Israel knew about ‘80,000 missiles’ in the possession of Hezbollah,’ President Shimon Peres said in comments published Saturday.
In an interview with the Kuwaiti al-Rai newspaper, Peres cast doubt on ‘Hezbollah’s goals and the justifications for its presence.’
‘Hezbollah is working for its own interests and will always find a pretext to continue its policy against Israel, even if the (Israeli army) withdrew from Shebaa Farms and the Lebanese Ghajar village,’ he claimed.
‘Lebanon used to have an ambition to become the Switzerland of the Orient, and why not? But instead it has become the Iran of the region,’ he said.
He said that Hezbollah’s missiles ‘might lead to a disaster for the Lebanese because the last war brought unnecessary calamities to Lebanon.’ Peres was referring to ‘33-day war with Lebanon in summer 2006, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,200 Lebanese civilians, a third of them children.
He said Hezbollah has ‘ruined’ Lebanon, has established a state within a state and built its own army which is as powerful as the Lebanese Armed Forces.
Asked if Israel would respond to a Hezbollah attack against Israeli targets abroad to avenge the assassination last year of Hezbollah military commander martyr Imad Moghniyeh (Hajj Redwan), Peres answered: ‘I do not know what this revenge is about. Moghniyeh himself was a top assassin and he who kills becomes a target as well.’
‘He was the head of (Hezbollah’s) special operations, and no one knows who killed him. There is no evidence that a certain side carried out the assassination. And obviously if Israel is attacked it will defend itself,’ Peres said.
The Israeli president added, ‘The state of Israel is not interested in a war with Lebanon and all problems between the two states can be resolved through negotiations.’
‘If Hezbollah did not exist, we would not have needed any spy networks,’ Peres said, in response to the presence of Israeli spy networks inside Lebanese territory.
Peres said the best way to bring about peace with Syria is through direct negotiations. He said he is certain Syria wants the benefits of peace but he is not sure it is willing to pay the associated price.
Despite Israel’s harsh protests, Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet published a second article accusing the Israeli occupation army of harvesting Palestinian organs.
In the article, published Sunday, Oisín Cantwell and Urban Andersson report from the northern West Bank village of Imatin, where 19-year-old Bilal Ahmad Ghanem was killed during a clash with Israeli occupation soldiers in 1992.
Ghanem’s family says that his body was returned several days later, wrapped in hospital bandages.
Aftonbladet published what is said was a photo of the body, which had a scar running from the neck down to the abdomen.
The second article, titled ‘Mother never stopped suffering; she never stopped wondering,’ quoted Bilal’s brother as saying that the killed teen was ‘hunted by Israel for protecting his people.’
The brother, who was 15-years-old at the time, recounted the shooting incident.
‘A number of (Israeli occupation) soldiers ambushed (the Palestinians) and opened fire. The first shot hit (Bilal) in the chest, the second in the leg. We believe that he was still alive after sustaining the two bullet wounds.’
The mother, Sadija, told Aftonbladet ‘they could have arrested him, but instead they decided to kill him.
According to the family, the Israeli occupation army demanded NIS 5,000 (about $1,300) to return the body.
‘It was the middle of the night. The soldiers caused an electrical power outage in the entire village. Bilal was returned in a black bag; he had no teeth. The body was stitched from the neck all the way down to the abdomen,’ the Swedish newspaper quoted the mother as saying.
According to the article, when asked what happened to the body, the occupation soldiers said it had undergone an autopsy in Tel Aviv. The family, however, says Bilal’s organs had been stolen.
Israeli ministers are fuming about the Swedish Story.
Contacts between Tel Aviv and Stockholm were continuing behind the scenes to prevent irreparable damage to Israeli-Swedish ties.
A rupture in relations now would be particularly disruptive – both for Stockholm and for Tel Aviv – since Sweden holds the rotating presidency of the EU.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in his first public pronouncement on the article, made clear that Israel was not looking for an apology from the Swedish government.
‘The Swedish government crossed a red line when it did not condemn the article,’ he said. ‘The request is not for an apology, but for a condemnation.’
On Thursday Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman slammed the Swedish Foreign Ministry for saying that Swedish Ambassador to Israel Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier’s condemnation of the report does not represent the Swedish government’s stance.
‘It’s a shame that the Swedish Foreign Ministry fails to intervene in a case of blood libels against Jews. This is reminiscent of Sweden’s stand during World War II, when had failed to intervene as well,’ Lieberman said.
He denounced the Swedes for hypocrisy. Lieberman said that while the Swedish government said it could not impinge on press freedom and condemn the article, it did exactly that during the 2005 upheaval over caricatures of the prophet Muhammad in the Danish press.
At that time, he said, Sweden shut down an Internet site in the country that posted the caricatures, and the Swedish foreign minister wrote a letter of apology to the president of Yemen.
Meanwhile, ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting expressed outrage at the Swedish government’s stance, with Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz saying those who refused to condemn such libel ‘may not be welcome in the State of Israel.’
Joining in the chorus, Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that he would act to prevent Aftonbladet reporters from receiving work permits in Israel, and Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog said that Israel should take legal steps against the paper to combat the organ-snatching allegations.
Meanwhile, Aftonbladet on Sunday published a follow-up article, defending the report written by freelance journalist Donald Bostrom.
Sunday’s article maintained that the organ-harvesting matter ‘should be investigated, either to stop the relentless Palestinian rumors, or, if the rumors prove to be true, stop the trade in body parts.’
Aftonbladet’s article on Sunday also called Swedish Ambassador in Israel Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier’s condemnation of the article a ‘disgrace.’
Åsa Linder Borg, author of Sunday’s article, headlined ‘Dare to Examine Israel’, opines that no one is ‘sympathetic to the idea that Israel should be able to steer American public discourse,’ and that ‘not many deeply sympathise with Binyamin ‘policies.’
Meanwhile, grassroots-level anger at the Swedes began to surface in Israel, with one online petition calling for a boycott of IKEA, a global home furnishing giant that was founded in Sweden and has a branch outside Netanya.
Representatives of the Jewish community in Sweden expressed concern Sunday about a diplomatic situation that they feel has gotten out of control.
The editor of the Swedish tabloid said Monday, ‘I’m not a Nazi. I’m not anti-Semitic.’
In an Aftonbladet editorial, Jan Helin responded to claims by Israel that his paper had spread a blood libel about the Jewish people.
‘I’m a responsible editor who gave the green light to an article because it raises a few questions,’ Helin wrote.
Meanwhile, Israeli electronic site Ynet considered the Israeli reactions over these reports as childish behavior saying that Israel is now engaged in a very childish ‘battle’ with the Swedes.
The site added that ‘the correct response to a tabloid article on the harvesting of organs from Palestinians by our soldiers should have been, at most, a derisive remark from a Foreign Ministry official.’
The report concluded, “The most Israel can do now is to collectively drop the matter and issue a statement recognising the Swedish government as friendly and devoid of anti-Semitism. Yes, Israel will be admitting to a mistake, which is ultimately the adult thing to do.’