Security cabinet minister charges Lebanon with responsibility for Hezbollah tunnels

Opposition asks if operation is defending the north or defending Netanyahu.

Israeli vehicles are seen from the village of Kfar Kila, in south Lebanon December 4, 2018 (photo credit: AZIZ TAHER/REUTERS)
Israeli vehicles are seen from the village of Kfar Kila, in south Lebanon December 4, 2018
(photo credit: AZIZ TAHER/REUTERS)
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan set his sights on the Lebanese government as the IDF launched Operation Northern Shield to destroy Hezbollah attack tunnels into Israel on Sunday.
“It is clear to all that this is not only a major security event, but a major diplomatic one, because from today, the Lebanese government can no longer say [Hezbollah] is just an armed organization working in its territory,” Erdan said in an interview with the Knesset Channel. “Today, the use of Lebanese infrastructure is clearer than ever, and is being used by a terror organization controlled by Iran to endanger Israel.”
Erdan said “the Lebanese government needs to understand that whatever happens in the future can endanger them, and all the results are their responsibility.”
The Security Cabinet minister vowed to show the world examples of Lebanon violating international law and Israeli sovereignty in Hezbollah building cross-border tunnels.
Asked whether Operation Northern Shield can lead to an escalation in the north, Erdan said: “We are working in Israeli sovereign territory. The ones who need to answer for their violating international law are Hezbollah.”
Hezbollah has 15 seats in Lebanon's parliament and is thought to be an extremely powerful political force in Lebanon.
Intelligence Minister Israel Katz praised the newly launched operation, saying he welcomes "the IDF's action to destroy the Hezbollah tunnels, which were intended to remove a serious threat from the State of Israel and the residents of the north. Israel once again proves its high intelligence and operational capabilities against every plot and against every enemy. "
Katz singled out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as being responsible for the operation.
"Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be commended for the fact that, despite the difficult pressures, he led the right process of decision making in the security cabinet, while exercising broad and comprehensive discretion in favor of the security of the State of Israel," Katz said.
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi praised the launch of Operation "Northern Shield"  on his Facebook page.
"The 'surprise' that Nasrallah prepared for the residents of the north was thwarted by high-quality intelligence, groundbreaking technology, operational daring and uncompromising determination by the prime minister, the chief of staff and the cabinet," Hanegbi wrote.
Deputy Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren referred to the Security Cabinet’s decision three weeks ago to agree to a ceasefire with Hamas, saying “the world should appreciate Israel’s restraint towards Hamas and stand with Israel against the blatant aggression of Iran’s representatives in Lebanon.”
However, Zionist Union MK Omer Bar-Lev, chairman of the Knesset Subcommittee on IDF Preparedness for War, said that while the operation to destroy Hezbollah tunnels is very important, it is not a good enough reason to respond to Hamas’ barrage of rockets launched at Israel’s south last month.
“It’s clear that this was only an excuse for Netanyahu to fold before Hamas,” Bar-Lev said.
“The recommendation by security chiefs a few weeks ago when Hamas was shooting at the south, not to deteriorate that arena, came from their evaluation that at the end of the military campaign in the south, we will be in the same situation that we were in eight months ago, so there is no point…Their recommendation did not come from the current action in our territory in the north against Hezbollah tunnels, as Netanyahu is trying to hint to the Israeli public,” he argued.
Zionist Union faction chairman Yoel Hasson asked: “Is this Operation Northern Shield, or ‘Operation Netanyahu’s Shield?’”
Hasson questioned the timing of the operation, saying it “moves the focus from Case 4000,” in which the police recommended to indict Netanyahu on bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges. He demanded that the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee hold a meeting with the prime minister to discuss the operation.
Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah said the operation to neutralize the tunnels is justified, but the rhetoric surrounding it is “exaggerated and political.” Shelah referred specifically to Netanyahu saying in recent weeks that Israel is “in one of the most complicated security situations in the history of the state.”
“Netanyahu is sowing fear in order to distract. The IDF and the public are much more sober and calm than he is,” Shelah added.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.