MK Shelly Yechimovich (Labor), 54, takes credit for bringing about the withdrawal of the IDF from Lebanon on May 24, 2000, and she is right.
Before turning to politics, Yechimovich was a journalist, who reached a peak of influence as a dominant editor and anchor in Kol Yisrael public radio in the late 1990s. The morning program she anchored, Hakol Diburim, set the Israeli public agenda to a large extent.
Yechimovich, who grew up in a communist household and admitted to having voted for the communist party in at least one national election, started her journalistic career as a reporter for now defunct radical socialist newspaper Al Hamishmar.
She ascended to dominance as an activistic journalist who became known as a leading spokesperson for radical feminism – a creed also referred to as genderism, and defined by neo-conservative Professor Ruth Wisse as “if not the most extreme then certainly the most influential neo-Marxist movement in America” – which was imported into Israel in the 1970s and 80s.
Yechimovich's genius was the framing of demands for withdrawal from the IDF's self-styled security belt in Lebanon as products of a "feminine wisdom" that was lost upon Israel's “macho” decision-makers. By doing so, she brought the considerable power of Israel's genderist journalists into play, and these were joined by male journalists, too, in a uniform chorus clamoring for a swift retreat.
Another editor in Kol Yisrael's newsroom, Dr. Hanan Naveh, would later disclose in a public speech that three editors in Kol Yisrael's newsroom had decided to bring about the withdrawal of the IDF from Lebanon. He mentioned Yechimovich and her colleague, Military Affairs Reporter Carmela Menashe, as spearheading the effort. Naveh made clear that Kol Yisrael amplified reports on casualties and setbacks suffered by the IDF in southern Lebanon. This reporting sapped public support for the war effort.
Through near-daily interviews, Yechimovich and Menashe succeeded in turning a tiny group of four peaceniks from northern kibbutzim – the Four Mothers – into a hugely influential movement. This campaign began in 1997 and kept going until the withdrawal from Lebanon.
A nighttime retreat
While it is true that the maintenance of the Security Zone cost an average of 20 IDF soldiers' lives annually – as Naftali Bennett noted Monday morning, it also kept Hezbollah at bay. In addition, it projected deterrence.
The withdrawal from Lebanon was carried out in a hurried way, at night. The IDF's ally, the South Lebanon Army (SLA), was left in the lurch and was quick to crumble. SLA soldiers and their families streamed to the Israeli border and had to be hastily taken into Israel, or face slaughter at the hands of Hezbollah.
Hezbollah became a dominant military and political force in Lebanon and is now believed to have 100,000 rockets aimed at all of Israel. Some of those rockets may carry chemical warheads.
The withdrawal also gave Israel's enemies a sense that Israel is psychologically weak – and is seen as a major factor in the decision by then-Palestinian Authority head Yasser Arafat to launch the Oslo War, or “Second Intifada,” in October of the same year – barely four months after the withdrawal. That campaign of exploding buses and other atrocities saw 1,200-1,500 Israelis murdered, most of them civilians.
While the IDF was spared the constant bleeding it suffered in the Security Belt – it was subjected to a war in 2006 in which it lost 120 men. The war also brought Israel's entire northern section, including Haifa, under direct attack, and saw 44 civilians killed. Research has also shown that life under missile attacks raised the rate of juvenile diabetes in the North. The IDF also suffered two cross-border abductions in the years that followed the withdrawal, and had to release hundreds of terrorists in the exchange deals that followed.
In fairness, it must be noted that Barak was elected in 1999 after specifically promising to take the IDF out of southern Lebanon. Following the highly effective campaign waged by Yechimovich and many others in the media, the withdrawal was largely perceived as justified, and even Ariel Sharon – the architect of the invasion of Lebanon – supported it. Disasters like the 1997 catastrophe in which two helicopters en route to Lebanon crashed in midair, killing all 73 aboard, were demoralizing, as were casualties from Hezbollah roadside bombs and mortar attacks on outposts.
Strangely, Yechimovich has never been forced to justify the Four Mothers campaign, and the premise of “feminine wisdom” that guided it. She entered politics in 2005 and to this day, is respected in the Israeli right wing as a woman of principle.
Arutz Sheva has contacted MK Yechimovich's staff and will publish her response once it is sent to us.