FrontPageMagazine.com | August 3, 2006
Kiryat Shemona, Israel (Aug 2, 2006) – Israel needs to “finish the job” against Hezbollah in Lebanon, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told me in this northern Israeli town on Tuesday.
Hezbollah’s Iranian- and Syrian-supplied rockets have emptied this normally bustling agricultural and manufacturing center, and have turned most of northern Israel into ghost towns.
But the few residents who remain behind are defiant.¬Ý
An impassioned woman blasted the government for pussy-footing around in its ground offensive in Lebanon, and said she was ready to stay “six months in the shelters” if that was needed in order to finish off the Hezbollah rocket attacks.
“The people of Israel are sending the government of Iran a message,” government spokesman Daniel Seaman said.
“The Israeli public is demanding that the government finish the job, to put an end to the threat we have been facing from Iran’s proxy army, Hezbollah. If Hezbollah thought public opinion was our weak point, they were wrong,” he told me in Metulla yesterday.
While the United States has been leading diplomatic efforts to achieve a lasting solution that would remove Hezbollah as an effective fighting force, the Bush administration must not pressure Israel into an early ceasefire. To do so would be against American interests, and would embolden our enemies.
Israeli politicians cannot accept a halt to military operations against Hezbollah until they have crippled it as an effective fighting force and can prevent future missile attacks against Israel.
Opinion polls in Israel show overwhelming support – way over 90% - for the government’s ongoing military operations against Hezbollah.
25-year old Lt. Lynat Bruck, a female reservist who was called up to active duty in the military police, told me yesterday on the front lines in Metulla that she never hesitated when her call-up orders came.¬Ý
She lives in Ramat Naftali, just twenty minutes from the border. “My home is close, so I feel like I am defending my home,” she said. “It’s like I’m fighting in my own backyard.”¬Ý
Dozens of other soldiers – reservists and young conscripts – expressed similar sentiments in interviews all along the front lines in northern Israel.
Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice showed that she has a political tin ear on Sunday when she announced in Jerusalem a 48-hour Israeli pause in airstrikes, without having first finalized the agreement with Prime Minister Olmert and his government.¬Ý
Rice’s entourage leaked the impending Israeli “pause” to American reporters in Jerusalem after midnight the night before, even as discussions with the Israeli government were ongoing.
This is why Olmert felt compelled to contradict Rice in an unusual statement several hours after she left Jerusalem on Sunday. He said the Israeli air force would continue to hit targets in Lebanon if intelligence showed Hezbollah was preparing to fire rockets into Israel. “Rice thought this was just about diplomacy,” an Israeli official told me. “But this is also about politics.”
Israelis understand that this war is not just about Israel and Hezbollah, however. It is part of Iran’s larger proxy war against Israel and America.¬Ý
Among the many dangers if Israel is not allowed to finish Hezbollah off as a fighting force will be to embolden Iran to position longer-range missiles in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley or in Syria, to blackmail Europe.
The goal of Iranian blackmail is clear: to convince Europe that the cost of joining international efforts to compel Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program will be high.
But there are other, more immediate consequences should the U.S. and the United Nations try to force Israel into a premature ceasefire.¬Ý
In a joint press conference in Tehran on June 15, Iranian defense minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar and his visiting counterpart from Syria, Hassan Turkmani, announced they had signed a mutual defense pact.
This latest Syrian-Iranian agreement formalizes de facto agreements between the two countries that have allowed Iran to send weapons to Hezbollah through Syria over the past two decades.¬Ý
And more importantly, the new agreement extends Iran’s nuclear umbrella to Syria.¬Ý
"Our cooperation is based on a strategic pact and unity against common threats. We can have a common front against Israel's threats," Turkmani told reporters after two intensive rounds of talks with Najjar.¬Ý
Iran "considers Syria's security its own security, and we consider our defense capabilities to be those of Syria," the Iranian defense minister said.¬Ý
Al Sharq al Awsat in London reported on June 16 that the pact included major new arms sales from Iran to Syria, as well as massive financial aid.
“Iran has agreed to finance Syrian military deals with Russia, China, and Ukraine, to equip the Syrian army with cannon, warheads, army vehicles, and missiles manufactured by the Iranian Defense Industries, and to enable Syrian navy drills,” the paper reported. "Syria, on its part, has renewed its previous agreements with Iran which allow Iranian ammunition trucks to pass [through Syria] into Lebanon..."¬Ý
Americans need to understand the larger picture.¬Ý
“This is a test-fire, test-firing of rockets into a Western country,” former prime minister Netanyahu told me. “Iran is committed to the destruction of Israel.¬Ý It denies the Holocaust while preparing a new Holocaust. But Iran is also committed to a demented branch of Shiism which sees an apocalyptic war of millions of casualties in which Shiism will rise and the West will go down. We may be the first target, but we’re not the last target.”
Through its proxy in Lebanon, and its proxy in Gaza, Iran “has established two beachheads,” he added.
“Let the citizens of the world beware,” Netanyahu cautioned. “What you see here is what you’ll get later.”
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