Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) – If another war breaks out in Lebanon, Israel will be obliged to target not just Hezbollah but also Lebanese government infrastructure, a senior Israeli government minister warned on Wednesday.
And should that happen, said Education Minister Naftali Bennett said, the United States should not tell Israel – as he said it did in the last war 11 years ago – to strike at the Iranian-backed Shi’ite terrorist group but not touch Lebanon.
“If Lebanon has Hezbollah as part of government, it’s harboring thousands and thousands of missile launchers in its homes, then Lebanon is game,” he told a gathering of Christian press representatives in Jerusalem.
“Its infrastructure, international airport, government facilities, it’s all game,” Bennett continued, adding that if the Lebanese government does not want that to happen, then it should “dismantle this thing called Hezbollah.”
Bennett said Hezbollah has 130,000 missiles in place targeting Israel, and at the same time is part of the Lebanese government. (Hezbollah and its allies control a majority of seats in the national cabinet – a body which in the Lebanese system has more executive power than the president or prime minister.)
“Yet the international community says, ‘Lebanon is Lebanon and Hezbollah is Hezbollah.’ No, Lebanon is Hezbollah, and Hezbollah is Lebanon.”
Bennett said that during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, President George W. Bush had told then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to “go get” Hezbollah – but not to “touch Lebanon.”
In that war, he recounted, he commanded a unit tasked to find and destroy rocket launchers in southern Lebanon, where the terrorist group intentionally locates rocket launchers in homes.
“There is no way to take tweezers and pull missile launchers out of buildings. It doesn’t exist. You’ve got tens of thousands of missile launchers embedded within homes,” Bennett said. “If someone harbors a missile launcher in his home, that home is not a home – it’s a terror camp, it’s a terror facility.”
“Lebanon in essence has turned into a terror nation. And we cannot have – next time – that impossible mission: ‘You go hit Hezbollah, don’t touch Lebanon.’ No, no, no, no.”
He said Israel should not be asked “to do the impossible feat of tweezering out terrorists from supposedly a great, peace-loving nation.”
Bennett is head of the religious nationalist party Jewish Home, a member of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition.
Hezbollah, widely viewed as a proxy of Iran, has been a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization since 1997.
Earlier during the conference, Mordechai Kedar, a scholar of Arabic and Islam at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, described the Lebanese state and government as a “latex glove” and Hezbollah as “the hand that operates it.”
“The world is sleepwalking not to see it,” added Kedar, who served in Israeli military intelligence for 25 years.
U.S.-born Israeli journalist Caroline Glick charged that U.S. taxpayers were “underwriting” Hezbollah by providing weapons to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).
U.S. aid to the LAF and Internal Security Forces (ISF) has amounted to some $1.4 billion since 2005.
The annual State Department terrorism report released last July listed Lebanon as a “terrorist safe haven.”
“The Lebanese government did not take significant action to disarm Hezbollah or eliminate its safe havens on Lebanese territory, nor did it seek to limit Hezbollah’s travel to and from Syria to fight in support of the Assad regime or to and from Iraq,” it said.
The report said Hezbollah wields influence over “elements” in the country’s security services, allowing it to operate with relative impunity.
It also said, however, that the U.S. last year worked closely with the LAF and ISF to counter terrorist threats within Lebanon and along its border with Syria – apparent references not to Hezbollah but to the Sunni terrorist spillover from the civil war in Syria.
Lebanon’s refusal to disarm Hezbollah is a violation of two U.N. Security Council resolutions. Resolution 1559 of 2004 calls for “the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias,” and resolution 1701 of 2006 calls for “the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that … there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state.”