ZOA: Lebanon not innocent
New York – The so-called weak, innocent, peace-seeking, democratic Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is making the identical demands of Israel that are being made by the Islamic terrorist group Hezbollah. These include an immediate ceasefire, the release of Lebanese prisoners (i.e. Hezbollah terrorists jailed in Israel) and Israeli withdrawal from the Shaba Farms area, a region which the UN has said is not part of Lebanese territory.
This Lebanese government plan was offered after it rejected a proposal by US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, simply because she insisted that a ceasefire be imposed only after the Islamist terrorist group Hezbollah release the two Israel soldiers and withdraw some 20 miles from its positions on the Israel-Lebanese border. Rices ceasefire proposal also called for a simultaneous deployment of the Lebanese Army and an international force in southern Lebanon — a proposal which has been rejected by the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabih Berri. Since Israel withdrew its forces from Lebanon in May 2000, Lebanon has refused to deploy its own army in southern Lebanon and disarm Hezbollah, something it required to do under UN Security Council Resolution 1559. According to Berri, only after a ceasefire would an intra-Lebanese dialogue address the issue of Hezbollahs future status and arrangements in southern Lebanon. The Hezbollah leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, has approved the Lebanese government conducting negotiations over the release of prisoners (Haaretz, July 25).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, The insistence by the Lebanese government of Fouad Siniora on these demands reveals that it is not the innocent or peace-seeking actor that it is portraying itself to be. If it was sincere about solving the crisis, it would not be insisting of an immediate ceasefire which spares Hezbollah, the release of Hezbollah terrorists in return for innocent Israeli servicemen, Israeli withdrawal from territory that does not belong to Lebanon and some vague promise of future discussions about the status of Hezbollah. These demands are a recipe for preserving Hezbollah and rewarding it for its unprovoked aggression against Israel. If these demands were met, Israel would go back to the threatening situation Israel was enduring prior to these recent events except that this time there would be hundreds more Islamist terrorists on the loose.
Let it not be forgotten that Lebanon is under an international legal obligation, including UN Security Council Resolution 1559, to assert sovereign control over its own territory and prevent the use of such territory for assaults upon neighboring states by terrorists. Lebanon has simply refused to do this. If it had fulfilled its obligations, Hezbollah today would be disarmed and would not have been able to induce the present crisis by launching an unprovoked attack upon Israel and kidnapping Israeli soldiers.
Lebanon has portrayed itself as unable to assert its authority in southern Lebanon, but this is nonsense. Since early last year, no Syrian occupation troops have been stationed in Lebanon, so there is no sizable military ally of Hezbollah within Lebanon. The Lebanese army, according to the Washington DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, consists of 70,000 soldiers, including 11 mechanized infantry brigades, a Presidential Guard Brigade, a commando/Ranger Regiment, five Special Forces regiments, an air assault regiment, and two artillery regiments. It also possesses 110 battle tanks. Even if one takes the manpower of Hezbollah to be at the upper limit of current estimates — some 5,000 armed men — the Lebanese army has more than adequate military forces to deal with the problem if chose to do so. It has not done so.
By insisting on an immediate ceasefire and Israel releasing Hezbollah terrorists, as Hezbollah itself has been demanding all along, the Lebanese government has confirmed that it is unwilling to fight terrorism and is actually on the side of the terrorists, not on the side of those fighting them. It is high time for the media and the international community to expose the phony image of innocent that the Lebanese enjoys as an innocent peaceful victim.