Friday, November 23, 2018

Lebanon has been warned - Itzhak Levanon

by Itzhak Levanon

-- if Beirut continues to side with the Shiite terrorist group, an Israeli strike in Lebanon may prove inevitable.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's vague statement in ‎Paris last week on is meeting with Russian President ‎Vladimir Putin indicated that Moscow's ire over the Sept. 17 ‎downing of a Russian plane by Syrian air defenses trying to ‎counter and Israeli airstrike has yet to subside. ‎

It also indicated that Israel's policy in Syria has become ‎more prudent, and to a great extent, the public threats ‎against Syria have been replaced with quiet threats against ‎Lebanon.

French National Security Adviser Orléan la-Chevalier visited ‎Israel two weeks ago, ahead of a visit to Beirut. According ‎to Lebanon's al-Akhbar newspaper, which is affiliated with ‎Hezbollah, in his meetings with Lebanese officials, the ‎French envoy relayed Israeli warnings saying that unless ‎Beirut stops Hezbollah from getting Iranian weapons ‎shipments, Israel would have no choice but to target ‎Hezbollah assets in Lebanon.‎

Hezbollah learned of this almost immediately, which is not ‎surprising considering Lebanese President Michel Aoun's ‎affinity with the Shiite terrorist group, and Hezbollah leader ‎Hassan Nasrallah was quick to respond with threats of his ‎own, saying any Israeli strike would meet a forceful ‎response. ‎

This is not the only example of the close ties Beirut ‎maintains with Hezbollah. Several Lebanese MPs and even ‎the country's chief of staff have stated that if another war ‎breaks out between Hezbollah and Israel, Lebanon's army ‎will fight alongside the Shiite terrorist group, which wields ‎considerable political power in the country. ‎

Moreover, Lebanon knows that Hezbollah strives to improve ‎the accuracy of its missiles and is doing nothing to stop it, ‎and in all honesty, Israel knows that the Lebanese ‎government or military cannot really prevent Hezbollah from ‎getting its hands on Iranian weapons, as even if all the ‎ethnic and political powers in Lebanon came together, they ‎would still be unable to counter Hezbollah's military might.‎

Hezbollah has gained significant political clout in Lebanon, ‎even winning a majority in May's parliamentary elections. ‎Add to that the fact that the Lebanese army no longer ‎bothers to conceal its collaboration with the group, and you ‎have an overtly hostile neighbor in the north.‎

All Israel can do at this point is follow through on the ‎warnings it conveyed via the French envoy. Strategically, ‎making things right with Russia outweighs engaging in a ‎limited conflict with Hezbollah. The latter is still deterred ‎enough to contain an Israeli strike, if one proves necessary.‎

Having relayed its message using back channels, Israel ‎must now make its position public so both official and ‎unofficial Lebanon understands – it has been warned.‎

Itzhak Levanon is the former Israeli ambassador to Egypt.


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