Monday, December 7, 2009

Netanyahu: Today, Lebanon's real army is Hezbollah

(Haaretz).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed addressed the security situation along Israel's border with Lebanon during a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday, saying that the Lebanese militia Hezbollah was taking the place of the Lebanese army as the country's major military power.

"If in the past we viewed Lebanon as a secondary military power," Netanyahu said, "today Hezbollah is the real Lebanese army, and it has replaced the actual Lebanese army as a major force that is arming itself and training like any other army."

"The Lebanese government and Hezbollah are becoming intertwined," he added. "They are the ones who would be held responsible for any attack on Israel."

During the meeting, Netanyahu also urged the West to use the social "power of the Internet" to counter the Iranian threat and the Islamic regime's crackdown on its own opposition, reiterating Israel's concern over Iran's contentious nuclear program.

The prime minister declared that Iran posed a plethora of threats to the world as well as to its own people, including its "violent elections, the discovery of the nuclear facility in Qom, its deception of the international community and preventing its nation's freedom of information through the Internet."

"Iran is silencing all sources of information," said Netanyahu. "Using the power of the Internet and of Twitter against the Iranian regime is a tremendous thing that the United States can do."

The prime minister added that the "deep hatred among part of the Iranian nation against the regime" could serve as a "very important asset to Israel."

Iran's refusal to respond to the international community's offer for a nuclear deal and its opposition to exporting uranium to be enriched outside its borders underlined the West's need to stick to its threat of imposing sanctions by late December.

Netanyahu called Iran's armament the "central problem" facing the international community and said it was in the world's "utmost interest" to stop Tehran from gaining more weapons.

He added that Israel and the United States were strengthening their ties and increasing cooperation on a strategic level with regard to "information, intensive assessments and diplomatic coordination" against Iran.