After decades of government corruption and mismanagement, Lebanon’s economy has been in a death spiral since 2019. Plagued by hyperinflation, more than 50 percent of Lebanese today are living in poverty. The World Bank has ranked Lebanon’s financial crisis as likely to rank in the top 10, possibly even the top three, most severe crises in the world since the mid-1800s.
Gantz offers “to extend a helping hand to Lebanon so that it will once again flourish “
Defense Minister Benny Gantz was so touched by the distress being suffered by Israel’s neighbor to the north that he offered Israel’s services in helping them with their dire economic woes:
“As an Israeli, as a Jew and as a human being, my heart aches seeing the images of people going hungry on the streets of Lebanon,” Gantz tweeted. “Israel has offered assistance to Lebanon in the past and even today we are ready to act, and to encourage other countries to extend a helping hand to Lebanon so that it will once again flourish and emerge from its state of crisis.”
As an Israeli, as a Jew and as a human being, my heart aches seeing the images of people going hungry on the streets of Lebanon.
— בני גנץ – Benny Gantz (@gantzbe) July 4, 2021
As Minister of Defense, Gantz is well-versed in both positive incentives as well as stern repercussions. In May, Gantz responded to a threatening speech by Nasrallah with clear threats aimed at Lebanon.
“We are ready as ever to protect Israeli citizens. If an attack comes from the north, Lebanon will tremble… the houses in which weapons and terrorist operatives are being hidden will become rubble. Our list of targets for Lebanon is bigger and more significant than the one for Gaza, and the bill is ready to be settled if necessary,” Gantz said in a speech marking the 39th anniversary of the 1982 First Lebanon War.
Lebanon: a natural and historic ally
Israel has offered to help Lebanon in the past, most notably after the massive explosion at Beirut’s port in August 2020. Lebanese President Michel Aoun and his daughter, Claudine Aoun, a celebrity in her own right, publicly expressed openness to such a relationship with Israel.
Mutually beneficial trade between Lebanon and Israel could only benefit the country. The major obstacle is, of course, Hezbollah’s influence in the government bolstered by its hundreds of thousands of rockets ready to fire at Israel. The benefits of trade would include allowing Lebanon to start exploiting its offshore gas and oil reserves.
Hezbollah, a major entity in Lebanon’s politics, suggested a different source of aid. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has stated in recent weeks that the gasoline crisis in Lebanon could be addressed within a few days if the country would just accept Iranian oil shipments, which are under sanctions by international law.
Peace with Lebanon as part of the Temple
A peace agreement with Lebanon would, perhaps more than such an agreement with any other country, signal the beginning of a new era that might be more conducive to the construction of the Third Temple in Jerusalem. When David’s son, Solomon, began to build the first Jewish Temple In Jerusalem, he immediately turned to the government of Lebanon to play an essential role in its construction.
Shlomo sent this message to King Huram of Tyre, “In view of what you did for my father David in sending him cedars to build a palace for his residence— see, I intend to build a House for the name of Hashem my God; I will dedicate it to Him for making incense offering of sweet spices in His honor, for the regular rows of bread, and for the morning and evening burnt offerings on Shabbatot, new moons, and festivals, as is Yisrael‘s eternal duty. II Chronicles 2:2-3
The cedars, the national symbol of Lebanon to this day, were also used as a major element in the construction of the Second Temple.
They paid the hewers and craftsmen with money, and the Sidonians and Tyrians with food, drink, and oil to bring cedarwood from Lebanon by sea to Yaffo, in accord with the authorization granted them by King Cyrus of Persia. Ezra 3:7
Lebanon: former glory versus current crisis
Once considered a world center for trade, nicknamed the Paris on the Mediterranean, Lebanon is currently suffering its worse economic crisis in 30 years, even worse than it experienced during its 15-year civil war that ended in 1990. The Lebanese lira has plummeted to record lows, losing 90% of its value in two years.
This devaluation has made it difficult for the government to provide fuel, electricity, medical supplies, and basic services. As it is, Lebanon has been without a working government since Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s Cabinet resigned after the explosion at Beirut’s port.
The banks have lent up to 70% of their assets and many are facing insolvency and bankruptcy. The fourth most indebted country in the world, Lebanon defaulted on its international debt last March for the first time in its history.
But this economic crisis is hitting the average person the hardest. Lebanon imports about 80 % of the goods it consumes so the abysmal exchange rate means that basic goods cost five times what they did two years ago. Inflation last year stood at 84% and is expected to reach 77% this year. Food inflation reached over 400%. With 40% unemployment, many Lebanese find themselves today unable to afford basic necessities.
With offshore oil and natural gas deposits, Lebanon should be wealthy. Its vibrant pharmaceutical industry is suffering. There are 12 gold-processing plants in Lebanon and some of the goldsmith shops have been operating for 120 years and while the average citizen is struggling to buy bread, the merchants in Beirut are buying up gold, silver, and precious gems smuggled in from neighboring war-torn Syria.