f_0010092_7839

f_0010092_7839 - Israels Northern Front: Relations with...

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Fall 2008 The Ambassadors REVIEW 68 Israel’s “Northern Front”: Relations with Syria and Lebanon Barry Rubin, Ph.D. Director, Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Herzliya, Israel Editor, Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal he circumstances in the Middle East, including the situation on Israel’s northern border, can only be understood in the shadow of a startling but extremely grave reality: Israel is the world’s only country whose total destruction is openly sought by other countries and powerful movements. Threats to wipe out Israel are made on a daily basis. On September 27, 2008, for example, the leader of Lebanese Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, told a mass rally that all of Israel is part of Palestine, “Palestine, from the sea to the river is the property of Arabs and Palestinians and no one has the right to give up even a single grain of earth or one stone, because every grain of the land is holy. The entire land must be returned to its rightful owners.” Holy War, Nasrallah added, is the only way to achieve this goal. Hezbollah is not a marginal group. It is part of Lebanon’s government, possesses a large army, missiles, and the political-financial backing of Iran and Syria. In 2006, Hezbollah launched several raids on Israeli territory, the last of which resulted in the killing and kidnapping of soldiers within Israel. From my perspective, Hezbollah’s behavior cannot be attributed to Israel’s holding of Lebanese nationals due to previous terrorist attacks or to an Israeli presence on Lebanese soil. Nasrallah’s above-quoted speech came after the prisoner release. Israel withdrew from Lebanese territory—and was certified by the United Nations as having done so—almost a decade ago. In my opinion, there is little hope for a diplomatic solution given Hezbollah’s hostility to Israel’s existence. It also would seem that even the creation of a Palestinian state would not diminish—and indeed might well intensify—Hezbollah’s aggressiveness. Many observers of the region have pointed to Iranian and Syrian influence over Hezbollah as a major challenge to the peace process. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—most recently in his September 2008 speech to the United Nations General Assembly—and Spiritual Guide Ayatollah Ali Khomenei have made clear their commit- ment to Israel’s elimination. Moreover, it has been noted that Iran has direct and indirect influence on Israel’s northern border, both through Syria, its principal ally, and Hezbollah, along with some military presence in Lebanon of its own. In the current Lebanese government, Hezbollah has veto power over all important decisions. Within Lebanon’s military, there are considerable pro-Hezbollah factions.
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f_0010092_7839 - Israels Northern Front: Relations with...

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