‘Retaliation monstrous and disproportionate’

Lebanon’s social affairs minister is appalled by what she sees as the “monstrous and disproportionate retaliation” of the Israeli military against her country.

Moawad also blasted Hezbollah for pushing Lebanon into war
Moawad also blasted Hezbollah for pushing Lebanon into war

But Nayla Moawad, the Christian Lebanese widow of Rene Moawad, a former president who was assassinated just days after taking office in 1989, also lambasted Hezbollah’s decision to capture Israeli soldiers, saying it pushed Lebanon into a war its people never wanted.

Aljazeera.net: Hezbollah claims its actions aim to defend the interests of the Lebanese people. Do you support such a view?

Nayla Moawad: I think that we have to define our interests together and only the Lebanese government – where Hezbollah is a partner – and representatives in parliament, who have been elected by all the Lebanese people – only the government can decide for peace or war.

Hezbollah initiated the attack without the knowledge of the Lebanese government. How can that be?

That’s why we clearly stated that we did not approve of the operation and we did not know about the operation and we did not adopt or support this operation.

We have reiterated numerous times very clearly that the Lebanese government is the only Lebanese entity that should decide whether there should be peace or war.

Only the Lebanese army and the Lebanese security forces have the right to be armed. And only the Lebanese people represented by their government can decide when and how to use these arms.

But many blame the war on the Lebanese government for not having disarmed Hezbollah in the first place as required by UN resolution 1559. Do you agree?

We never pretended that we could disarm Hezbollah.

We were elected by a big majority of the Lebanese people who participated with the March 14 [reformist] group.

We also obtained the support of the international community after the assassination of the late prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

On the contrary, sovereignty and independence could be achieved with the participation of Hezbollah in the government, in the decision-making, and that little by little they would understand that only strong state institutions would represent an important sectarian community in Lebanon.

Israel has called for the Lebanese government to come down and take control of the southern border, the border with Israel. Do you believe your government is strong enough to do it?

I think the government cannot go to the status quo ante [bellum] and now we are asking for a ceasefire and we certainly have to take strong measures because all the problems are now on the table and we have to take responsible decisions supported by the Lebanese people.

What of a ceasefire? Do you think an international peace force will help?

It’s one of the suggestions that are being studied by Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora who is in charge of leading all negotiations and who will choose which suggestions given by the UN Security Council we could discuss and decide all together to adopt.

Relief agencies have warned of an impending humanitarian crisis. What is the government planning to do?

It’s not only a humanitarian crisis. It’s a humanitarian disaster. And the government has put in charge the committee for relief to organise all relief effort under the monitoring of the ministry of social affairs and with the help of NGOs and the civil society.

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora criticised the world for not stopping the Israeli offensive. Do you agree?

I agree, especially when you are living this dramatic war and this very disproportionate Israeli retaliation. Regarding the Hezbollah operation – the capture of two Israeli soldiers – that started before the Israeli attacks, I affirm again that we did not want it and did not know about it.

Certainly, we are looking first to get a ceasefire and simultaneously asking the international community to help us with humanitarian aid because Lebanon is under siege and blockaded by land, sea and air.

And we are also asking for humanitarian aid within Lebanon because many of the villages on the southeast of the Lebanese territories are totally cut from other areas and are cut from each other and we are having small dreadful cases that are being lived by the people.

Do you think Hezbollah is gaining support due to Israel’s response?

What I can tell you is whatever our political opinion is regarding the Hezbollah operation that has started this war and whatever differences of opinion we might have with Hezbollah, we did not agree with some of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s statements during his interview earlier with Aljazeera.

He said first of all that they are fighting not only to defend Lebanon but they are fighting for the whole Arab region.

He also said the war will continue whether the Lebanese people like it or not.

We strongly disapprove of this and do not support such statements. We are single-handedly facing a humanitarian disaster that has befallen us because of the war and most of all because of the monstrous Israeli retaliation.

Source: Al Jazeera

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