hizbullah flag 298.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Sunday denied that former Arab-Israeli lawmaker Azmi Bishara - wanted by Israeli authorities for espionage - had ever spied for the guerilla group, and said that the US was responsible for Israel's decision to engage Hizbullah in last summer's war.
The Shin Bet said earlier this month that while Israel and Hizbullah battled each other last summer, Bishara, who has resigned from the Knesset, advised the Shi'ite Muslim group. They alleged he passed on sensitive information and suggested ways of causing more harm to Israel.
"I categorically and absolutely deny this," Nasrallah told the Iranian state television's Arabic-language station, Al-Alam. "All the accusations about contacts and giving information to Hizbullah are not true."
Bishara left Israel a month ago after being grilled twice by investigators and later resigned his parliament seat. Police said he would be arrested immediately if he were to return to Israel.
Nasrallah said Bishara was being pursued for his ideas by a government in Israel that wants "to settle scores," and quipped that Hizbullah did not need the military information: "He's not of use to be an informant," Nasrallah said.
"His personality is not that of an informant. ... He is a well-known man, a thinker with a cause who says his conviction and ideas with known courage," the Hizbullah chief said. "They are holding him accountable for his political ideas."
Israel was "fed up with him [Bishara], so they fabricated those accusations against him," Nasrallah said.
The American government, Nasrallah went on to say, had triggered Israel's decision to engage Hizbullah.
The group's leader praised the Winograd Committee for choosing to publish harsh criticism of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decision-making during the war.
Nasrallah explained that if the full report were to be made available to the public, the world would realize that America had pushed Israel into the conflict as part of a larger attempt to push US interests in the Middle East.
The Winograd report's publication caused as much noise on the Arab street as on the Israeli one.
For many Palestinians and Arabs, the results of the report were an indication of Israel's "bankruptcy on all levels, especially the security and political level."
Political commentators throughout the Arab world said the report was also a sign of Israel's military weakness and hailed Hizbullah for defeating the "invincible" IDF.
Nasrallah disclosed Sunday in an interview on Al-Manar television that there had been progress regarding the release of kidnapped reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, but was vague in his comments. "It is on the way to being solved. It's just a matter of time," he said.
Nasrallah's deputy, Sheikh Naim Kassem, said in April that the UN-mediated negotiations to secure a prisoner swap are going on in a "serious" manner, but so far there have been no results.
During his visit to Lebanon last month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed disappointment that there had been no progress toward the release of the two soldiers.
Nasrallah said during the interviews that confidential chapters of the Winograd report pointed to the US's responsibility for beginning last summer's war.