Don't forget Lebanon

Olmert's claim that Hizbullah no longer threatens the border is quickly being undercut.

nasrallah tv 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
nasrallah tv 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Just before he left for America, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert congratulated his own administration for an achievement from the summer's Lebanese conflict. Hizbullah, he maintained, no longer threatens the border and its positions have been commandeered by the Lebanese army and UNIFIL. This claim to success is quickly being undercut. Only yesterday, Hassan Nasrallah predicted the downfall of the government in Beirut. He stands poised to either manipulate a new figurehead regime on behalf of his own masters in Damascus and Teheran, or to usurp power outright and openly turn his country into an Iranian-Syrian satellite. Former Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. (res.) Aharon Ze'evi-Farkash predicts a new war with Hizbullah by next summer, with Syrian involvement "regarded as highly likely." He warns that Lebanese premier Fuad Saniora's life is "in grave danger." All Israeli intelligence agencies, moreover, agree that four months after the recent war, Hizbullah is back at the border, albeit in civilian garb and not quite with an in-your-face deployment. Not only did Hizbullah recoup its losses but, according to some reports, it's now extensively reinforced in comparison to its war-eve status. Hizbullah, it is said, is significantly stronger than on July 12 and possesses many thousands more rockets - a total of 20,000-30,000 according to some estimates. The enforcement of Security Council Resolution 1701 obviously has not been a sterling success. UNIFIL has instead chosen to concentrate on IDF reconnaissance flights whose raison d'etre is to check on the extent of the gunrunning to Hizbullah. Israel might find itself in a weaker position than last July. Its deterrent has eroded sufficiently to potentially encourage Syria to enter the fray, Hizbullah has boosted its firepower and foreign forces on the frontier are seeking to impede Israel's freedom of action. In addition, the Lebanese army forces on the border could come under active Hizbullah control. There can be little doubt now that Nasrallah is out to topple Saniora, both to prevent the trial of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri's assassins and to exploit the hiatus in Washington until the new House and Senate find their footings. Five Shi'ite ministers have already resigned from Saniora's coalition, as has a pro-Syrian Christian. President Emile Lahoud, solidly pro-Syrian, has branded the Saniora government "illegitimate," signaling the imminent unleashing of an offensive by Hizbullah and other pro-Syrian and Iranian puppets in Lebanon. Their aim is to replace the government most independent of Syria in decades with a pawn that will confer strategic control on the Iranian-Syrian-Hizbullah axis. This is not speculation. Hizbullah spokesmen make not pretense to the contrary. Nasrallah's deputy Na'im Kassem labeled the six ministers' resignation "the first step of moves to come, about which we will decide with our allies and which we will announce in due time... Our mobilization of the 'street' will not be a one-day protest this time around, but will give voice to a position with far-reaching political implications." Little more need be added to this declaration of intent, whose ramifications could very adversely affect Israel. The question is what to do about it. Pretending that all is well on the northern border and that Hizbullah is being kept at bay is patently not the answer. It is equally clear that the UN has failed to live up to its commitments to either disarm Hizbullah or to at least prevent its rearmament. It's high time Israel began shouting foul, loudly and unambiguously, with no cop-outs or cover-ups for the sake of prestige. Things have a habit of going horribly awry in Lebanon. In contrast to the period prior to this summer's war, the alarm must be sounded and notice served on all concerned that, if the international community hides its head in the sand, Israel will have no choice but to act. If the international community has its way, Resolution 1701, like previous resolutions, will be enforced as minimally as possible, and the scene will inevitably be set for more conflict. Olmert was right when he said that if Israel had not acted this summer, the world would have done nothing. Israel's campaign, such as it was, proved the catalyst for international involvement. The situation is not very different four months after. In fact, it may be considerably more urgent.