Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, appearing in public for one of the first times since he went into hiding after the Second Lebanon War, made a three-minute appearance Wednesday night to celebrate Israel's freeing of Lebanese terrorist and child-killer Samir Kuntar and four other Hizbullah terrorists. The five were released in return for the dead bodies of Hizbullah-kidnapped IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.
Nasrallah's "era of victories" speech came three years and one month after then-Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Israel Policy Forum, "We are tired of fighting; we are tired of being courageous; we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies."
Olmert told the Israel Policy Forum in 2005, 'We are tired of fighting; we are tired of being courageous; we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies.'
As world media reported the cheering in Lebanon and the mourning in Israel after the terrorists were freed and the soldiers' bodies returned, Nasrallah told tens of thousands of cheering supporters that the deal achieved the goal that he stated at the end of the 2006 war -- to force Israel to free Kuntar and the Hizbullah guerrillas.
He said Hizbullah achieved another victory by forcing the Lebanese coalition government to give it and its pro-Syrian allies a larger Cabinet representation, giving it veto power over major decisions.
"The age of defeats is gone, and the era of victories has come. This people, this nation gave a great and clear image today to its friends and enemies that it cannot be defeated," Nasrallah said in his brief appearance marked by a large number of bodyguards.
It was the third time he has made a public appearance since the end of the war. Many Israeli government officials have publicly said he should be killed.
Kuntar, who has embraced Hizbullah since his conviction for murdering a child, her father and a policeman in 1979, joined Nasrallah's theme of victory. He vowed to return to terrorism, which he called "Islamic resistance." He also told the cheering crowd, "I have just returned from Palestine - in order to go back there again in victory!"
The Associated Press reported, "Their return also was a measure of domestic vindication for Nasrallah, who had vowed not to return the two Israeli soldiers until all Lebanese prisoners were freed. Israel did not know the men were dead until their coffins were brought to the southern border town of Naqoura." Exactly a year ago today, Prime Minister Olmert said that indications showed that the two soldiers were alive.
Nasrallah's victory speech and his declared determination to continue fighting Israel were a mirror image of the main points of then-Deputy Prime Minister Olmert's 2005 speech.
Speaking one month before the Disengagement, involving the expulsion of Jews from the Gaza region and turning destroyed Jewish communities over to the Palestinian Authority (PA), Olmert said the policy would bring a new era of peace. "We are confident that this disengagement will be successful and that it will then lead to the beginning of a new pattern of relations between us and the Palestinian Authority," he told an appreciative audience.
"Terror will not disappear overnight, but we know that there is no alternative and we pray that the Palestinians will understand that there is no alternative… And we will spare no effort in order to convince them, not by fighting with them, not by killing them, not by reaching out for their leaders, but by sitting with them, and talking with them, and helping them, and cooperating with them."
Since then, PA and Hizbullah terrorists have attacked Israel with thousands of rocket attacks on the northwestern Negev, have kidnapped three IDF soldiers and launched the 34-day Second Lebanon War that left Hizbullah in a position to strengthen its weapons stockpile far and beyond what it possessed before the war.
Hizbullah has ignored the United Nations ceasefire resolution that called for it to disarm. Its ability to become a stronger force in the Lebanese government was reflected in the victory celebrations Wednesday night in Beirut.
Lebanese President Michael Suleiman welcomed Kuntar and the four other terrorists by saying, "Your return is a new victory."
Prime Minister Olmert said less than one week after the Second Lebanon War began, "Israel will not agree to live in the shadow of rockets and missiles aimed at her citizens." He told the Knesset that the military retaliation for the kidnappings and rocket attacks would continue until the soldiers were released and Hizbullah was distanced from Israel’s northern border.