Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Thursday that Lebanon is now under Hezbollah’s “complete control” following the terror group’s success in elections there earlier this week.
In his first public comments following IDF strikes on dozens of Iranian targets in Syria in response to a rocket barrage on Israel’s north, Liberman said Hezbollah’s victory created a “new reality” on the northern border, in which Lebanese soldiers “take direct orders from Hezbollah and [its leader, Hassan] Nasrallah.”
After Sunday’s election — the first since 2009 — Hezbollah and its allies looked set to secure a bloc large enough to block attempts for it to disarm, a longstanding demand of its political enemies, and give it a larger say in the county’s defense policies.
“Hezbollah has in practice completed its takeover of Lebanon,” Liberman told the annual Herzliya Conference in the central Israeli city. “And that means it is in complete control not just of the Lebanese [government], but also its army. From now on a Lebanese sniper is a Hezbollah stand-in and takes direct orders from Hezbollah and Nasrallah. And that is a new reality.”
Since its founding with Iranian support in the mid-1980s, Hezbollah, considered a terror group by the US, Israel and others, has spent years carefully building up its political influence in Lebanon, as well as its foothold abroad.
Employing a striking comparison, Liberman dismissed the party’s gains as a legitimate electoral victory, saying that Hitler’s Nazi party also came to power through democratic means.
“This was a real takeover,” he charged. “People say, ‘But it was a democratic election’ — Hitler was also elected democratically, he also gained power via elections.”
Speaking just hours after the IDF destroyed dozens of Iranian military sites in Syria overnight in response to a rocket barrage on Israel’s north, the defense minister hinted that Israel would adopt a similar stance regarding provocations from Hezbollah.
“Just like the issue of Iran in Syria — we don’t want to return to Lebanon, we don’t want to build settlements there, we just want to ensure that our border with Lebanon is secure and quiet,” Liberman said.
In his comments on the retaliatory strikes in Syria, Liberman said that Israel has no interest in escalating tensions but will not accept any provocation against it.
“If we get rain, you will get a flood,” he warned Iran. “We will not let Iran use Syria as a base to attack us from.”
The Israel Defense Forces also stressed earlier that it was not seeking an escalation of hostilities with Tehran, after some 20 rockets were fired at Israeli military bases by Iranian forces from southern Syria just after midnight, prompting extensive Israeli retaliatory raids.