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Futility in Lebanon

TO the dismay of its friends, Israel has again fallen into the trap of believing that military action in Lebanon will secure Israel's northern border.

Israelis are understandably sensitive to the vulnerability of their northern region. Before 1967, Syria shelled civilians there from the Golan Heights; since then the north has been tormented by Palestinians and, after 1982, the Lebanese-Shiite Hizbullah guerrillas backed by Iran.

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But Israeli military operations, on whatever scale, have never brought permanent peace in the north. Instead they have created new generations of Arab militants ready to sacrifice all to destroy the Jewish state.

Lebanon's Shiites welcomed Israeli troops in 1982 when Israel drove the Palestine Liberation Organization out of Lebanon. That welcome turned to warfare when Israel occupied a 10-mile-wide "security zone" in southern Lebanon that included many Shiite villages.

In the end, that zone has provided Hizbullah an excuse for rocket attacks against Israel, while providing Israel precious little security.

History would suggest Israel try an alternative approach. It could hardly be less fruitful than the present one.

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