Israel Ambassador saw the truce with Hezbollah fragile
Amidst the complicated situation of the Middle East Crisis, Thanh Nien had an interview with Effie Ben-Matityau, Israel’s Ambassador to Vietnam on the latest developments there. Excerpts:
Reporter: What is the solution to the Middle East Crisis now after the international conference in Rome failed? Why didn’t Israel send delegates to the meeting, which supposedly would found some good solutions for the crisis?
The international conference in Rome didn’t fail for a simple reason: all agreed that there is a need to create a cease fire that is going to last and this is the main negotiation agenda. So Rome was an opening event with a framework that is beginning to shape up.
Israel wasn’t invited to this conference. However, our solution is simple and clear: disarm the Hezbollah Armed Terror organization, return the sovereignty to the Lebanese government and make sure that the peace along the border is maintained.
As we stated in the past, there is no similar situation in the world where an armed militia and terror organization holds control over a border under the protection of Lebanese sovereignty and they have the freedom to act at will against Israel.
Reporter: There are many possibilities that Israel is being bogged down in the guerillas warfare with Hezbollah guerillas. What do you think about this?
There is no question that Israel faces the danger of guerilla warfare. We are aware of it and we prepare ourselves for such situation. However, Hezbollah has also a very wide infrastructure as a regular army operating under the blessing of the Lebanese sovereignty, for that we hold Lebanon responsible, and this war is a message to the Lebanese state that they can’t enjoy both worlds: sovereignty without responsibility.
Lebanon can’t claim that they are free and independent state if Hezbollah is the “de facto” Army of the State – and they have no right to complain about Israel’s operation if the government of Lebanon doesn’t exert its control over the entire Lebanon.
Reporter: Many see the war might ignite the war fire in Middle East, with the possibility that military from Syria, Iran and Palestine might involve in the fight. How do you assess this risk?
The war has its dangers. Needless to say we have no interest to get Syria involved although Syria is one of the biggest supporters of Hezbollah, together with the fanatic regime in Teheran. Palestine is not a state and they don’t have an army although they do have a large accumulation of armed terror groups and arsenal of weapons.
The Israeli forces are engaged in a battle against these groups with an attempt to change the balance of relations from a confrontation under the pre-text of “armed struggle” to negotiations which was the principle that created the Palestinian authority which you call Palestine.
Reporter: Why didn’t the Israel attack Hezbollah base only? We can see that most of bombed the targets are residential areas. Israel even used cluster bombs there?
Hezbollah is a shadowy army that is dispensed over the entire Lebanon with strong links to Syria and Iran. Hezbollah is actually a “de facto” army of Lebanon. The Hezbollah units and arms (including rockets) are hidden and stored within a civilian population and villages. The battles of the last few days are clear evidence to what happened to these civilian-military villages. To disrupt the links of supply and reinforcement, we need to cut off roads and bridges and in Beirut we attack the heart of Hezbollah land and headquarters.
I have no idea of Israel’s use of cluster bombs but you should bear in mind that the rockets fired by Hezbollah are filled with special metal balls to increase the number of casualties by the impact.
Reporter: What is the purpose of Israel in this fight. Israel already reached a truce with Hezbollah guerillas in the past, which meant that the two sides can peacefully exist side by side.
There was no truce with Hezbollah. There was some “status quo”. How fragile was it. The best evident is the unprovoked attack against an Israeli unit which killed eventually 8 soldiers and 2 were kidnapped. This attack was followed by a massive bombardment of Israeli village as a diversion from the deadly ambush.
The presence of Hezbollah as the controller of the border is an abnormally in international relations. Actually it is a legitimate cause of war. The UN has called several times upon Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah and to take control over its border with Israel, Lebanon refused. Worse, the President of Lebanon regarded it as a resistance force; however, no one knows whom and what is the resistance about. Israel has no presence in Lebanon since 2000.
Hezbollah claims that they fight for the return of 2 farms on the border; in the first place, the UN rejected the claim maintaining that Israel is on its international border. Secondly, does anyone believe that Hezbollah stockpiled 12,000 rockets and long range missiles to reclaim 1 km2 of land?
Israel’s objective today is very simple: Disarm to organization exert Lebanese sovereignty over the border and keep a peaceful environment in this area.
Reporter: If Sharon was still in the helm, would the situation be different? Many say that Olmert is trying to show his toughness in place of his lack of military exposure.
We would have seen the different style but not different objectives and actions.
Reporter: What is the possible order in the Middle East in post-Sharon era? Is it destined to instability like this?
There is a formula for peace in the Middle East on all fronts; namely, a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, a free Lebanese state at peace with Israel joining 2 peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan.
Reporter: When will the cease fire possible?
We need to create to military conditions for a Lebanese army to take control over the South without the presence of Hezbollah military build up.