Israel is ready for an all-out ground operation in Lebanon in the event of a military conflict with Beirut, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said.
“We must prepare for maneuvering on the ground too, even if we do not use it,” Liberman said at a conference of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) held at Tel Aviv University on Wednesday.
Not mincing his words, Liberman said that, in a worst-case scenario, Israel would conduct the operation at “full strength.” “We must not take one step forward and one step backward. We will move forward as fast as possible,” Liberman added, speaking about the Israeli strategy in a possible conflict with Hezbollah in the northern border.
“Maneuvering is not a goal in itself,” but is a means of ending the war in the most efficient way, Liberman said.
“No one is looking for adventures, but if we have no choice the goal is to end [the fighting] as quickly and as unequivocally as possible,” the minister told the conference, adding that Israel’s past experience has shown that “all the conflicts in the Middle East” do not “come to an end” without “soldiers on the ground.”
Israel will act tough on Lebanon, the minister warned. He particularly said that the situation of the Second Lebanon War, “in which the residents of Beirut were at the beach and in Tel Aviv [they were] in bomb shelters,” will not repeat itself if a new conflict breaks out. “If in Israel they sit in shelters, then in the next fighting all of Beirut will be in shelters,” Liberman added.
The minister’s comments come amid Israel’s concerns over the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group, which is arming itself with locally-produced precision-guided missiles.
On Sunday, the IDF spokesperson published an op-ed in Lebanese opposition websites, threatening that if Lebanon allows Iran to build missile factories on its territory, “we will attack them accurately.”
“The Hezbollah terror organization is violating the UN Security Council resolutions, maintaining a military presence in the region, possessing weapons systems and increasing its military capabilities,” Gabi Eisenkot, the head of the Israeli Defense Forces General Staff, said on Tuesday.
Lieberman also said that he sees no difference between Hezbollah and the rest of Lebanon, as the armed group has enough influence to control both political and military forces. “They are part of Hezbollah and they will all pay the full price” for any large-scale attack on Israel.