Lebanese President Michel Aoun will not demand that Hezbollah disarm itself, as was requested of other Lebanese militias, Aoun told the French newspaper Le Figaro.
Aoun claimed that Hezbollah does not get involved in internal Lebanese politics, but rather directs its efforts against Israel.
“Hezbollah are not using their weapons in internal politics. They only ensure our resistance against the State of Israel, which continues to occupy part of our territory and which refuses to implement UN resolutions regarding the Palestinians’ right of return”
Aoun, a Maronite Christian, founded the Lebanese Free Patriotic Movement in 2005 and has been a political ally of Hezbollah since 2006. Following his 2016 election, he vowed to “liberate the rest of our land from the Israeli occupation.”
In Aoun’s view, Hezbollah’s presence in southern Lebanon is necessary to balance Israel’s heavy military presence in the region.
“You cannot disarm Hezbollah at the same time that Israel fails to respect UN Security Council resolutions. Israel should have the right to wage war whenever it wants at the same time that others are deprived of the right to have weapons to defend themselves? No, it’s not possible,” he said.
Interestingly, Lebanon has continually failed to respect its own UN body, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), by allowing Hezbollah to brazenly violate its terms and build up weapons stores.
Commenting on Hezbollah’s role in instigating the 2006 war with Israel, Aoun defended Hizbollah’s cross-border attack and abduction of three IDF soldiers and attributed the escalation to Israel’s “overreaction”.
“It’s a classic border incident which escalated due to an Israeli overreaction,” Aoun said. “You’ll say that Hezbollah violated territory that day – it’s possible. But these types of incidents happen very frequently. A few days ago, Israeli fighter jets broke the sound barrier above [Lebanese territory], violating our airspace and shattering glass everywhere.”
Responding to Aoun’s declaration of support for Hezbollah, Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennet told the Israel Broadcast Corporation (Kan) that in the event of a clash, Israel would not differentiate between Hezbollah and Lebanese actions.
“If Hezbollah opens fire on the Israeli Home Front, we will regard this as a declaration of war by the state of Lebanon. We’re no longer going to play this ‘needle in a haystack’ game,” Bennett said.
In July, when President Donald Trump met with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, the American leader said that Hezbollah was a “menace” to Lebanon and the region.