The First Lebanon War forged various models and archetypes that continue to shape Israel's security policies even today. One of the models created was that of the bereaved mother, personified by Raya Harnik — who lost her son Giora ("Gooni") — and other bereaved parents who later became known as the "Beaufort families." From then on, every defense minister and prime minister understood that mothers who lost sons in wars the government undertook would protest against its policies in Zion Square, commemorate the casualties outside officials' homes and perceive those ministers — not the actual enemy that killed their children — as responsible for their loss. The battle essentially became illegitimate once lives were claimed.
Another model created during that war was the "refusenik" who objected to army service on political grounds. Unlike the conscientious objector — the individual who defies a powerful establishment — these draft-dodgers acted on behalf of well-financed organizations like Yesh Gvul ("There is a Limit"), which used the threat of collective insubordination to try to shape policy. Those who were represented by a minority in the Knesset but were the majority in the army (at the time mainly members of kibbutzim and graduates of elite high schools) found a way to impose their world view on the army. And they won the support of soldiers' parents, senior officers and cultural leaders who turned these objectors into subversive celebrities. Every good brigade commander at the time knew that his directives would require praise not only by the chief of staff and defense minister but also by Yeshayahu Leibowitz and Amos Oz — the First Lebanon War made it clear that these intellectuals were just as influential as uniformed officers when it came to soldiers executing orders.
The First Lebanon War also shaped the media's role during war time and its influence on public impressions of the war. Despite the war's achievements, including the victory of a democratic state over a terrorist organization (the PLO) that was expelled from its bases in Beirut — just as Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah was forced to leave Dahieh in the Second Lebanon War or Hamas suffered defeat in Gaza after Operation Cast Lead — the media presented the war as reckless. They painted it as a disastrous use of excessive force, not as an operation that eliminated the threat of Katyusha rockets from targeting residents of northern Israel.
From a sociological perspective, the First Lebanon War also defined the complex relationship between left-wing Israelis and kibbutz residents and the army. It led to a motivational crisis and to their departure from the army, which in turn sparked an awakening among the national religious sector. Strategically, that is when the "post-modern combat doctrine" was formed — the one that prefers sterile war that can be won through air power and that removes soldiers from the battlefield. This type of war forbids contact with the enemy and avoids ground victory, setting a precedent for future conflicts.
Over time, these limitations only worsened, and increasingly harmed the army's capabilities. They reshaped the army into one that requires not just military directives and the deployment of forces, but also requires political considerations and coalitions — which transformed the army into a political playground for Israel's citizens. Everyone is in on the game: human rights groups and feminist organizations, conscientious objectors and parents' associations. The army has become a model for parity between various sectors of society, but it remains to be seen whether it can win wars.
The writer holds a Ph.D. and is an expert in relations between army and society at the Ariel University Center of Samaria.