Lebanon is like quicksand: easier to get into than out By Nechemia Meyers

In the last bombardment before their departure, one Katyusha rocket landed just 20 meters to the left of their house and another just 20 meters to the right. Nothing happened to them, as they were safely in an air raid shelter, but the house itself suffered some damage, as did 200 other Kiryat Shmona residences. Fortunately, in their case, it was minor — a broken window, a cracked wall and a few shattered roof tiles. But it added to their feeling, shared by other residents of the town, that they are serving as the bull's-eye in a Hezbollah shooting gallery.

At the time of writing, after Israel's initial reprisal actions, it is too early to say how soon the current tension will end, thus permitting our daughter and grandsons to rejoin our son-in-law, who has remained in Kiryat Shmonah. However, if Israel Army spokesmen are to be believed, it may be a matter of weeks.

This does not lessen the support of Galilee residents, in Kiryat Shmona and elsewhere, for Israeli reprisal actions. For weeks now they have been berating the government of Prime Minister Shimon Peres for failing to act against Hezbollah, and were particularly outraged some 10 days ago when Peres apologized for the fact that an Israeli shell had killed a Lebanese civilian.

Now, while still not enthusiastic about Peres and company, they are pleased to see that the Muslim fundamentalists in Lebanon are finally taking punishment, which, they hope, will persuade them to stop firing rockets at Jewish towns and villages.

However, past experience indicates that their hopes are unlikely to be fulfilled. A recently published study on the reprisal raids of the '50s and '60s shows why.

According to the study, reprisal raids in themselves, while important for Israeli morale, never put a stop to terrorism for an extended period of time. That was only achieved by a war or a political settlement.

In the '50s, the Jewish villages in the Negev frequently were attacked by fedayeen (an earlier version of the Hamas and the Hezbollah). Yet despite numerous Israeli commando raids on Gaza, from which the fedayeen came, the attacks continued until the 1956 Sinai campaign (when Israel first conquered the Gaza Strip but ultimately released it).

Where Lebanon is concerned, it is generally agreed that only Syria, de facto ruler of that country, can guarantee peace along Israel's northern border. And Syria refuses to even discuss the matter before Israel agrees to withdraw from the Golan Heights and Israel's security zone in southern Lebanon.

Of course, Israel could attempt a rerun of the 1982 war. But so far only Rafael Eitan, who was the army's chief of staff at the time and is now third on the Likud Party list, calls for a further penetration into Lebanon (up to the Litani River).

His proposal finds few supporters among veterans of the 1982 conflict, who know that Lebanon, like quicksand, is easier to get into than to get out of.

The writer is an Israeli correspondent for the Jewish press.