Until the war in Lebanon, official Israeli policy toward the Palestinians under its occupation rested on the premise that the PLO was the only obstacle on the road to what Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir called “the fullest advancement of the process that began in Camp David.” [1] The elimination of the PLO, according to this logic, would produce Palestinians willing to take part in an Israeli-defined autonomy. Through the so- called Civil Administration, then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon had started the process of extirpating “PLO influence in the territories.”

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza experienced oppression on a massive scale: Most of their elected leaders were expelled from their positions; their educational, economic and cultural institutions were harassed and undermined; and a new grouping of quislings in the form of the Village Leagues was created to be an alternate leadership to the PLO. All this was done during a period from July 1981 through May 1982 in which a US-arranged ceasefire between Palestinian and Israeli forces on the Israeli-Lebanese border held firm.

In spite of all the military, political, and economic pressures, Sharon’s approach did not produce the desired results. Hence, the major underlying objective of the invasion of Lebanon was to resolve by military means the political resistance of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. One Israeli observed that “from the beginning, the ‘Peace for Galilee’ operation was directed at nothing else but Judea and Samaria…. Many will see in the breaking of the PLO an opportunity to increase the process of settlement on every high hill and under every green tree in Judea and Samaria.” [2] Another argued that during this period before the invasion “the only threat was the political value and strength that characterized the PLO, and the fear that the PLO will turn into a partner in the negotiations on the future of the West Bank and Gaza.” [3] Menachem Milson, then-head of the Civil Administration in the West Bank, indicated in an interview while Beirut was under siege that “the destruction of the military ability of the PLO opens new opportunities to talk with the Palestinians. But their relationship with the Camp David process will depend on the fate of the PLO in Beirut.” [4]

Public demonstrations in all Palestinian areas under occupation took place during the invasion. On July 31, 1982, thousands took to the streets in Nazareth. In mid-August 1982, some 150 public institutions in the West Bank published a manifesto against the war in Lebanon.” [5] The most widespread demonstrations and effective strikes occurred on September 22, 1982, in the aftermath of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, calling for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon and the resignation of the government. In Nazareth alone, 41 were injured requiring hospitalization in clashes with the police, and scores were arrested. The strike affected all Palestinian villages and towns, and was much more pervasive than the Land Day strike in March 1976.

Flawed Logic

With the evacuation of the PLO from Beirut, it became evident that official Israeli logic concerning the Palestinians under occupation was flawed. This became much more clear following the announcement of the Reagan Plan on September 1, 1982. On September 22, Menachem Milson resigned. Elias Freij, the mayor of Bethlehem and the only elected mayor allowed to remain in his post by the Israeli military government, immediately telegrammed President Reagan, supporting his plan. Within two hours he received a personal reply from President Reagan. [6] This was done at a time when Israel’s position was one of categorical rejection of the plan. Mustafa Dudin, the head of the Village Leagues, also dispatched a telegram to Reagan praising those points relating to the legitimate rights of the Palestinians and the freeze on settlements. Dudin, who had been groomed since 1979 to play a major role in the Israeli administration of Palestinian autonomy, publicly came out against Sharon. At least one Israeli writer compared Bashir Gemayel and Dudin as illustrative of the failure of Israeli designs in the region following the invasion. [7]

The official Israeli consensus towards the PLO has been one of outright rejection and lack of recognition, but since September 1982, Labor has taken the initiative to use Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza as a bridge for contacts with the Jordanian regime and the US administration. Knesset member Amnon Lin, who recently shifted his allegiance back to Labor from the Likud, was instrumental in arranging a September 12 meeting between a group of about fifteen Palestinian intellectuals, merchants, and professionals from the West Bank with Shimon Peres and other Labor leaders. A few days later, a small number of those who met with Peres visited Amman and submitted a report about their discussions to high Jordanian and PLO officials. They also met with King Hussein, who instructed them to continue contacts with Labor officials.

Both the government and the Labor opposition, while in agreement against the PLO’s participation, have competed to develop what they hoped would be credible Palestinian representatives. The Likud, at least on the surface, is still banking on the Village Leagues. The flagrant official support for the first Village League convention on November 5 led one commentator to label it “Operation Peace for Dudin.” [8] Since the November convention, reports about divisions within the Village Leagues have surfaced in the press. The head of the Village Leagues in al-Khalil (Hebron), Muhammad Nasir, was removed from his position by the Civil Administration in January because “he generated around him an atmosphere of antagonism by trying to create a center for political activity.” When Nasir refused to step aside, the head of the Civil Administration shut down the League’s office in al-Khalil for two weeks, and instructed League members to return all weapons in their possession. [9] In the meantime, League publications have concentrated less on attacking the PLO, and more on supporting the Reagan Plan, the Egyptian interpretation of autonomy, and a freeze on Jewish settlements. [10] Thus there are signs that the government might find the Leagues to be increasingly unreliable allies in their plans. Not only did no new “moderate” Palestinian leadership emerge, but the authorities’ own structure did not go all the way with them.

The treatment of the Palestinians by the occupation authorities since the invasion reflected Israeli appreciation that the PLO was alive, well, and influential. The oath against supporting or sympathizing with the PLO was applied with vigor to nonresident members of faculties at Palestinian universities, particularly to Arabs of Palestinian origin. This led to the expulsion or the termination of employment of about fifty teachers from the various universities. [11] The procedure was only stopped after November 22, 1982, following a wave of local and international protest, including Israeli academics and the US State Department. The essence of the pledge was then incorporated into work permit applications. Already some teachers have been prevented from teaching for refusing to sign these applications. [12]

Lt. Col. Yigal Karmon, who succeeded Milson as acting head of the Civil Administration, issued a set of “instructions” to the regional governors in the West Bank, which soon were leaked to the press. The instructions stated that the war in Lebanon had given rise to pro-Jordanian elements who should be neutralized in a “massive” way and should be brought “to rely heavily on the civilian administration.” Furthermore, Karmon stated, the struggle against radical elements should be intensified, while the thousands of Arab employees of the civilian administration should be turned into “the army of the civilian administration.” Sources in the defense establishment denied responsibility for the instructions, saying that they were not cleared beforehand with Sharon. [13] Karmon has since been replaced by Brig. Gen. Shlomo Iliya who refused to retain Karmon as his deputy. [14]

Another set of instructions surfaced during the military trial of Maj. David Mofaz, then-deputy commander of the “Judea region,” documenting the officially sanctioned collective harassment and oppression of Palestinians during March-April 1982. Mofaz’s attorney produced documents from Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan’s office which gave instructions for “bullying” (tirtur) the detainees, and imposing collective punishments over entire villages where disturbances occur. Retiring Chief of Staff Eitan argued in the court that “to punish the parents for the actions of their children is good—it works well with the Arabs.” [15]

By acquitting Maj. Mofaz and two others, the military court affirmed the legality of the above instructions. In the meantime, the court judged parts of the instructions of the commander of the Judea region to be illegal. In other words, normal “bullying” of Palestinians under occupation was judged acceptable whereas excessive “bullying” was illegal: It was left to soldiers on the ground to make the distinction. [16]

The instructions that the military establishment issued at the height of its preparation to invade Lebanon were reaffirmed seven months after the invasion. Israeli policy toward the Palestinians under its occupation, in the aftermath of the war in Lebanon, continues to operate on the premise that the PLO’s political strength and influence, if it has not increased, certainly was not affected by the war and the evacuation of the PLO from Beirut.


Plans to accelerate the pace of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza proliferated in the aftermath of the invasion of Lebanon, and especially in response to the Reagan Plan. The “freeze on settlements,” as recommended in the Reagan Plan, became the hub of opposition to it. Foreign Minister Shamir restated the government’s position in January:

We don’t say “not one inch.” We have no need of such slogans. We say “Eretz Yisrael”…as we have learned of it, yearned for it, lived it. And we shall live it in the future, we shall settle it, and it shall all of it be ours. [17]

On this issue, there was no basic policy difference between the official positions of the Likud government and the Labor opposition. While calling for the need to “accept the Reagan Plan without hysteria or euphoria,” Yitzhak Rabin stated in November that “the debate between Labor and the Likud is on the question of where to settle and not on the right to settle.” [18]

Since the announcement of the Reagan Plan, Mekorot (the Israeli national water company) has taken control over all water resources in the West Bank. One poll showed that 49 percent supported the establishment of additional settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, while 35 percent were against it. Close to two thirds were of the opinion that Israel should not accept the Reagan Plan. [19] In the absence of any consensus against additional settlements, the Settlement Department of the Jewish Agency announced in late September a new five-year settlement plan for 1983-1987. The plan calls for 100,000 additional Jews in the West Bank, 20,000 in the Golan, and 10,000 in Gaza. Also, it calls for “a significant increase in settlement in Galilee and the Negev.” [20] Meanwhile, the ministry of defense intended to turn four military outposts in the West Bank into permanent civilian settlements, at least one of which is to be settled by members of Meir Kahane’s Kach movement. [21]

An internal document, prepared by the deputy minister of agriculture, Michael Dekel, and published in late December, showed that 42 new Jewish settlements will be established in the West Bank within the next four years. They will include 21,500 housing units. So far, 24 of these settlements have been approved by the Ministerial Committee on Settlments. [22] In January, Ma’ariv published a special investigative report, claiming that a total of 270 kilometers of new highways and roads is being planned for the West Bank. [23] Additionally, the Central Committee of the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor) approved, by majority vote, the decision of the executive committee of Hevrat Haovdim (Histadrufs holding company) to allow Histadrut-owned construction companies to continue building settlements in the West Bank. [24] The 1983 Israeli budget plans for an additional 2,803 housing units to be built in the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan, and the Civil Administration of the West Bank issued instructions for expropriation of an additional 20,000 dunums to enlarge existing settlements and for new settlements. [25]

The latest and most comprehensive of the plans to Judaize the West Bank is the long-term master plan that was announced by Matityahu Drobles, head of the Settlement Department of the World Zionist Organization. The plan, to be presented to the government for approval proposes that within the next thirty years settlements be expanded and established in the West Bank to accommodate 1.3 million Jews. The new master plan proposes that work be concentrated in the following areas:

  • Opening new roads totaling 400 km in length.
  • Expanding the existing 75 rural settlements.
  • Turning the existing 15 military outposts into civilian settlements.
  • Expanding the existing 18 urban settlements.
  • Establishing and developing 57 new settlements.
  • Developing industrial areas at the rate of 400 to 500 dunums per year.
  • Continuing the consolidation of state lands and the acquisition of new land.
  • Turning about 20,000 dunums of state land into areas for recreation and tourism. [26]

The settlers themselves, in an attempt to forestall the government from repeating what happened at Yamit (the Jewish settlement that was dismantled before returning Sinai to Egypt), have formed two bodies: the Citizens’ Movement for Stopping the Return of Settlements in Judea and Samaria to Jordan; and the Return to Sinai, a group that will attempt to disrupt the peace agreement with Egypt. [27]

The Israeli press has reported a boom in the commerce in rocky land lots in the West Bank by Israeli Jewish investors and private companies for people interested in a “second home.” The reports mention not only private real estate companies, but also insurance companies willing to insure the land against its return to Jordan. [28] The government is launching a massive information campaign calling for Israelis to settle in the West Bank and Gaza, and to fill the more than 2,000 housing units that are ready for occupancy. “It was decided on this campaign,” said Zohar Gindel of the housing ministry, “when it became clear that the stage of settling in the territories because of idealism is over and now the public is ready to settle for economic reasons.” [29] Government subsidization of this housing could reach up to 80 percent of the cost.

The Israeli invasion of Lebanon created massive difficulties for the PLO by destroying its military and bureaucratic structure in Lebanon, but it did not destroy the organization, nor cause any decline of Palestinian nationalism. There is no doubt however, that Israel’s scrambling of the political map of the Middle East represents a new era in Palestinian struggle. It is imperative that the PLO’s influence and representativeness, which remains very strong, be translated into a viable, liberationist strategy that addresses the needs of the entire Palestinian people.



[1] Jerusalem Post, June 4, 1982. As a Knesset member at the time, Shamir voted against the Camp David accords.
[2] Ma’ariv, June 18, 1982.
[3] Dani Rubenstein, “Political PLO Is More Dangerous Than Military PLO,” Davar, September 5, 1982.
[4] See his interview in Ma’ariv, July 9, 1982.
[5] Ha’aretz, August 18, 1982.
[6] Jerusalem Post, September 6, 1982.
[7] Ha’aretz, September 22, 1982.
[8] Ha’aretz, November 19, 1982.
[9] Ibid., March 1 and 2, 1983.
[10] Davar, December 15, 1982. The Davar report also mentions that a decision was made to change the name of the Leagues’ organ from Umm al-Qura (The Mother of Villages) to al-Mir’at (The Mirror). In one of the latest issues, the editor was asked if the PLO represents the Palestinians. His answer was positive. He added, however, that the Leagues, too, represent the Palestinians. While its attack on the PLO has declined, its attack on the communists has increased.
[11] Ibid., November 16, 1982.
[12] Ha’aretz, January 20, 1983.
[13] Ibid., November 16 and 17, 1982.
[14] Ibid., December 28, 1982.
[15] Ibid., February 10, 1983.
[16] Ibid., February 18, 1983.
[17] Jerusalem Post, January 5, 1983.
[18] Davar, November 11, 1982.
[19] Commissioned by Ha’aretz, October 8, 1982.
[20] Ibid., September 29, 1982.
[21] Davar, November 9, 1982.
[22] Ma’ariv, December 30, 1982.
[23] Amos Levav, “Judea and Samaria—New Facts in the Territories,” series of four articles, Ma’ariv, January 10-13, 1983.
[24] Ibid., January 10, 1983.
[25] Yediot Aharonot, February 7, 1983.
[26] Ha’aretz, April 10, 1983.
[27] Yediot Aharonot, October 19, 1982; Davar, October 24, 1982.
[28] See, for example, Ma’ariv, October 15, 1982, and the six-part series on “Who and How They Are Building Samaria?” by Eliezer Lavin, Ha’aretz, December 17-24, 1982.
[29] Ma’ariv, January 9, 1983.

How to cite this article:

Khalil Nakhleh "The Lebanon War and the Occupied Territories," Middle East Report 115 (June 1983).

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