Israel denies co-existence in the Middle East as Netanyahu wants wars to continue

Lebanon and Hezbollah: One common goal, different approaches

Pravda.Ru special correspondent Daria Aslamova, when visiting Lebanon, met  with the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, member of parliament, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lebanon Jebran Bassil. During the interview, Mr. Basil spoke about responsibility for saving the Palestinians, whether a big war might break out in the region, and what role Russia plays in the Middle East.

Good morning, my name is Daria Islamova from Pravda.Ru. Will you please introduce yourself to our viewers?

I am Jebran Basil, I am head of the Free Patriotic Movement in Lebanon. I am an MP in the parliament, and also an ex-minister for foreign affairs. This position enable me to forge good relations with Russia.

Your party is a Christian party right? The ideology of your party is Christian nationalism. What does it mean?

Our party is a national party. We have Christians as a majority, but we also have Muslims — Sunnis Shiites, Druze, Alawites. We have all confessions from many countries represented, but it is Christians that make the majority in our party. We are an independent party, calling for freedom and independence for our country on the one hand, and on the other hand calling for a state of rule, to have a strong state in the region that is overwhelmed with conflicts, as you know.

As for conflicts, we are now in the middle of the conflict between Hamas and Israel, there is also a conflict brewing on the border. Do you think there is a possibility for a bigger war to unfold between Israel and Lebanon?

The war has been going on for 75 years now. Lebanon has been dealing with wars and problems and aggressions from the Israeli side for years. Don't forget that our country was occupied by the Israelis, and so was our capital. We were able to liberate the country only in 2000. Then we had the UN resolution 425 calling for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon, and it was not implemented until the resistance in Lebanon could unfortunately by force, to kick the Israelis out. Then we had a big war that Israel launched in 2006, and now we have permanent confrontation on our southern borders. The war is ongoing on our borders with Israel, however, there is a fear that it would be getting larger. Indeed, this fear is real. We can hear the Israelis threatening us every day. They say that they will be lunching a large-scale war on Lebanon allegedly in the endeavour to protect their northern borders and northern part of the country. They do not think that Lebanon needs to protect its borders and citizens too. Israel believes that it can force you to do things that you're on a different foot with Israel. They used to have this kind of policy — two measures in the region — and nobody ever stopped them — neither the UN resolution, nor the international community. And now look what's happening. Russia was convicted because of the war in Ukraine, but Israel has not been convicted yet of what they did to the Palestinians, even though we officially have now 26,000 dead people. Most of them are civilians — 70 percent women and children. This is unbelievable. We have 9,000 kids who became amputees. There are 30,000 orphaned kids who lost their families. Israel is used to be exempt from the enforcement of UN resolutions and the laws of justice and equal measures. This is what they have used forces all along their history against their neighbours, against the Palestinians too. They want to do it to implement their policy of being implanted in this region. They use forces instead of using the logic of the equation of rights and justice.

Today, the Palestinians and the Lebanese are refusing this policy. Instead, they want to use their force to counter the force of Israel. If Israel wants to attack us, Lebanon will retaliate. This will trigger a large-scale war, and this war is not going to be to the benefit of Lebanon, Israel or Palestine. This is the nature of the conflict.

The main force that can protect your country is Hezbollah. What relationship does your Christian Party have with Hezbollah? Do you share similar positions on these problems?

We are a different party. We agree with them with some of their policies but we disagree on something else. Like Hezbollah, we are against Israel for the purpose to protect Lebanon. However, we do not share the policy of linking everything that is happening in the region together. We advocate the defence of Lebanon, but we do not advocate the defence of all other countries in the region. This policy of uniting the front is not necessarily part of our interests. Partly, it can be, but partly, it can not be like this. We have different positions at this point. At the end of the line, we want a just solution. We want what the Palestinians want. We do not think that it is a responsibility of us as Lebanese to liberate Palestine. It is a responsibility of the Palestinians and we endorse them. We do not believe that the Lebanese have to die in liberating Jerusalem. We support the Lebanese dying for their own country, for Lebanon. This is where we have our differences with Hezbollah. The same is for the internal side — we agree with them on some issues and disagree on others, but here this disagreement is bigger.

Is this why Hezbollah did not open the second front after Hamas attacked Israel, although everyone was waiting for Hezbollah to do so. Is that because of these differences with Hezbollah that you have inside Lebanon?

We do not want to have a war in Lebanon for the sake of Gaza. We want to have the strong state of Lebanon in favour of the Palestinians. We want the Palestinians to win. We don't want a war in Lebanon for a simple reason: we have a disastrous situation in terms of politics and economy on the one hand, and on the other hand, we do not want to give a reason for Israel to attack us. Israel has attacked us before, and this is where we have the right to defend our country, but we don't want to the be ones attacking Israel.

Don't you think that this is exactly that Israel wants? Lebanon is now trying to remain more or less neutral in this situation. And now Israel can take advantage of it to break other parties to the conflict one by one. First they beat Hamas, and Hezbollah's turn will come next.

No, Lebanon is not neutral here. We do not advocate the position of neutrality here. We are with Palestine against Israel. We are not in a neutral position at all. We also stand with resistance and with Hezbollah against Israel. We do not believe that Israel can attack us easily, because the resistance is strong enough. If Israel attacks, we will definitely be against Israel. So once again, this is not a neutral position at all.

Ok. As we can se the crisis in Gaza has triggered a chain reaction all over the Middle East, and even all over the world. Where is it going to take us? Will there be a big regional war or even Third Word War? We can see, Iran, Iran, Syria involved — more and more countries join in.

I think this can take us anywhere. If the logic of flow and justice is not implemented, if there is only force in the picture, then yes, the conflict may escalate, the whole region will be in flames, and who knows, it may get even larger. The risk is there. and the fear of war is real. I do not think that the West should not reconsider its policies in relation to our region. Their blind support for Israel is unjustified, and it is causing harm to the West itself. We are not calling for the killings of the Jews. Not at all! We are calling for right and just solutions. In a region like ours, people need to learn to live with each other, to accept each other. We accept this idea, but Israel is the one refusing. Israel is building a one-nation state with Jews only while refusing all other nations. They refuse to have a two-state solution. The ball is on the side of Israel and other countries that support its policies of force. This policy of force can not work anymore. As Israel is harming the Palestinians and its neighbours, it will be harmed by the same way. We should change this policy and approach.

You say that your party has a good relationship with Russia. What connection with Russia do you have?

Our country has a good relationship with Russia. Our party, the Free Patriotic Movement, has a memorandum of understanding with United Russia. We visit each other, we communicate and hold meetings. We believe that Russia is the main force in the world, in the East and in our region. A good relationship with Russia is very important because Russia has a good understanding of the region. Russia also supports the diversity of the region, the presence of Christians and all minorities in the region with all their peculiarities, freedoms, their right to live freely, to practice their habits and culture. This is very important.

Lebanon is a place where diversity and living together is the main value. This is the main reason for this country to exist.

Russia understands this very well, and helps us in preserving it. We can not have unilateralism in the world with only one power ruling everywhere. Russia is against it too, it is an element of equilibrium that can help in restoring equilibrium in the region, because this region can not under the dominance of one country. This region is a place where you have different races, languages, religions, etc. We can not be under the rule of one superpower, like Israel, for example, or any other state. We need this balance regionally and internationally. Russia is a very helpful partner in this regard for us.

The conflict that has been developing in the world now — in Ukraine, Syria, Israel and other countries — we can see the rise of the multipolar world. How do you see this new world order?

Unfortunately, there is a lot of injustice in the world today. We hope to see more equilibrium and more justice. One or two countries should not play the dominating role. We understand that they are superpowers, but this power have to be distributed. I think this unipolar world is not going to last long. Therefore, we can see now new forces emerging, like the BRICS, for example. This is a group of countries that can help in creating this balance. We are not calling for a group like the BRICS to dominate the world. We see the importance of the United States, its allies and its force. But there is also Europe, China, Russia — this is where we need to find this kind of balance that can bring more justice in approach to different matters and remove the fear of wars. Wars of today are much more terrible than before. With monstrous weapons that each country have — what will happen to the world if World War Three breaks out? We are definitely against violence that war can cause. We believe that it is superpowers that believe that they have the right to rule everything — it is them that can demolish and destroy everything. This balance that we seek will create peace, stability and competition towards development, rather than competition for wars and arms races.

There is an opinion that Israel's current war against Hamas in Gaza is just the beginning of a much bigger war against Iran because Iran is Israel's prime enemy and target. What is your view on that?

I think that Netanyahu's only salvation is to have bigger wars going on, because he can retain his power only because of this war. Yet, I do not see whether the Israelis themselves — the people inside Israel — and the countries supporting Israel are interested in following this path of death and violence. If they follow Netanyahu they will end us having large-scale wars. Netanyahu wants the war to continue, he wants to reach out to Iran. What is the interest of the United States? Do they want to have enemies everywhere in the region? What for?

But the Americans have been fighting Iran for so many years. They imposed so many sanctions on Iran, they conducted so many attacks.

At the same time, however, we had presidents like Obama, who believe that one needs to have a peaceful approach to things. Iran is seeking its position, its role and power in the region. Being a big state, they can be given that — the international community can admit that Iran is eligible to play such a positive role. It is a more positive approach that can engage Iran to play a more positive role in the region. Instead of building nuclear arms, they can build nuclear facilities for energy — they can compete in the region in terms of trade and economy, science and technology. All this can be possible to achieve instead of this one policy of isolation and sanctioning. I do not think this is bringing stability and prosperity.

Maybe the Americans do not want to see this region as a stable and prosperous part of the world — this is the whole point. It is much more profitable for them to have chaos here.

But we want this. Chaos is creating extremism, and this extremism then spreads to Russia, China, to Europe, to the US. If anyone wants to create chaos, this will boomerang to them, to their own country.

One more question that is important for Russians. We are worried about the fate of the Christians here, especially now when the crisis in the southern border of Lebanon is gathering pace. Christian people living there find themselves in the war zone.

We are a national party with Christians making a majority. The people who now live there on the border are not only Christians. We worry about all people whether they are Christians or Muslims. However, Christians are a minority in their number. They are always seeking to have a freedom to exercise their role completely in complete partnership in the region. We fear for them is demographic — the demographic problem is threatening their existence, especially when there is violence against them. This is where the importance of a country like Russia comes forward. Russia understands this reality. It can be helpful in maintaining not only the presence, but also the role that different people play here. Security has to be provided to all people, and Christians and others will benefit from it. They will thus be able to stay in the country and take part in the life of the state of Lebanon, to engage in its progress and prosperity.

Thank you very much.

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Author`s name Daria Aslamova
Editor Dmitry Sudakov