Gantz indicates support for recognition of IDF’s 18-year presence in Lebanon
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Gantz indicates support for recognition of IDF’s 18-year presence in Lebanon

Defense minister meets activists calling for designation of southern Lebanon occupation as an official campaign, after IDF announces committee to consider move

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israeli soldiers pack artillery and weapons during the withdrawal from Lebanon on June 22, 2000 (Flash90)
Israeli soldiers pack artillery and weapons during the withdrawal from Lebanon on June 22, 2000 (Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday indicated that he supported designating Israel’s 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon as an official military campaign, following calls from veterans of that period to recognize it with a name and a ribbon.

Earlier this week, the Israel Defense Forces announced that it had formed a committee to consider such a move, following numerous calls by activists in recent months, spurred on by the 20th anniversary of the military’s withdrawal from Lebanon on May 24.

On Thursday, Gantz — who served in Lebanon throughout that period and was the last IDF officer to leave the country following the withdrawal — held a remote videoconference with several of the leading activists involved in the effort.

“As someone who entered Lebanon in March 1978 and was the last to leave it in May 2000, I know well the great contribution made by IDF soldiers throughout the years on Lebanese territory. They fought with courage, defended the country and paid a heavy price in blood,” he said.

“There is no doubt that the operational service in Lebanon deserves historic recognition,” Gantz said in a statement following the call.

On Tuesday, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi formed the committee to consider officially recognizing the occupation of southern Lebanon as a military campaign. If the move is approved, it would be the ninth such campaign recognized by the military, alongside the 1948 Independence War, 1956 Sinai War, 1967 Six Day War, 1967-1970 War of Attrition, 1973 Yom Kippur War, 1982 First Lebanon War, 2006 Second Lebanon War, and 2014 Gaza war, known officially as Operation Protective Edge.

The committee will be headed by Lt. Gen. (res.) Shaul Mofaz, who was chief of staff from 1998 to 2002 and oversaw the military’s final years in southern Lebanon. The committee will also be staffed by a number of other senior active-duty and reserve officers.

IDF Chief of staff Shaul Mofaz announces the withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000 (YouTube screenshot)

“If the committee finds it is right to grant a campaign medal, it will also consider the following issues: giving a name to the campaign, the qualifying period for receiving the medal and other criteria for eligibility,” the IDF said in a statement.

On Thursday, Gantz said he trusted his “former commander, who was chief of staff during the exit from Lebanon, Lt. Gen. (res.) Shaul Mofaz.”

Mofaz’s committee is expected to submit a recommendation to Gantz and Kohavi in the coming months.

An estimated 675 troops were killed during Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon. The period was covered in the recent television documentary “War with No Name,” in a nod to the lack of official recognition for Israel’s 18-year presence in southern Lebanon.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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