Lilach Shoval, Yisrael Hayom’s military correspondent, reported in its Hebrew language news on Saturday that “despite the economic crisis in Lebanon, or perhaps because of it, the threat from Lebanon is more dangerous than ever.”
“The prevailing assumption among Israel’s security officials is that the Lebanese chaos can keep Hezbollah from taking violent action against Israel,” Shoval wrote. “But history has shown that such a crisis can bring rivals together in order to confront a common external enemy.”
She noted that the head of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, has engaged in a “blood for blood discourse” towards Israel, expanding this to include vowing revenge for Israeli attacks against Hezbollah terrorists operating inside Syria.
This threat is made even more volatile by the presence of Hamas in Lebanon. In the conflict in May in which Hamas fired over 4,600 rockets at Israel from Gaza, Hezbollah was almost dragged into the conflict when Hamas terrorists fired several rockets at Israel from Lebanon.
The threat from Hezbollah has real teeth. Though the terrorist organization is clearly no match for Israeli militarily, they have anywhere from 70,000-150,000 rockets aimed at Israeli cities.
Shoval also described Hezbollah as “preparing for a surprise attack on Israel” that would include infiltrations by terrorists with the intention of taking over Israeli towns on the border.
Hezbollah is a significant political power in Lebanese internal politics with fully one-third of the parliament representing the Hezbollah party. Their popularity took last summer after 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored by Hezbollah at the Port of Beirut exploded catastrophically, killing over 200 and wounding about 7,000. Hezbollah curried public favor when during the recent energy crisis, they acquired Iranian oil in contravention of the US embargo.
Dr. Kedar: “A time machine could solve the problem”
Dr. Mordechai Kedar has a deep understanding of the Arab mindset. A senior lecturer on Arabic culture at Bar-Ilan University, he served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence, where he specialized in Islamic groups, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic press and mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena. Fluent in Arabic, he is one of the very few Israelis appearing on Arab television, frequently debating Arab thought leaders and imams in their native tongue.
Dr. Kedar acknowledges that the threat to Israel’s north is dire indeed, but it is only one part of a larger picture that is grim.
“Hamas is a problem, just as Hezbollah is a problem, just as Iran is a problem,” Dr. Kedar said. “Iran and Hezbollah are interconnected so if Israel has a problem with Iran, I am sure that Lebanon, led by Hezbollah, will join in. If Hezbollah starts a problem with Israel, it will only be at the behest of Iran, at the moment when Iran wants to confront Israel. For Iran, Hezbollah is just another tool to be used against Israel so Hezbollah will not act independently. This will come if Israel attacks Iran, which may not be at the same time that Hezbollah wants to attack Israel.”
“It is not relevant to ask if Lebanon could be an ally of Israel if they can get rid of Hezbollah. It is far more likely that Hezbollah will get rid of Lebanon, or what remains of the pretense of Lebanese national independence. Hezbollah is more powerful than the army and the Shia are more than half the population.”
“To have Lebanon as an ally, Israel would need a time machine to go back to the time when the Christians were the dominant force. We would also need to arm the Christians to the teeth in order that they could stand up against Hezbollah.”
The conflict is drawn on religious lines. Hezbollah is dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state but internal conflicts pitting Lebanese Christians against the Shia Muslims backed by Iran are flaring up. When England and France pulled out of the region, Lebanon was supposed to be the Arab Christian country in the Middle East. The oldest Christian communities are in the Middle East and they are also the most endangered minorities in the world. In 1932, 54 percent of the country was Christian and 44 percent Muslim. A recent census shows that this balance has shifted, with 44 percent of Lebanese identifying as Christian and 54 percent Muslim (equally divided between Shiite and Sunni). Christians are being targeted by Islamists and are the most ethnically endangered group today.
Shai Ben Tekoa: A religious war
Shai Ben Tekoa is a scholar of history and the author of Phantom Nation: Inventing the “Palestinians” as the Obstacle to Peace. Ben Tekoa emphasized that the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel is a religious war with no solution in sight.
“When we are facing Hezbollah, it is really Iran,” Ben Tekoa explained. “Hezbollah literally means ‘the party of Allah’. There is no aspect of the conflict between Israel and the Muslim nations that is not religious.”
“Their entire existence is based on the hatred of Jews that is an essential and overriding aspect of Islam,’ Ben Tekoa said. “Our presence is a complete refutation of their religion. This is also true to a lesser degree for Christianity but many Christians have learned to accept the resurrection of the Jewish state but no branch of Islam has done so. There are no Muslim Zionists.”
“Lebanon is a fallacy, an artificial construct,” Ben Tekoa said. “In the Bible, the name refers to a mountain. The people who lived there were the Phoenicians. The modern incarnation was created artificially by the French in 1943 but has since then been wracked by civil wars fought on religious lines.”
“Who knows what God has in store but there is no basis for Lebanon taking part in the redemption,” Ben Tekoa said. “For the time being, their entire existence and the only tie that binds Muslim countries together is a religion-based hatred of Israel. Hezbollah doesn’t care about the dire situation in Lebanon. They aren’t lifting a finger to help the country. Their only reason for existing and the reason why Iran helps them is to destroy Israel.”
Lebanon and the Temple
Lebanon was an ally in building the Temple. The king of Lebanon had peaceful and productive relations with King David that continued into the reign of Solomon, seeing him play a major role in the construction of the First Temple around 100 BCE.
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
Embroidered linen dyed with Phoenician purple was used in the Holy of Holies. Huram, a Lebanese master craftsman, was commissioned for several major projects in the Temple. The pact between Hiram and Solomon was honored for twenty years.
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.
A peace agreement with Lebanon would, perhaps more than such an agreement with any other country, be the first step in building the Third Temple, signalling the beginning of a new era that might be more conducive to the construction of the Third Temple in Jerusalem.