"We hope Lebanon will regain its former status as the Middle East's Switzerland. Switzerland – not Iran, President Shimon Peres said
Thursday during a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the northern Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona.
"Things in Lebanon have changed. We have not changed. We weren't, nor will we be Lebanon's enemy," Peres said.
"We wish the Lebanese people success in their rehabilitation and hope that we will forge an alliance of peace and good neighborliness."
The president spoke of the current state of affairs in the north and said, "The Lebanon border is still close and riddled with threats. The Second Lebanon War,
despite all its failures, created a new reality. Israeli deterrence has been reclaimed. Hezbollah on
the other hand, has caused a disaster to Lebanon and its people. It became clear that in serving Iran, Hezbollah has been destroying Lebanon.
"Nowhere in the world exists such a bizarre organization such as Hezbollah. Who needs it? Its whole ideology amounts to war and destruction. Hezbollah has built a state within a state. An army within an army. A bloodthirsty group in a peace-seeking country. It is not Israel that poses a threat to Lebanon; Hezbollah is a curse on the northern land," Peres told those on hand.
The president added that he views Israeli interests as aspiring to a truly independent Lebanon without a foreign army in its midst, and stressed that Israel has no ambitions with regards to Lebanon. "We do not seek a grain of its land, or a drop of its waters, nor do we wish to interfere with its policies," he said.
"Our goal is to live peacefully alongside a peace-seeking Lebanon. The rocket depots Hezbollah is building on Lebanese land pose a greater threat to the country itself than to Israel. Hezbollah's submissiveness to the Iranian regime is without logic, since the Iranian government is undergoing a crisis of its own," Peres stated.
Addressing Kiryat Shmona's future, the president said that the city, which has seen numerous rocket attacks over the years, is bidding farewell to the hard times and is concentrating on its rehabilitation and development.
Peres continued to say that he foresees great things in Kiryat Shmona's future and is overjoyed in watching the city's culture and sports enterprises, developing industries and new youthful generations pushing it forward.