The United States renewed on Wednesday its support to the Lebanese army after a series of threats by Israeli officials to wage a “destructive” war against Lebanon given Iran and “Hezbollah’s” role in the country.
“We will sustain our efforts to support legitimate state security institutions in Lebanon, such as the Lebanese Armed Forces, which is the only legitimate force in Lebanon,” David Satterfield, acting assistant US secretary of state, told the conference organized by Tel Aviv University’s INSS think-tank.
Satterfield, a former US ambassador to Lebanon, added that the Lebanese army “could well serve as a counterweight to Hezbollah’s desire to expand its own influence there, as well as Iran’s reach in Lebanon”.
But taking the stage three hours later, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman reiterated his view that the Lebanese army was under the command of the better-equipped “Hezbollah”.
“As far as I’m concerned, all of Lebanon - the Lebanese army, Lebanon and the Lebanese army - are no different from ‘Hezbollah’,” he said. “They are part of ‘Hezbollah’ and they will all pay the full price” for any large-scale attack on Israel.
Israeli intelligence officials told Reuters last year that they believed the Lebanese army maintained autonomy even if some of its personnel cooperated with “Hezbollah”.
On Tuesday, Israeli Minister Naftali Bennett stated: “Israel is not concerned about another war in the North, but it will act if the situation demands it.”
“Let it be known that for Israel, ‘Hezbollah’ means the whole of Lebanon. The people of Lebanon should understand that this time, the war will not be limited to Dahieh, but it will go much farther beyond that. They should therefore review their calculations,” he added.
Beirut’s southern suburbs of Dahieh is a “Hezbollah” stronghold and it was one of Israel’s main targets in the last war it waged against Lebanon in July 2006.