Lieberman: Hezbollah, Lebanese army ‘inextricably linked’
Addressing IDF soldiers during a celebratory event marking Sukkot, defense minister declares distinguishing between Hezbollah and Beirut's army no longer an option, says Lebanon and Syria now considered as one, forecasts next confrontation will have to be fought on two fronts; 'My basic tenet is if you want peace, prepare for war. It could happen any moment.'
Addressing IDF soldiers during a celebratory event marking the festival of Sukkot at his sukkah in the Kirya IDF headquarters based in Tel Aviv, Lieberman told his listeners that preparation for the next round of hostilities was of paramount importance, highlighting that the lines between countries and regions were rapidly disappearing.
“We have to prepare for every scenario. The new reality poses new challenges for us. If we once spoke about the Lebanese area, now there is no longer such an area. There’s only the northern area,” Lieberman said.
“In any development that takes place, it will be one area—Syria and Lebanon together, Hezbollah, the Assad regime and all collaborators of the Assad regime. Regarding the Lebanese region, we’re no longer talking solely about Hezbollah,” he continued as he delineated, not for the first time, his description of the ‘New Middle East.”
“We’re talking about Hezbollah and about the Lebanese military, and unfortunately this is the reality,” he stated gloomily. “The Lebanese army has become an integral part of Hezbollah’s campaign under its command. The Lebanese army has lost its independence, and has become inextricably linked to Hezbollah.”
The next outbreak of violence, he warned, would require the mobilization of the IDF on multiple fronts, unlike the last few wars it has fought.
“Also if the next campaign develops—and it doesn’t matter where it develops—in the north or the south, it will immediately become a campaign on two fronts. There is no longer a campaign in one area, and this is our fundamental premise. We are preparing the army for this,” the soldiers were told.
In an apparent U-turn, Lieberman's remarks come at a time when the defense establishment has been seeking the retention of the Lebanese military’s independence.
Moreover, Israel has endeavored to develop the Lebanese army and nudge the government in Beirut into reasserting its sovereignty over the country's southern region and its authority over Hezbollah which has for years been given free rein to act as a state within a state.
Alluding to the Latin proverb “Si vis pacem, para bellum” Lieberman set out his guiding principle which he said he believed served the best chances to avert war.
“My basic tenet is ‘if you want peace, prepare for war.’ Whoever wants peace must prepare for war, and I hope that our enemies on the other side will think carefully about each and every step they take against the State of Israel, so we won’t need to illustrate the strength and abilities of the IDF,” Lieberman warned.
The old prism through which Israel conducted its military business and made its evaluations were now a thing of the past, the defense minister insisted.
“All our efforts are to prevent the next war but in the ‘new’ Middle East, the same assumptions we previously drew about low probability are simply irrelevant presumptions. The reality is fragile. It could happen at any moment, from one day to the next,” he claimed.
“Everything is based on the fact that we must ready ourselves for a serious maneuver, and there is no maneuver without serious firepower,” Lieberman concluded. “The armor and artillery are supposed to supply that firepower. Exactly like the air defense is supposed to thwart a significant portion of the damage to Israel.”