A direct line can be drawn between Israel’s battle against Hezbollah 10 years ago and events today in the Middle East, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday, calling the Second Lebanon War a “promo” to the battle between extremists and moderates the region is now witnessing.
“The first sparks of the collision between Islamic fundamentalism and the free world, and with the whole moderate world, we saw during the Second Lebanon War,” Netanyahu said in the Knesset, at a special session marking the 10-year anniversary of that war.
“Looking back, the war in Lebanon was a watershed in the relations between extremists and moderates in the Middle East,” he said, repeating a theme raised earlier in the day at a memorial ceremony for the fallen of the war held at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery. “It was the promo in the struggle against the rise of Islamic extremists.”
Hezbollah was, and remains, an Iranian emissary in the region, as is Hamas, he said. “But radical Shi’a [Islam] is not alone,” he noted, adding that the Sunni fundamentalists – led by Islamic State – is competing with them and not only drowning the region in blood, but also spreading fires to countries and continents far away.
“Israel is the forward bastion of the democratic world, a wedge between culture and barbarism,” he said.
Netanyahu said Israel’s experience in dealing with the challenges of terrorism are copied “sooner or later” around the world. He ticked off the terrorist challenges the country has faced over the last two decades – suicide bombings, organized terrorism, terrorism by individuals incited into a frenzy, stabbings, car bombings, indiscriminate shootings – and noted that they are now being dealt with by the entire world.
To those still living in denial, he said, “the time has come to open your eyes. Terrorism threatens us all, and it is impossible to condemn it there [abroad], and praise it here. Only if we join hands in the struggle can we defeat it.”
The premier praised the soldiers and civilians for their courage and resilience during the Second Lebanon War, saying that while Hezbollah deemed the country before the war to be without a backbone and tired, the war proved the exact opposite.
He also noted that since the war, the border with Lebanon has been quiet. But this quiet rests on one thing: effective and continuous deterrence.
Not one-time deterrence, he stressed, “but continuous. I say to Israel’s enemies, we will respond to all acts of aggression with great power. No one is immune.”
Netanyahu noted the failures and shortcomings – both strategically and operationally – during the war, and said that while many lessons have already been learned and are being implemented on the battlefield, the process of drawing conclusions still continues.
At the Mount Herzl ceremony, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said that “from the dawn of the Jewish people, enemies have sought to cut short our lives.”
Israel was founded on the principles of freedom and democracy, and extended a hand of peace to its neighbors, but has been forced to deal with attacks from bitter enemies “seeking to bring darkness and death, on a nation that espouses the sanctifying of life,” Liberman said.
The 2006 war become a link “in this chain of blood that accompanies the reality of our lives,” he said. The war raged on the Lebanese border, southern Lebanon, and within the Israeli home front, he recalled.
“Ten years have passed since then, and the Second Lebanon War is still etched within us. It is an open wound in the daily reality of Israeli society, the defense establishment – and beyond everyone else – for you, the bereaved families, who carry with you the sorrow and silence, and the heavy price of our freedom.
“Being a bereaved parent is a full time role. There are no vacations. It is 24/7,” Liberman said. “There are extra hours, at nights and during the days. You do not always fall asleep, when you sleep you try to dream, to see your son, but he does not arrive, even in a dream.”
Liberman praised the courage of those who fell in battle.
A sober look at the northern border shows that the “relative quiet that characterizes the area is far from reflecting the mood among our enemies,” he added.
In such a reality, Israel must reexamine its guiding principles every morning, and increase the power and training of the IDF, Liberman said.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) noted in the Knesset that 121 soldiers and 49 civilians were killed during the war.
“In return we have had a decade of quiet on the Lebanese border, and Hezbollah is deterred,” said Herzog who was tourism minister at the time, and an observer in security cabinet deliberations. “Still, the price of the loss was heavy and hard.”
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