Netanyahu on flareup with Hezbollah: It was tense, but we achieved all our goals
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Netanyahu on flareup with Hezbollah: It was tense, but we achieved all our goals

PM praises Bahrain and UAE for backing Israel’s right to defend itself, announces plans for second US-Israel-Russia summit to discuss removing Iran from Syria

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

A man fixes a Hezbollah flag at the 'Garden of Iran' Park in the Lebanese village of Maroun al-Ras on September 1, 2019, as fires blaze on the Lebanese side along the border following an exchange of fire with Israel. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)
A man fixes a Hezbollah flag at the 'Garden of Iran' Park in the Lebanese village of Maroun al-Ras on September 1, 2019, as fires blaze on the Lebanese side along the border following an exchange of fire with Israel. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

The last few days were tense but Israel achieved all its goals, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday, following a flareup at the northern border that started with a Sunday rocket attack by the Hezbollah terrorist organization.

Netanyahu also announced plans to hold another tripartite meeting with senior officials from Israel, the US and Russia, to be held in Jerusalem, to discuss Iran’s military presence in Syria.

“We endured several tense days on many fronts. We could have started the week completely differently, but we acted with a combination of decisiveness and sagacity, and we achieved all of our goals,” he told his ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

On Sunday afternoon, Hezbollah fired an anti-tank missile at Israeli military vehicles. No one was hurt, and Israel responded by attacking Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon. The tit-for-tat had the potential to escalate as both sides vowed not tolerate fire by the other side, but a tense calm returned to the north Monday.

PM Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, September 3, 2019. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash 90)

Netanyahu praised two senior Gulf officials for appearing to condemn Hezbollah and back Israel’s right to respond to Sunday’s attack.

“I welcome the statements of the foreign ministers of Bahrain and the United [Arab] Emirates against Hezbollah’s aggression,” he said, noting that they condemned the group for attacking Israel from Lebanese territory.

“They condemned the helplessness of Lebanon, which allows the Hezbollah terrorist organization to operate from its territory against Israel. This sounds like messianic times, but it shows the fundamental change taking place in the Middle East. The Arab world also understands that the Iranian aggression endangers not only Israel, but the entire region as well. I call on additional countries to come out against the aggression of Iran and its proxies.”

Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, who has previously expressed support for Israel’s right to self defense and has met publicly with Israeli officials, had criticized the Lebanese government for allowing the Hezbollah attack to take place.

“A state standing by, watching battles taking place on its borders and putting its people at risk, is a state that greatly neglects its responsibilities,” he wrote on Twitter.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash also tweeted: “Our hearts are with Lebanon and the Lebanese people this evening,” noting that they always suffer from “decisions taken by a single player and the consequences,” in an oblique criticism of Hezbollah.

Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev speaks at a trilateral summit with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center-right, US National Security Adviser John Bolton, center-left, and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat at the Orient Hotel in Jerusalem on June 25, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton\Flash90)

Addressing his ministers Tuesday, Netanyahu said that preparations for a second trilateral meeting between Israel, the US and Russia were currently ongoing, “to continue discussing removing Iran from Syria.”

On June 25, US National Security Adviser John Bolton and his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, joined top Israeli security brass in Jerusalem for an unprecedented summit.

Russia, which maintains close ties to both Israel and Iran, is seen as a potential interlocutor between the West and Tehran. But Patrushev at the time indicated that Moscow was siding with the Islamic Republic, rejecting the view that the regime represents “the main threat to regional security” and asserting that Israeli airstrikes in Syria against Iranian forces and its proxies were “undesirable.”

A spokesperson for the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv on Tuesday did not confirm that another tripartite summit was imminent.

“After the trilateral meeting in Jerusalem the format was acknowledged as a very useful one,” the spokesperson told The Times of Israel. Certain agreements were reached, and follow-up meetings in the same format “are possible after fulfilling the previous agreements,” he said, refusing to elaborate.

Netanyahu on Tuesday also said he ordered the security establishment to focus on three main priorities: thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions; preventing the Islamic Republic from providing its proxies, including Hezbollah, with sophisticated weapons; and stopping Tehran and its proxies from establishing military bases on near Israel’s borders.

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