Lebanon and its government are not to blame for Hezbollah and its recent attacks on Israeli territory, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri insisted in an interview with CNBC.
“Look, Hezbollah is not a Lebanese problem — only — it is a regional problem,” Hariri said in the wide-ranging interview which aired on Tuesday.
“Israel wants to have ... this scenario that Lebanon is responsible, with what [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu says, and if you want to buy it, buy it. But he knows and the international community knows that this is not true,” he added.
Hezbollah earlier this week attacked Israeli military targets in northern Israel. No one was injured.
Israel responded by sending warplanes and artillery to attack 50 targets in southern Lebanon.
Netanyahu in a speech last week warned Hezbollah — and Lebanon — to “be careful what you say and more careful what you do.”
Hezbollah is not just a terrorist organization with a military wing but also has a significant political presence in Lebanon.
The group gained more than half the seats of the 128-member Lebanese parliament in the election which took place in May of 2018.
Hariri’s cabinet, which was announced earlier this year, includes three Hezbollah ministers.
In the interview with CNBC, Hariri acknowledged limitations in his ability to rein in Hezbollah. The group ignores the official Lebanese policy of staying out of regional conflicts and has been active most notably in Syria in support of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
“I am a pragmatic person, and I know my limits, and I know the limits of this region. If people were serious about this issue, they would have done things 10, 15, 20, 30 years” ago, Hariri said.
His main focus, he said, is strengthening Lebanon’s institutions such as its central bank and its security forces.