IDF ups alert level on northern border

Farkash: Israeli meddling may prompt hit on Saniora; Mubarak fears coup.

farkash 298 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
farkash 298 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
IDF forces along Israel's northern border were instructed Sunday to raise their current level of alert out of concern that Hizbullah will try to organize demonstrations against Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora along the border, Israel Radio reported. Defense Minister Amir Peretz has ordered IDF intelligence to track events in Lebanon closely.
  • JPost reports from Lebanon: 'Hizbullah protest is attempted coup' Meanwhile, at Sunday morning's cabinet meeting, a number of ministers echoed the warning of former OC intelligence directorate Maj.-Gen. (res.) Aharon Ze'evi Farkash against Israeli interference in the escalating crisis in Lebanon. Education Minister Yuli Tamir said that "moderate forces" in the Arab world should be fostered, but that Israel should not involve itself in the tension surrounding Saniora's government. Gil Pensioners Party head Rafi Eitan opined that it was the responsibility of the United States to shore up Saniora, and that any move by Israel could have a debilitating effect on the shaky status quo. "Israel can't do much in Lebanon," Eitan said. In an interview to Army Radio earlier Sunday morning, Farkash had declared that "The resignation of the Lebanese government will increase the chance of another war next summer." Farkash argued that it wasn't worthwhile for Israel to get involved in Lebanon's political crisis, which worsened over the weekend as hundreds of thousands of opposition protesters gathered in Beirut on Hizbullah's orders to demonstrate against Saniora's anti-Syrian government. "Europe's job is to prevent extremist elements who are trying to turn Lebanon into an Iranian stronghold from gaining control," he said. He suggested that any Israeli interference could lead Syria and Iran to take decisive action, "even up to the point of assassinating Saniora." He particularly emphasized France's role in maintaining stability in Lebanon due to its heavy involvement in the area, saying France must "make it clear to Syria" that events in Lebanon were connected "economically and diplomatically" to Syria's own situation. Farkash also noted that Iran's presence had already brought about a situation in which Hizbullah was spread out, and that UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and other obligations had "brought a certain impediment into the events in Lebanon" which would prevent the current establishment from quarreling. Farkash said, however, that he believed that all the forces in the region understood that a unity government such as Hizbullah was proposing would seek at best "to silence Saniora's government, or even ultimately [set up] a hostile establishment." Over the weekend, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak expressed concern that a military coup might take place in Lebanon. "An understanding is necessary in order to deal with the internal struggles in Lebanon," Mubarak said, speaking at the end of a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Sharm e-Sheikh on Saturday night. "If the protest continues, faction supporters from outside the country will join in, and matters will get out of control." MK Muhammad Barakei (Hadash) told Army Radio in a separate interview Sunday morning that only elections could restore political stability to Beirut. Barakei claimed there was no need for Israel to interfere with Lebanon's internal fighting, saying that "as long as there are prisoner swap talks and attempts by the UN to establish a position on the Shaba farms issue in keeping with Resolution 1701, I think there is nothing to worry about." He also speculated that the war between Israel and Lebanon would not start up again in the near future. "The situation can only change if Israel decides it wants to make a new order," he said.