Probably the most interesting and most complex relationship between the Zionists and the Lebanese was the contradictions of regarding Lebanon as part of the Israeli plans.
Lebanon Proper, under the Ottomans, was divided into several regions, which included some parts existing in Syria and Palestine. Lebanon by the 19th century was divided into an autonomous Mutasarifieh in Mt. Lebanon which covered the Druze and Christian lands, the Tripoli governorate which included Northern Lebanon and parts of Syria, the Damascus governorate, which included the Bekaa, and the A'ka governorate, which included parts of the South as well as occasionally Sour (aka Tyre). Now these borders fluctuated, but in general, for most of the centuries of Ottoman rule, that is how Lebanon administratively was divided.
For starters, Lebanon since Prince Fakhridean II had enjoyed autonomy, sometimes that autonomy expanded to include certain Syrian areas, and sometimes that autonomy got demolished. Eventually, there was an interruption of 9 years under Mohammad Ali Basha, and his son Ibrahim Basha, of Egypt, for nine years. In the 19th century, Prince Bashir II, an ex-Sunni converting to Christianity, created the concept of Mt. Lebanon based on Christian premises, the concept of sovereign Lebanon and the Lebanese Christians became intertwined since then, specially in a later phase of the 19th century, when it was an autonomous region, under an Ottoman governor, with the patronage of six European imperial forces. By then, Europe's super powers followed the logic of "protecting the minorities" to expand their territorial acquisitions.
By the time the French successfully dominated Syria and Lebanon Proper regions, the British successfully ousted the French from the Sykes-Pico agreement, and took over Palestine. Jordan was separated from Syria, under the British Mandate, while Iraq broke the norm of carving out nations, rather, that country was patched up from three large governorates into a gigantic country, Iraq. Under Archbishop Howayek, from Mt. Lebanon, the second Lebanese delegation travelled to Versailles negotiations, and demanded that the French rule Lebanon directly after WWI. Clemenceau appeared in the newspapers hugging Archbishop Howayek. Modern Lebanon was officially created in 1920. One purpose for its creation was the Christians seeking autonomy in a Muslim world. It has to be noted, the Christians were the first to advocate Arab nationalism in the face of the Ottomans, but when having the chance to break free, the Versailles treaty gave them that chance.
The Zionists, on the other hand, didn't have a land to demand. The Palestinians, made up of Muslims, Christians, and Jews were living in harmony and didn't accept the isolationist logic of the Zionists. Till current days, Arab Jews still argue that Zionism came from Europe. Israel was not supposed to take place, the British promised the Zionists a national home and not a nation in the infamous Balfour Declaration of 1917. The Zionists were actually desperate, they were cajoled by the Germans and the British, and the Zionists almost opted for the German option, however, due to Germany's alliance to Turkey, the Germans couldn’t deliver their promises. It has to be noted, that the Zionists were a huge minority in Europe. The Communist Jews, the Jewish Socialist Party (Bund), and the Jewish assimilation associations were much more popular. Probably the most famous Jews of that era were Clara Zatkin, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinoviev, and Leon Kamenev. The fact that Jews were leading revolutions throughout Europe placed Weizmann in an awkward position to the extent in a 1919 meeting with Lord Balfour in Paris, his men had to convince Lord Balfour that Lenin's mother was not a Jew, rather Lenin's background was pure Christian.
Nevertheless, once landing in Palestine, the Zionists started their expulsions, purchases of land, and importation of Jews from Europe under the promise of a better world. The British officials were surprised that Palestine "was not empty".
The Zionists nevertheless, using history to justify their 19th century ethnic and segregationist movement, to argue that they are reunite a Diaspora of Jews that dated back 2000 years ago. The irony is that Israel as a nation state didn't last even a century when it was crushed by the Romans. Nevertheless, they regarded themselves as a minority surrounded by Arabs and Islam. The Lebanese Christians, unlike the Palestinian Christians, were regarded differently. While the Palestinian Christians were regarded as enemies, same as the Muslims, the Zionists used history to regard the Lebanese Christians as Phoenicians.
Certain Christians did promote the Phoenician nationality in the area of Lebanon then. Their argument is to give legitimacy for the ideals of independent Lebanon by providing roots that dated back to the pre-Islamic conquests, hence the Phoenician identity. It was first triggered in the 19th century by a certain French sociologist, however, it didn't gain momentum accept when the Christians needed autonomy. There was never a Phoenician state, the Phoenicians were divided into Phoenician city states and kingdoms. Each mini-kingdom had its own policy, such as the colonization of Libya as an escape route for what was happening in the homelands. Probably the only time the Phoenicians fought as a single identity is when they pooled their resources to halt the advancing Assyrians. They were successful the first time militarily.
Several Zionist documents in the early 20th century referred to the Christians as Phoenicians and wanted to revive the over 2200 year old relationship with them. They regarded the Phoenicians as the perfect allies. Since the Lebanese Jews and Zionist Jews were a minority. Probably the first contact between the Zionists and the Lebanese was through the Soursok family, which sold the Jewish Agency Palestinian Lands, even though they didn't own property of them. According to Amin Mustapha's book: History of Resistance in Lebanon, the Zionists even had the proposal to shift the Christians to South in an autonomous region in alliance to Israel, to safeguard their Northern borders.
1930s - 1940s
The most notorious Lebanese back then to have contacts with them was the Lebanese President Emile Edde (Lebanese President from 1936 – 1941), whose offspring Reymond Edde challenged his father's ideas. Emile Edde was known for his Christian hardliner perspective. He was quoted of saying that whoever doesn't like Lebanon, there is always Mecca. In the early half of the 1930s, he sent Weizmann a congratulating letter that it seems he will establish the nation-state he seeks.
Even worse, Emile Edde had plans to carve out Lebanon and give parts of Muslim majority to the Zionists' forthcoming nation. Itimar Rabinovich wrote: "Another School of thought, headed by Emile Edde, was convinced by the 1932 census that the Muslims were about to become the majority in the Lebanese state and that the possibility of France abandoning the Lebanese Christians had to be taken seriously. Edde concluded that it was essential that to 'expedite the territorial reduction of Lebanon in order to enable the latter state to have a more consistent Christian majority.' By 'amputating' Tripoli and Southern Lebanon from the Lebanese state, 'Lebanon will be rid of almost 140,000 Shi'I and Sunni Muslims and will be left with a Christian majority equaling about 80% of its population.' Edde tried to win the support of the French government, which was not unimpressed with his reasoning but which in the end chose to preserve the territorial status quo. Still, Edde did not abandon his idea, and in 1946 he sent an emissary to Chaim Weizmann, the Zionist leader, to attempt to persuade Weizmann to seek the incorporation of southern Lebanon and its predominantly Muslim population into the Jewish national home."
(Picture Above: President Emile Edde)
To confirm the validity of this historical disastrous point in Lebanese history, Itimar Rabinovich's footnote included the following: "In a meeting of the directorate of the Jewish Agency on February 11, 1945, Weizmann, the president of the agency, reported that, "The son of the former president came to me. A Christian under a strong French influence – he came with a proposal ... that he would like to hand over to us, to the national home Tyre and Sidon ... because there are there a hundred thousand Muslims. I responded by saying that my grandfather used to say that he would not receive a 'biting' gift; but he would not relent and said that he will come again" (minutes of the Jewish Agency Directorate General).
(Picture Above: Ben Gurion)
Of course, Israel was announced as an entity in 1948, and Lebanon participated in the mockery of the Arab world sending their soldiers to Israel. Lebanon won its front at Malikieh, and progressed to link up with the Syrian army. However, the Jordanian and Egyptian treason for territorial expansion led to the Israeli Defense Forces to have time to equip their armies and eventually ousting all Arab regions except Ghaza and the West Bank due to Egyptian and Jordanian treason.
It has to be noted, that Lebanon was under the French Mandate from Post WWI till 1943, and the Phoenician Christians didn't represent the entire Christian community. According to Wilson's commission, the majority of the Christians preferred the link-up with Faysal's Kingdom.
To understand the vision of the Israelis to Lebanon in the 1950s, we have to look at Yossi Schwartz's article, who highlighted important aspects on Ben Gurion's perspective and Israeli aims. I hope he will continue to highlight more: "
Two important sources on the Zionist plans for Lebanon are the diary of Moshe Sharett, who was the Prime Minster of Israel in 1954-1955 and who was considered a "soft Zionist", and Livia Rokach's Israel's Sacred Terrorism: A study based on Moshe Sharett's Personal Diary, and other documents. In the latter we find some very interesting information, and it is worth quoting from Sharett's diary at length:
"Then he [Ben Gurion] passed on to another issue. This is the time, he said, to push Lebanon, that is, the Maronites in that country, to proclaim a Christian State. I said that this was nonsense. The Maronites are divided. The partisans of Christian separatism are weak and will dare do nothing. A Christian Lebanon would mean their giving up Tyre, Tripoli, and the Beka'a. There is no force that could bring Lebanon back to its pre-World War I dimensions, and all the more so because in that case it would lose its economic raison-d'etre. Ben Gurion reacted furiously. He began to enumerate the historical justification for a restricted Christian Lebanon. If such a development were to take place, the Christian Powers would not dare oppose it. I claimed that there was no factor ready to create such a situation, and that if we were to push and encourage it on our own we would get ourselves into an adventure that will place shame on us. Here came a wave of insults regarding my lack of daring and my narrow-mindedness. We ought to send envoys and spend money. I said there was no money. The answer was that there is no such thing. The money must be found, if not in the Treasury then at the Jewish Agency! For such a project it is worthwhile throwing away one hundred thousand, half a million, a million dollars. When this happens a decisive change will take place in the Middle East, a new era will start. I got tired of struggling against a whirlwind. (27 February 1954,)"
The next day David Ben Gurion sent Sharett the following letter:
"To Moshe Sharett the Prime Minister,
Sdeh Boker, February 27, 1954
"Upon my withdrawal from the government I decided in my heart to desist from intervening and expressing my opinion on current political affairs so as not to make things difficult for the government in any way. And if you hadn't called on me, the three of you, yourself, Lavon and Dayan, I would not have, of my own accord, expressed an opinion on what is being done or what ought to be done. But as you called me, I deem it my duty to comply with your wishes, and especially with your own wish as Prime Minister. Therefore, I permit myself to go back to one issue which you did not approve of and discuss it again, and this is the issue of Lebanon.
(Picture Above: Moshe Sharrett)
"It is clear that Lebanon is the weakest link in the Arab League. The other minorities in the Arab States are all Muslim, except for the Copts. But Egypt is the most compact and solid of the Arab States and the majority there consists of one solid block, of one race, religion and language, and the Christian minority does not seriously affect their political and national unity. Not so the Christians in Lebanon. They are a majority in the historical Lebanon and this majority has a tradition and a culture different from those of the other components of the League. Also within the wider borders (this was the worst mistake made by France when it extended the borders of Lebanon), the Muslims are not free to do as they wish, even if they are a majority there (and I don't know if they are, indeed, a majority) for fear of the Christians. The creation of a Christian State is therefore a natural act; it has historical roots and it will find support in wide circles in the Christian world, both Catholic and Protestant...
D.B.G. (27 February 1954)"
Sharett responded a few weeks later with the following:
"Mr. David Ben Gurion, March 18, 1954, Sdeh Boker
"As far as I know, in Lebanon today exists no movement aiming at transforming the country into a Christian State governed by the Maronite community...
"This is not surprising. The transformation of Lebanon into a Christian State as a result of an outside initiative is unfeasible today... I don't exclude the possibility of accomplishing this goal in the wake of a wave of shocks that will sweep the Middle East... will destroy the present constellations and will form others. But in the present Lebanon, with its present territorial and demographic dimensions and its international relations, no serious initiative of the kind is imaginable.
"The Christians do not constitute the majority in Lebanon. Nor are they a unified block, politically speaking or community-wise. The Orthodox minority in Lebanon tends to identify with their brethren in Syria. They will not be ready to go to war for a Christian Lebanon, which is for a Lebanon smaller than it is today, and detached from the Arab League. On the contrary, they would probably not be opposed to a Lebanon united to Syria, as this would contribute to strengthening their own community and the Orthodox community throughout the region... In fact, there are more Orthodox Christians in Syria than in Lebanon, and the Orthodox in Syria and Lebanon together are more numerous than the Maronites...
"... There are also decisive economic arguments against it. We are not discussing the issue in 1920/21... but 30 years later. Mount Lebanon has meanwhile integrated into one organic unit with the coastal plane of Tyre and Sidon, the Valley of Baalbeck and the city of Tripoli. They are commercially and economically interdependent and inseparable. Mount Lebanon was not a self-sufficient unit even before World War 1... The annexation of the three regions plus the city of Beirut to the Lebanese State has rendered possible the creation of a balanced economy. A return to the past would not just mean a surgical operation but also a disintegration leading to the end of Lebanon...
"When all this has been said, [I should add that] I would not have objected, and on the contrary I would have certainly been favorable to the idea, of actively aiding any manifestation of agitation in the Maronite community tending to strengthen its isolationist tendencies, even if there were no real chances of achieving the goals; I would have considered positive the very existence of such an agitation and the destabilization it could bring about, the trouble it would have caused the League, the diversion of attention from the Arab-Israeli complications that it would have caused, and the very kindling of a fire made up of impulses toward Christian independence. But what can I do when such an agitation is nonexistent? ... In the present condition, I am afraid that any attempt on our part would be considered as lightheartedness and superficiality or worse-as an adventurous speculation upon the well being and existence of others and a readiness to sacrifice their basic good for the benefit of a temporary tactical advantage for Israel.
"Moreover, if this plan is not kept a secret but becomes known a danger which cannot be underestimated in the Middle Eastern circumstances-the damage which we shall suffer... would not be compensated even by an eventual success of the operation itself...
"M. S. (18 March 1954)"
At that time Ben Gurion did not convince Sharett. The conditions were not ripe for such an attempt. But the idea never went away and remained in the minds of the leading Zionists as an option. The time to put into practice came in 1978 during the civil war when the "Litani Operation" was launched.
Israel was created at a terrible price. The Palestinians were expelled from their homeland, pushed into refugee camps all around the region. Israel thus came into being in an almost permanent state of war against its Arab neighbours. Israel was envisaged as an outpost of western imperialism, a "safe ally" that could police this oil-rich region. For decades it played that role quite successfully. Part of that task involved trying to get at least one "friendly" regime to its north in Lebanon. But this was easier said than done. Because of its delicate ethnic makeup, Lebanon dominated by the Christian elite could never be a stable country. Class conflict would emerge and re-emerge in the form of ethnic conflict due to the lack of a clear working class, socialist leadership that could cut across the ethnic divide.
1960s - 1970s
(Picture Above: Kamal Junblatt)
1960s and 1970s witnessed the Israelis focusing on the destruction of the PLO who started to gain international recognition. The Christians and Israelis had common interests. The Christians considered PLO activities as downsizing the sovereignty of Lebanon, and worse, their own, specially the PLO misconduct gave the Phalange mainly the ability to recruit over 90,000 Christian, whereby such a number is too large for a small country like Lebanon. They were already allocated densely in Lebanon and Jordan. Their warplanes saved the Monarchy and the PLO became cornered in Lebanon. As thousands of PLO warriors moved to Lebanon from Jordan after 1970, Israeli efforts were focused on how to contain the PLO in Lebanon.
(Picture Above: Palestinian Refugee Camp in Jabal Hussein in 1970)
(Picture Above: Refugee Camp in New Amman following Black September in 1970)
The first logic was bomb Lebanon and specially the entire South and blame it on the PLO operations, which actually paid off extensively because the Shiites became wrathful of the Palestinians and stood politically next to the Christian Government. Moussa al Sadre and later Nabih Berri built AMAL movement based on the anti-Palestinian resentments. Kamal Junblatt was critical against Moussa el Sadre's indirect alignment with the Christians despite the fact that Fatah played a role in building that militia. The second logic was how to help the Christians, who were the primary spearheads against the PLO activities. Hence, minor arms were sent to the Phalange/Tigers/Tanzeem via Jounieh port. Most of the weapons that were sent have been Soviet manufactured and captured from the PLO militants in occupied Palestine and Jordan. The smuggling occurred via Cyprus, and in case the weaponries were discovered, the Lebanese National Movement, PLO's allies, or the Palestinians themselves will take the blame and Israel will not be linked to the Christians. The Israelis clearly didn't want direct confrontation in Lebanon, rather, they preferred that the Christians were helped to stand on their own two feet. The first man to establish contacts with the Israelis was head of the most feared militia, the army offshoot leader of al-Tanzeem, Georges Adwan (current member of Parliament).
(Picture Above: Yasser Arafat reacts to applause at the U.N. General Assembly in New York in this Nov. 13, 1974)
Prior to the Lebanese Civil War, Yasser Arafat gave the peace initiative of "Olive Instead of Bullets", whereby he declared that he will be satisfied with rump Palestine, which included the West Bank and Ghazza, the Israelis refused such a peace offering, however, it gave the Palestinian people the status of observant in the UN, which meant half-way recognition of Palestinians internationally. Some question if the Israelis accepted the offer then instead almost 20 years later, would have been there war in Lebanon? Or at least a war to last 17 years?
(Picture Above: Syrians enter Lebanon)
When the Lebanese National Movement and the PLO dominated over 81% of Lebanon in 1975-1976 wars, Israeli interests switched whereby they gave Henry Kissinger the blessing to let the Syrians uproot the PLO from existence. Hence, the Syrians, under the hesitated blessings of Pierre Gemayel, Camille Shamoun, and Suleiman Franjieh, as well as Israel and USA, entered Lebanon. The Israelis still didn't want to be directly involved, because then the Christian militias would lose legitimacy in the Arab World. In 1977, Israel pulled the Litani operation to safeguard its Northern borders.
(Picture Above: War-Criminal Ariel Sharon)
Bashir Gemayel's Zahli Crisis successfully got the Israelis and Syrians involved. When Israeli planes should down Syrian aerial vehicles, the Palestinians rained in the South missiles on Northern Israel. Hence, Ariel Sharon, then Minister of Defense, wanted to permanently demolish the PLO. The settlement in post-Zahli crisis, stopped everyone from shooting, but kept the PLO growing stronger without any interventions. In 1981, Sharon visited Bashir Gemayel in East Beirut, and had dinner with Pierre Gemayel and Camille Shamoun, with the promise to invade Lebanon since now the Syrians – Lebanese National Movement – PLO forged an undefeatable alliance. The logic for such a move was to uproot the PLO once and for all and block any sovereignty. Sharon's second logic was install a satellite president and impose a peace treaty. Bashir Gemayel already became the most popular Christian since the 100 Days War where the Syrian forces bombed brutally East Beirut for a 100 days.
When the invasion began in 1982, the Israelis failed to demolish the PLO since they were severely allocated in West Beirut. Sharon's plan was to have the Lebanese Forces (then a unity of militias under one banner militarily) enter the street to street fights. Bashir Gemayel, knowing his men's disability to face the cornered PLO and Lebanese National Movement, preferred not to.
(Picture Above: Israel Bombing West Beirut residential areas)
(Picture Above: Times cover in 1982)
Israel's main man was Bashir Gemayel, he suited their plans to be president, whereby Israel will have military benefits, and even joint business markets, Bashir became stubborn under US support. For the Israelis, they always thought that peace with Lebanon will eventually come, but after a stronger country signs peace. Bashir was assassinated. Prior to the assassination; however, Bashir had his undelivered inauguration speech. In it again, Bashir stressed on how Lebanon is an Orientalist nation rather an Arab nation again giving its existance roots to a pre-Islamic era. Furthermore, he didn't regard Lebanon in a state of civil war, rather under Palestinian and Syrian invasion without refering to the Israelis, more like hinting to the Israelis to oust the PLO militant remainders and Syrian forces out. It is worthy to note, that Sharon had a Plan B, which was transferring the PLO and the whole Palestinians to Jordan after assassinating the Jordanian King, hence establish a "New Palestine" for the Palestinians. The US diplomats accused Sharon as an 'asshole'.
(Picture Above: Bashir Gemayel)
While trying to salvage a deal with Amin Gemayel, even the Americans hindered several of their efforts. However, it is known that Sharon tried to pull a deal with Amin Gemayel behind the Americans' backs, through a business merchant called Sami Marun. It was intercepted, and the Americans changed a lot of the items which went to Lebanon's benefits. However, the 17th of May Accord was shot down via Syria, and its allies Junblatt and Berri. Israel's primary concern became on how to pull out from Lebanon since they couldn't tolerate military operations conducted on them.
Their sudden pull-out from Mt. Lebanon, witnessed pro-Lebanese Forces residents demonstrating in front their headquarters over there not to withdraw, but the IDF couldn't tolerate any more casualties. The sudden pull-out from Mt. Lebanon witnessed the bloodiest collisions in Mt. Lebanon between Walid Junblatt and Samir Geagea, which ended up with bloodshed, mostly on Christian areas, and resulted in the biggest sectarian cleansing since Bashir Gemayel's cleansing of East Beirut from Non-Christians. Since then, the Christian leadership lost confidence with the Israelis and felt they were betrayed.
(Picture Above: Israel's occupation of Southern Lebanon)
1990s - 2000s
The case of the Northern borders became the priority of Israel, specially Hezbollah arming itself under the Syrian Mandate in Lebanon. They attempted to preserve the 40 Km area in South Lebanon with their puppy army, the South Lebanese Army, but failed. After confrontations in 1993, 1996, the year 2000 they were expelled in Lebanon.
Ehud Barak actually won elections in Israel with the promise of withdrawing from South Lebanon. At first, his government launched "Lebanon First", whereby they sought to seek a peace treaty, the negotiations were shot down because the Lebanese, under Syrian hegemony, demanded that Israel would negotiate with Lebanon and Syria at the same time. When the Israelis initiated "Syria First", the Syrian regime directly hopped the negotiating table. While Hezbollah operations aggravated, the Israelis preferred to preserve their tight grip on the Golan Heights in Syria, and withdrew suddenly from Southern Lebanon, leaving Syria shocked without any means to bargain in 2000.
Post 2005 events
(Picture Above: July War 2006 was more than the IDF soldiers can handle, another contributing factor on Israel's crackdown for Lebanese demands)
After Harriri's assassination in 2005, Israel held high hopes towards Lebanon after Syria was ousted out by internal activism and international pressure. Nevertheless, the participation of their sworn enemies, Hezbollah, in the government meant bad news. The US hoped that the anti-Syrian 14th of March can contain Hezbollah, but to no productive results. At first, some expressed hope when Hezbollah participated in the government that they will become gradually a political party, but they ended up as both: political and militant. Israel, in collaboration with the US, decided to end Hezbollah, with the support several Arab leaders, according to Bolton at Marcel Ghanem's talk show. Their primary lookout was certain Christian Groups, the Druze, and the Sunni Street. When Hezbollah, for different speculated reasons pulled their military operation on July 12, 2006, the war began, and the promise of Olmert was "extermination of Hezbollah". From this perspective, they will proceed bombarding Hezbollah, and hoped that a civil war will break between the 14th of Marchers and Hezbollah. Yet, the Lebanese despite political divisions, united on assisting the refugees throughout Lebanon. Hence their plans that were relatively successful in the late 1960s, and very successful in the 1970s ended up in failure. Yet, Hezbollah emerged even stronger, calling the war "Divine Victory". Their hopes of 14th of March to balance against Hezbollah evaporated when Hezbollah within 72 hours swept Lebanon politically and militantly under their grip. Even worse for the Israelis, the appearance of two powerfully militant parties preserving their trainings since the days of the civil war: AMAL Movement and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. This doesn't mean that 14th of March have been collaborating with Israel, rather, they shared the hatred to Syria in Lebanon. 14th of March also didn't express any need to forge any peace treaty with Israel, specially their mass butchery of the Lebanese, and destructive operation against Lebanon as a whole. Hence, Israel's key component, the undefeatable army, changed their plans and followed an informal disengagement plan. Whereby they successfully were willing to give Hezbollah the remaining prisoners, and a large chunk of martyrs, willing to withdraw from Sheba'a farms, and initiated via Turkey, under US patronage, the withdrawal from the Golan Heights, in order to focus on their internal problems, and probably gain some time to rebuild their army and sort internal problems for future wars.
(Picture Above: Israeli Brutality on Beirut during the July War of 2006)