Netanyahu to UN envoys: ‘Iran controls government of Lebanon’

Israel took visiting U.N. ambassadors to see neutralized Hezbollah attack tunnels in order to underline dangers of the organization’s influence in Lebanon. 

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that “a great shift has taken place in the Middle East. That shift is the rise of the aggressive theocracy of Iran that seeks to conquer the Middle East, eliminate Israel, and dominate many other parts of the world.”

Netanyahu was speaking in Jerusalem to a delegation of visiting U.N. ambassadors prior to a flight in which they were being taken on a tour of Israel’s northern border. His comments came in the aftermath of the formation of a new government in Beirut.

On Thursday, Hezbollah came away strengthened as Lebanese political factions ended a nine-month deadlock and agreed on a new government.

Hezbollah’s gains include control of the health ministry, which has one of the country’s largest budgets and receives significant assistance from the international community. U.S. officials on Friday warned Hezbollah against using the post to finance its own operations.

“We call on the new government to ensure the resources and services of these ministries do not provide support to Hezbollah,” said a State Department spokesman, Robert Palladino.

“This is yet another example of Hezbollah openly holding Lebanon’s security and prosperity hostage,” said Rachel Mikeska, a spokeswoman for the American Embassy in Lebanon. She added that the United States was “prepared to take whatever actions are necessary to protect the interests of the Lebanese people.” She did not elaborate.

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Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri downplayed the importance of the U.S. warnings. Meanwhile, though, the Finance Ministry remains in the hands of a Hezbollah ally, Ali Hassan Khalil.

Said Netanyahu: “Iran has proxies. One of them is Hezbollah. Hezbollah just joined the government of Lebanon. That’s a misnomer; they actually control the government of Lebanon. It means that Iran controls the government of Lebanon.”

Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon is hosting the delegation of dozens of his colleagues from around the world for a five-day visit. On their northern border tour, they were being taken to Hezbollah attack tunnels recently neutralized by Israel.

“It’s important to send this very powerful message [that] just as we stop the terror tunnels coming into Israel, we will stop all the aggression: from Lebanon or from Syria or from Iran itself,” said Netanyahu to the ambassadors. “We are committed to preventing this aggression, and in so doing we’re not only protecting Israel itself, but also protecting our neighbors and world peace,” the prime minister added.