Lebanon is Sitting on a Hezbollah Powder Keg

The Lebanese missile crisis, with missiles continually increasing in number and quality, has developed gradually and has been repeatedly ignored by Israel’s leaders.


By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on May 17, 2011).

The riots in Syria have focused attention in Israel on our neighbors to the north – Syria and Lebanon – and especially on Hezbollah, which has deployed around 50,000 rockets in Lebanon that can reach every corner of Israel and threaten its entire civilian population. If these rockets are launched they could cause incalculable damage.

This constant threat hanging over Israel’s civilian population decisively affects Israel’s strategic position; it’s a tiebreaker. For many years, a fundamental element of Israel’s defense doctrine was that the civilian population’s safety would be assured in time of war. With the deployment of these rockets in Lebanon, this has ceased to be the case.

U.S. President John F. Kennedy faced a similar situation in September 1962, when American U-2 reconnaissance planes discovered that Soviet ballistic missiles had been deployed in Cuba. It was clear to Kennedy that the strategic balance between the United States and Soviet Union would be substantially altered if Soviet missiles were pointed at the United States from Cuba. In what has come to be known as the Cuban missile crisis, U.S. threats to act forcefully resolved the crisis, and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev ordered the missiles shipped back to the Soviet Union.

The Lebanese missile crisis, with missiles continually increasing in number and quality, has developed gradually and has been repeatedly ignored by Israel’s leaders. But now this intolerable situation must be faced. It’s a threat that will have to be removed. The threat to Israel’s civilian population has grown, and the missiles are an escalation of the terror war against Israel. There is a great danger to Israel.

This situation should also be of concern to the Lebanese people. Israeli military action to destroy Hezbollah’s missiles – something that seems bound to happen sooner or later – would bring considerable destruction to Lebanon. In other words, as long as these rockets are in Hezbollah’s hands, all Lebanon is sitting on a powder keg. Hezbollah, while posing as Lebanon’s defender, is actually creating a grave danger for that country and its people.

Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister who was recently deposed by Hezbollah’s political maneuvers, said last week in Beirut that “Hezbollah’s weapons have become a national problem that needs a national solution.”

Obviously, he was voicing the concern that Hezbollah is using its weapons to bolster its political position in Lebanon and to murder its political opponents. In this way it is subverting the Lebanese political system.

But he should realize that the danger of these weapons goes far beyond that. Since the rockets are a danger to Israel’s civilian population and must be removed, they create a physical danger for Lebanon and the Lebanese people. It is important that the people of Lebanon understand this and bring about the removal of the rockets deployed by Hezbollah all over Lebanon.

To this end, Lebanon needs international political support. One might expect the UN Security Council to pass the necessary resolution to achieve this. But Lebanon, controlled by Hezbollah, is now a member of the Security Council. Hopefully, U.S. President Barack Obama is giving thought to this explosive situation.

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