Senior Lebanese Government Officials: “We Respect Hezbollah”
August 2, 2006

Lebanese army helping
Hezbollah fight Israel

New York – Senior Lebanese government officials have come out strongly supporting Hezbollah, including President Emile Lahoud, who has said, “Hezbollah enjoys utmost prestige in Lebanon … Hezbollah maintains Arab honor … of course [Hezbollah’s leader] Nasrallah has my respect” (‘Meet the Press,’ July 30). Lebanese special envoy of the Foreign Ministry, Nouhad Mahmoud, asked if Nasrallah has his respect, Mahmoud responded, “Sure.” He added, that Hezbollah is “part of the Lebanese society, and they have their … legitimacy through their fighting” [i.e., through terrorist assaults upon Israel]. Asked if Nasrallah has his respect, Mahmoud responded, “Sure” (‘Meet The Press,’ July 30). In addition, the vast majority of Lebanese citizens, an opinion polls carried out by US news agencies showed that 81% of Lebanese Christians, 85% of Lebanese Sunni Muslims and 86% Lebanese Shiites support Hezbollah.

These unequivocal declarations of support for Hezbollah follow the Lebanese government of Fouad Siniora last week making identical demands of Israel as those made by Hezbollah — an immediate ceasefire and release of Lebanese “prisoners” (i.e., Hezbollah terrorists jailed in Israel). If these demands were met, Hezbollah would survive as a military force and be able to claim victory by having wrested concessions from Israel by terrorism. This would simply invite further Hezbollah aggression.

Lebanon has portrayed itself as peace-seeking and unable to assert its authority in southern Lebanon and disarm Hezbollah whereas in fact 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. In contrast, Hezbollah has at most some 5,000 armed men.

Harvard Law Professor, Alan Dershowitz, has pointed out that militias associated with several Lebanese political parties, including the Lebanese Communist Party, headed by the speaker of the Lebanese parliament, Nabih Berri, have already joined Hezbollah in attacking Israel (Jerusalem Post, July 30). As Jerusalem Post Managing Editor and columnist Caroline Glick, also notes, “since the outbreak of the war, the Lebanese army has been actively fighting with Hezbollah. Its radars have been used to lock in Israeli targets for Hezbollah missile crews. It is paying pensions to the families of fallen Hezbollah fighters. On Sunday its soldiers reportedly shot at IDF helicopters in the Beka’a Valley. But, to date, the US-led international community refuses to recognize the Lebanese army as a combatant, and similarly insists that the aim of the postwar settlement should be to strengthen both the Lebanese government that includes Hezbollah and the Lebanese army that fights by Hezbollah’s side” (Jerusalem Post, August 1).

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “The Lebanese government has flagrantly revealed itself to be aiding and protecting the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, which regularly call for the destruction of Israel. It is therefore simply absurd for America or Israel to base its policy in Lebanon on the notion that it has a friendly, democratic ally in Beirut willing to fight terrorism. No one has made the point that on one hand, Lebanon claims it lacks the forces to disarm Hezbollah, while on the other fighting with Hezbollah against Israel. This indicates that the Lebanese government, which after all has two members of Hezbollah in its cabinet, actually supports Hezbollah and has simply not told the truth when it states that it is unable to deal with Hezbollah. It also shows it to be colluding with Hezbollah terrorists, who make no secret of their plan to wipe out Israel and kill Jews.

“The ZOA urges the Bush Administration to hold the Lebanese government accountable for its statements, acts and omissions and to make it clear that while the US would like to see Lebanon independent and free, Lebanon must take responsibility for its actions and not position itself on the wrong side of the war on terror. To do otherwise would be to repudiate the Bush Doctrine, whereby the President pledged after September 11 to hold all regimes accountable for supporting terrorists without distinction. We urge the Bush Administration to publicly criticize Lebanese leaders who have proclaimed their support for Hezbollah.”

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