If what was reported in Haaretz yesterday is true, then I would like to commend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I am not referring here to the brouhaha surrounding his investment portfolio, but rather his alleged warning to the Lebanese government that it had better watch its step, or else.
On the investment portfolio, a scandal erupted when it emerged that Netanyahu had requested to shift some of his holdings. Though he did this through all the appropriate legal channels — and was given approval from the State Comptroller’s Office — opposition politicians seized upon the “incident” and were outraged. Ostensibly, they object to the fact that a person who is preparing for war in the near future shouldn’t be rushing to protect his stocks and bonds as a result of his assumption that the market is going to fluctuate.
Immediately, comparisons to former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz began to fly faster than the Hamas rockets that have been landing on southern Israel in honor of the start of the school year. Halutz shamed himself badly when the first thing he did after two Israeli soldiers were captured by Hezbollah terrorists in August 2006 — the event that sparked the Second Lebanon War — was to phone his broker to sell his stock portfolio.
This is why Netanyahu withdrew his request to move his money around at this particular time. Too bad he didn’t anticipate the carryings on. He should have known it was going to ensue, especially now, with the whole country up in arms (no pun intended) over Iran.
But we have to give him credit where it’s due — and it’s due him big-time on an issue that he has not discussed publicly. Indeed, even his office has declined to comment on it this week.
Apparently, Netanyahu sent a message to the Lebanese government — via a “Western diplomat” — to the effect that Israel will not tolerate Hezbollah attacks against its citizens, even if it means full-scale retaliation that includes the bombing of much of the country’s infrastructure.
This is a huge deal.
During the Second Lebanon War, then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert kept insisting that Israel had no problem with Lebanon, and that its only enemy was Hezbollah.
"We have no quarrel with you," he assured the Lebanese people. "We look forward to a time when we will live together in quiet and cooperation … and hopefully in peace."
That distinction cost Israel many lives — and enabled Hezbollah to rebuild its network of terrorists and massive arsenals decimated by the war. It was a distinction that Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, backed by his patrons in Tehran, has always counted on in confrontations with Israel. Indeed, it is what all terrorists rely on in their battle against the West. They know that Western democracies fear inflicting “collateral damage” more than they fear defeat. It is thus that Islamists situate themselves among innocent civilians, constructing munitions factories under kindergartens and placing key operatives in apartment buildings populated by regular people.
It’s a no-brainer for global Islamists. The more “martyrs” on their side the merrier; and dead women and children — killed by “infidels” — are perfectly photogenic for their propaganda purposes.
But here’s the thing about the “innocent” Lebanese: They voted Hezbollah into lots and lots of parliament slots after that war in 2006. Olmert might want to rethink his past position of having “no quarrel” with those people.
This is not to say, of course, that Netanyahu intends on going to war with Lebanon. He most definitely has no desire to kill innocent Lebanese civilians. But he has to take Nasrallah’s threats as seriously as he does those of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — both of whom have boasted about their ability to slaughter tens of thousands of “Zionists” without much ballistic effort.
There is also a very real danger of chemical and other weapons being transferred to Hezbollah from President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria — another tentacle of the Iranian regime. Netanyahu cannot allow that to happen. He knows that to prevent it, the IDF has to be unfettered in its strikes against likely targets for such a scenario.
His conveying this to the Lebanese government means that he is removing the burden of protecting innocent Lebanese from Israel’s shoulders and placing it squarely where it belongs. Good for Netanyahu.
Ruthie Blum is the author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the 'Arab Spring,'” now available on Amazon and in bookstores in Europe and North America.