Shlaim, Avi (2001). The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. W.W. Norton & Company. p. 415. ISBN 0-393-32112-6.
  22. ^ "Israel-Lebanon Draft Peace Agreement, 1983". www.mideastweb.org. Retrieved 2016-06-27.
  23. ^ a b c Amery, Hussein (2002). Water Wars in the Middle East: A Looming Threat. The Geographical Journal.
  24. ^ Lockery, Neill (1999). The Difficult Road to Peace. UK: Ithaca Press. p. 162.
  25. ^ "Los Angeles World Affairs Council > Home". www.lawac.org.
  26. ^ Farid Abboud: Peace Process Archived 2007-09-21 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Security Council resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978), May 22, 2000.
  28. ^ Hatoum, Leila (2006-08-31). "Siniora vows to be last in making peace with Israel". The Daily Star (Lebanon). Retrieved 2012-11-15.
  29. ^ Daragahi, Borzou; Lutz, Meris (December 3, 2010). "Lebanon defense chief worked with U.S. against Hezbollah, leaked cable says". Los Angeles Times.
  30. ^ "Lebanon busts 2nd Mossad telecom spy". Tehran, Iran: Press TV. July 28, 2010. Archived from the original on July 29, 2010. Retrieved July 29, 2010.
  31. ^ "Lebanon to release convicted Israeli spy". Retrieved 2016-06-27.
  32. ^ http://www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/uploads/lebanon_upr_death_penalty_stakeholder_report_updated_2015.pdf
  33. ^ "Potential Lebanese- Israeli Conflict over Natural Gas Revisited". www.yalibnan.com. Retrieved 2016-06-27.
  34. ^ "Landau: Israel willing to use force to protect gas finds". Retrieved 2016-06-27.
  35. ^ http://www.almanar.com.lb/newssite/NewsDetails.aspx?id=150645&language=en
  36. ^ "IDF rescues Lebanese woman caught in border fence". Retrieved 2016-06-27.
  37. ^ "'bold, brave' attack". timesofisrael. Retrieved 2 September 2019.

 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Department of State document "Background Note: Lebanon" by Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Retrieved on January 31, 2012.

External links