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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

April 15, 2003

Jerusalem Urges Bush: Next Target Hezbollah

Some suggestions from Forward
Israel is urging the Bush administration to target Hezbollah following the war in Iraq, arguing that the militant Shiite organization threatens the stability of the Middle East and the security of the United States worldwide.

Based in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah has stepped up its anti-American rhetoric since the start of the war in Iraq three weeks ago. Israeli intelligence sources warn that Hezbollah may be involved in recruiting volunteers to fight allied forces in Iraq, although the group has not directly targeted Israel or the United States since hostilities began.

According to Israeli government sources in Washington, such warnings have been conveyed to American officials during "working level" talks between the two countries on postwar priorities.

Critics of Hezbollah argue that the group's global network of sleeper cells and its ability to destabilize the region with missile attacks against Israel make it impossible for the Bush administration to ignore. Israeli sources said that one plausible scenario would be an American green light for Israeli strikes against Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon, following American diplomatic measures to ensure that such Israeli actions would not spark a Syrian reaction.

"Clearly, we would have to work together closely on this one," said an Israeli diplomat in Washington.

Several experts warned that any military or diplomatic action by the United States against Hezbollah could trigger a string of devastating, retaliatory terrorist strikes.

"They have dormant cells around the world, which they can easily decide to use," said Gal Luft, an expert on Hezbollah who co-directs the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, a small Washington-based advocacy group dedicated to ending America's dependence on Arab oil.

Israel's position is that after stabilizing the situation in Iraq, the United States should act against Hezbollah, regardless of the organization's behavior during the war, sources said.

Israeli sources told the Forward that even if Hezbollah does not actively fight with Iraq in the war, action must be taken because the organization has both the motivation and the ability to launch future attacks. Israeli officials have warned that Hezbollah boasts a military capability exceeding that of some Arab states, and a global network of dormant cells with the ability to hit American targets around the world.[more]