Sir: The attempts to depict the Israeli action in Lebanon as a sudden reaction to outrageous provocation will not hold water. Israel has always wanted a compliant regime in Lebanon. Moshe Sharett's diaries vividly illustrate the arguments in the Israeli cabinet of the 1950s over whether it was possible to set up a puppet Maronite state in the country. Sharon's feting of Bashir Gemayel in the early 1980s was a similar effort to recreate a neighbour on Israeli terms, with appalling consequences. Now that Lebanon is controlled by Syria, Israel's most intransigent local opponent, the hopes for an obedient regime have been temporarily dashed. But Peres (the "peacemaker") can still signal Israel's strength to Syria and win his election in the process.
As long as Israel continues to occupy southern Lebanon and to support an unpopular puppet army there, the resentment of the local populace will find its outlet in groups such as Hizbollah, born as it was out of that occupation. If Israel withdraws, there is hope of peace. If it does not, there is none.