Middle East

The Impotent Lebanese Government

Judging by the most recent announcement from Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry, Israel has no right to defend itself and must grin and bear it when attacked by an enemy.

Conveniently ignoring Palestinian rocket attacks at Israel from Lebanese soil, Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry announced it would file a complaint to the United Nations Security Council over Israel’s retaliatory strikes in Lebanon on April 7.

By the ministry’s skewed reckoning, Israel had flagrantly violated Lebanon’s sovereignty as well as United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701.

Israeli aircraft bombed targets in Lebanon after 34 rockets were fired toward the Israeli border from Lebanon on April 6. Five landed inside Israel, causing two injuries and property damage in the north. Four apparently landed in empty fields, and the remainder were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defence system.

In recent days, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, right, conferred with General Herzi Halevi, left, the chief of staff of the armed forces, David Barnea, the head of the Mossad, center, and Ronen Bar, the director of the Shin Bet

It was the largest number of rockets to slam into Israel since the second war in Lebanon in 2006.

No one claimed credit for the unprovoked attack, and Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia dedicated to Israel’s destruction, denied responsiblity for it. Hezbollah, however, said it would support “all measures” Palestinian groups took against Israel after two nights of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount in eastern Jerusalem.

Around the same time, security officials in Lebanon said the rockets had been launched from the Rashidiyeh Palestinian refugee camp, near the city of Tyre.

Israel blamed Hamas for the barrage, but noted the attack could not have been carried out without Hezbollah’s knowledge and consent. In recent years, Hamas and Hezbollah have formed something of an alliance to confront Israel. On the Palestinian side, the project is directed by Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy chairman of Hamas’ political bureau.

Saleh al-Arouri

In the wake of the Palestinian barrage, Israeli aircraft struck several infrastructure sites in Lebanon belonging to Hamas. By all accounts, Hamas, the governing body in the Gaza Strip, has a strong presence in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

Ismail Haniyeh, left, meets Hassan Nasrallah

The leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, was on a visit to Lebanon as these events unfolded. On April 9, he and a Hamas delegation met Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, to discuss cooperation. The meeting took place in Beirut.

Ismail Haniyeh, center, in Beirut on April 5

The rocket barrage aimed at Israel was a clearcut case of aggression, and Israel had no alternative but to respond in kind. Indeed, Israel was within its rights to hold the Lebanese government ultimately responsible for the aggression.

The prime minister of Lebanon, Najib Mikati, implicitly acknowledged Israel’s claim when he condemned the rocket barrage from Lebanon and rejected “the use of its territory to carry out operations” that destabilize the country.

A photo from the Lebanese army shows unfired rockets that were to be launched toward Israel from Marjayoun, a town in southeastern Lebanon

And in a tweet, the Lebanese army disclosed it had located several rockets in the town of Marjayoun that had yet to be launched against Israel. On April 8, Lebanese soldiers found still more rockets that were aimed at Israel.

Unlaunched rockets found by Lebanon’s army in southern Lebanon

Clearly, Lebanon was irked and, perhaps, embarrassed by the flagrant violation of its territory by the Palestinians. This message was reiterated by the American Task Force on Lebanon, which condemned “the firing of rockets into Israel from Lebanese territory.”

Regrettably, the Lebanese government is lamentably too weak to enforce its will on the population of Lebanon. But this is an old story, as we know.

After the Six Day War, Lebanese politicians were powerless to prevent the PLO from establishing a state-within-in-a state in what came to be known as Fatahland in southern Lebanon. The Palestinians in this enclave were free to launch a terrorist campaign against Israel, and this led to a cycle of Israeli reprisal raids on land and in the air.

Nor was the Lebanese government able to constrain Hezbollah, the Iranian-supported Lebanese Shi’a militia which emerged following Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

Following the 2006 war in Lebanon, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1701, which called for the removal of all armed groups, other than the Lebanese army, from southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah brazenly ignored the resolution, just as it has arrogantly thumbed its nose at the Taif agreement, which ended Lebanon’s 15-year civil war in 1990 and recommended the disarmament of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias.

Hezbollah has not laid down its arms, and if anything, it has greatly expanded its arsenal of rockets and drones thanks to Iran’s and Syria’s assistance. On April 7, Israel shot down a Hezbollah drone near the town of Zarit.

A Hezbollah drone shot down by Israel on April 7

Due to Lebanon’s confessional political system — which accommodates Muslim and Christian factions but tolerates extraterritorial rule and turns a blind eye to widespread corruption — the Lebanese government is simply unable to act decisively to protect the country’s vital interests.

Lebanon should not allow the Palestinians, much less Hezbollah, to wantonly attack Israel, yet it cannot impose its authority on either of them, leaving Israel’s northern neighbor at the mercy of extremists who imperil it and its future.

That being the case, Lebanon cynically blames Israel when Hezbollah or Palestinians act aggressively. This is exactly what happened on April 7 when the Lebanese Foreign Ministry filed a complaint against Israel with the United Nation’s Security Council.

As long as Lebanon remains impotent, tensions will flare on the Lebanese border.