Israel Will 'Smash' Lebanon
NewsMax contributing editor and Middle East expert Kenneth R. Timmerman is in Israel covering the conflict there. He reports from Tel Aviv.
TEL AVIV, Israel -- If Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah makes good on the threat he issued yesterday to launch missiles at Tel Aviv, Israel will respond with massive force against Lebanon, a top Israeli general told NewsMax today.
"At some point, the Lebanese have to decide," Maj. Gen. [res.] Yaacov Amidror said in an exclusive NewsMax interview. "Are they a sovereign state, or under the umbrella of Hezbollah?"
As a sovereign state, Lebanon "has responsibilities" not to allow its territory be used to attack Israel's former capital and biggest city, he said.
Amidror is a former deputy director of Israeli Military Intelligence, and now is a director of the Jerusalem Center for Public Policy.
In a videotaped statement on Hezbollah's al-Manar television network on Thursday, Nasrallah warned that if Israel launched further air strikes on Beirut, Hezbollah would launch missiles on Tel Aviv.
Hezbollah attempted to launch an Iranian-made Zelzal missile on the first day of the war, but Israeli jets managed to bomb the depot where it was being prepared, causing the missile to misfire and strike Beirut. Israeli military sources believe the Zelzal is the only weapon in the Hezbollah arsenal capable of reaching Tel Aviv. Its range is believed to be somewhere between 175 to 250 kilometers.
"If you bomb our capital Beirut, we will bomb the capital of your usurping entity . . . We will bomb Tel Aviv," Nasrallah said.
Israel moved the capital to Jerusalem after the 1967 war.
Israel Pounds Beirut
Just hours after Nasrallah delivered his threat, Israel launched a series of air strikes on suspected Hezbollah facilities in Beirut, and continued pounding them during the night.
Amidror said that Israel would not attack Hezbollah's sponsor, Iran, even though Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers were training Hezbollah in Lebanon and were operationally in charge of Hezbollah's long-range Zelzal missiles.
But there was "no question that Israel will launch massive attacks on Lebanon if Tel Aviv is attacked. No question whatsoever. The attacks will be so massive they will set Lebanon back 20 years," he said. A Hezbollah strike on Tel Aviv "will mean the end of the infrastructure of Lebanon," he added.
While Amidror was not speaking in an official capacity for the Israel army or the government, Israeli military sources said his views were shared by many top commanders.
"Lebanon will suffer in the case of attacks on Tel Aviv," senior officers said in personal comments.
Until now, however, the IDF command has not responded to Nasrallah's threat. A military spokesman told NewsMax that IDF actions "are not dictated by a emotional response," but were "carefully calculated to achieve our objectives of fighting Hezbollah."
Mark Regev, a spokesman for Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, told NewsMax that Israel has issued no official response to Nasrallah's latest threat. "We're not going to respond to every threat that Nasrallah makes," he said.
"We have done much to neutralize Hezbollah's long-range missile capability, but there's always the chance they have something we don't know about," he added.
Iran's president wasted no time weighing in on the tense situation.
Speaking at an emergency meeting of Muslim leaders in Malaysia on Thursday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that the "solution" to the Middle East crisis was to destroy Israel, Iranian state media reported.
"Although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage an immediate cease-fire must be implemented," he furthered.
Hezbollah Shows Signs of Breaking
Israeli officials believe these calls for a cease-fire, which were repeated by Nasrallah in his speech yesterday, are a clear sign that Israel's military campaign on Hezbollah infrastructure in Lebanon is beginning to seriously degrade Hezbollah's fighting abilities.
"Our operations in the air and on the ground are costing a high price to Hezbollah," the Israel Defense Force chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, said Wednesday. "We are hitting their infrastructure, rockets and villages, and command and control stations and posts."
Amidror believes Hezbollah was surprised by Israel's response to its cross-border attack on July 12, when it kidnapped two Israeli soldiers. "They had killed our soldiers before and nothing happened. They weren't expecting this."
Iran's strategy was to use Hezbollah as a deterrent to an Israeli attack on Iran or on Lebanon, "and for six years, it worked," he said. "We were attacked repeatedly, and we didn't respond. We were always thinking about the missiles."
The main result of the current war was to "change all the criteria of deterrence in the Middle East," he said.
Israel's Steadfast DeterminationUntil the massive Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israel towns and cities, Israeli leaders were worried about the ability of the Israeli population to withstand such a pounding. "We are showing that we can absorb hundreds of rocket strikes, if it's necessary," Amidror said.
"At the end of the day, they know we will win the war, even with hundreds of rockets hitting our civilians." Until now, however, "Hezbollah just assumed Israel would not be able to absorb these attacks."
Israel's fortitude has "changed the mood in the Middle East," and showed the limitations of Iran's strategy.
Iran's goal, Amidror believes, is "to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state in the Middle East, and then move to create a radical Shiite empire from Iran to Lebanon."
Since Iran created Hezbollah in the early 1980s, they have continued to provide it with funding and weapons, and train Hezbollah fighters at military bases in Iran and Lebanon.
Hezbollah is "fully-owned by Iran," he said. "Everything you can touch except for a few weapons that have come from Syria, all has come from Iran."
Hezbollah an Extension of Iran
Hezbollah's spiritual leader, Sheikh Mohammad Hossein Fadlallah, is no ordinary Lebanese cleric, Amidror pointed out.
"Fadlallah is in fact the personal envoy of Iranian supreme leader Khamenei in Lebanon. He can go to Khamenei directly on any matter, bypassing the government and clerical hierarchy in Iran."
In addition, two Iranians sit on the Hezbollah ruling council, known as the Majles-e shoura: the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards forces in Lebanon, and Iran's ambassador to Beirut.
"So if you look at the hardware – the weapons - and the software – the ideology - you see that this is not a Lebanese organization, but an extension of Iran," he said. "Hezbollah is the long arm of Iran."
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