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Intelligence minister warns ‘megalomanic’ Hezbollah chief

Yisrael Katz cautions that an attack on Israel’s home front would spell ‘ruin for Lebanon’

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz addresses the Herzliya Conference on Thursday, June 16, 2016 (Adi Cohen Zedek)
Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz addresses the Herzliya Conference on Thursday, June 16, 2016 (Adi Cohen Zedek)

Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz launched a scathing attack on the Hezbollah terror group’s leader, calling Hassan Nasrallah a “megalomaniac” with no concept of reality and warning that Lebanon would be “ruined” in a future conflict between the IDF and Hezbollah.

“Hezbollah continues to be the primary non-state threat, not only to Israel but also to Lebanon,” he told the Herzliya Conference, an annual seminar reviewing Israel’s security.

He added that a conflict with the Lebanon-based Shiite group could be triggered by a minor incident due to “the megalomaniac character of the organization’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, a fanatical personality who lacks any conception of reality except, perhaps, anything to do with protecting his personal security.”

His words came a day after IDF Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevy, speaking at the same conference, put particular emphasis on the threat from Hezbollah in Lebanon, as Israel prepares to mark 10 years since the Second Lebanon War next month.

Hezbollah is believed to have an arsenal of more than 100,000 missiles and rockets, along with weapons systems “that they never had before,” Halevy said.

But Katz said that it is Israel’s northern neighbor and the Hezbollah leader who had the most to lose in a conflict with Israel.

“A war in Lebanon and an attack on the Israeli home front will bring about the ousting of Nasrallah and will bring ruin to Lebanon,” he predicted.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivers a speech from Beirut, Lebanon on May 12, 2016 (screen capture: Press TV)
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivers a speech from Beirut, Lebanon, on May 12, 2016 (screen capture: Press TV)

Katz, who is also transportation minister, presented his vision for Israel to become a trade bridge between the Mediterranean Sea and countries to its east by revving up the historic Jezreel Valley Railway line, part of an train network in the region active during the first half of the twentieth century, under Ottoman and British rule. He revealed that Turkish trucks are already making use of Israel’s strategic position, which offers a detour around war-torn Syria.

“Turkish trucks are already bringing goods to the east via Haifa port. They are using the Israeli route as an alternative to the Syrian route, which can’t be used due to the situation there,” he said.

Katz also took the opportunity to raise the subject of creating an international island in the sea opposite the Gaza Strip to act as a port with a bridge to the land for the transfer of people and goods.

“This plan could contribute much to easing the pressure on the residents of the Strip, while further advancing the separation from Israel,” he explained, and noted that Israel’s security leadership is very interested in the idea.

“I hope that the highest political leadership will have the courage and determination to make a decision,” he said.

In February the Hebrew-language Haaretz daily reported that senior IDF officials support the idea of easing the pressure on Hamas, the de facto ruler of Gaza, amid a worsening economic situation in Gaza that could lead to new conflict, by giving the territory access to a seaport. It said a range of possible port arrangements — including an artificial offshore island — are being discussed at senior military and political levels.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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