memri
July 27, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 10100

Hamas Political Bureau Head Isma'il Haniya's Visit To Lebanon Sparks Criticism In Country: He Is Embroiling Lebanon In Regional Conflicts In Service Of Iran

July 27, 2022
Lebanon, Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 10100

A two-week visit made by Isma'il Haniya, the head of Hamas' political bureau, to Lebanon in late June 2022 sparked harsh criticism from Lebanese elements. These elements warned that Hamas aspires to strengthen its relations with Hizbullah and Iran and may drag Lebanon into a confrontation with Israel. 

During his visit Haniya held a meeting with Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, in which emphasis was placed on cooperation between all parts of the pro-Iranian resistance axis in the Palestinian context.[1] Furthermore, throughout his visit Haniya made militant statements in favor of resistance and confrontation with Israel. At a rally in Sidon, south of Beirut, he threatened that "in the case of a new [Israeli] aggression, 150 missiles will pulverize the Zionist entity within five minutes.”[2] At the Islamic National Conference in Beirut, he again stressed "the unity of the resistance arenas and fronts," adding that "the resistance continues… and will continue until all of Palestine, from the river to the sea, is liberated."[3]

In addition, the London-based Emirati daily Al-Arab assessed that Hamas is angling to become fully sponsored by Iran, and is acting to increase its influence and power in Lebanon in order to threaten Israel simultaneously from South Lebanon and from Gaza.

During his visit Haniya met not only with Hizbullah officials but also with Lebanese officials, including Lebanese President Michel 'Aoun, who received him at the presidential palace along with a large Hamas delegation. In the course of this visit 'Aoun praised and supported "the achievements of the resistance." Haniya met as well with Lebanese Interim Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Beri.[4] The meetings aroused criticism against these Lebanese leaders, who were accused of lending Haniya's visit an official character, and of legitimizing Hamas and its militant positions that threaten to drag Lebanon into conflicts that do not concern it and to transform it into an arena for Iranian conflicts.


Nasrallah receiving Haniya in Beirut (Source: Almayadeen.net, June 23, 2022)

This report reviews some of the reactions in Lebanon to Haniya's visit.

London-Based Emirati Daily Al-Arab: Hamas Acting To Increase Its Influence In Lebanon In Coordination With Hizbullah

On July 6, 2022, the Al-Arab daily reported, citing a Palestinian source, that Haniya's visit to Lebanon was part of an effort by Hamas to increase its influence in the Palestinian refugee camps in the country, with Hizbullah's support, and to launch a new phase of jihad characterized by cooperation with Hizbullah on the ground. Hamas's objectives, according to the report, are to threaten Israel from two fronts at once in order to decrease the pressure on the Gaza Strip, and also to compensate for the decline in the Turkish and Qatari aid extended to the organization. These circumstances motivate Haniya and the faction close to Hamas' military wing to restructure the organization's alliances and rely more fully on Iranian sponsorship. The Palestinian source stated that developing the relationship with Hizbullah into a close alliance is meant to position Hamas squarely within the Iranian camp on the political map of the region, alongside the other forces subordinate to Iran -- chief of them Hizbullah, the Popular Mobilization Units in Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen --  thereby securing Iranian support for the organization, in both funds and weapons.   

The report states further that Hamas has formed two military units in Lebanon, equipped with missiles, drones and small unmanned submarines, has trained its forces in the country for a military confrontation and is enhancing its military capabilities on the Lebanese-Israeli border.[5]   

Lebanese Elements: Haniya Has Turned Lebanon Into Part Of Iran's Theaters Of Operation In The Region

Lebanese elements opposed to Hizbullah came out against Haniya's efforts to involve Lebanon in Iran's regional conflicts. The London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat quoted Lebanese elements opposed to President Michel 'Aoun as condemning Haniya's statements about "the unity among the arenas and of the military factions supported by Iran." These elements added that Tehran had "turned Lebanon into one of its arenas [in the conflict between] the camps in the region." Elements opposed to Hizbullah likewise stated that Haniya's statements were "grave" and that it has "led Lebanon into the Iranian axis and turned it into one of Tehran's arenas in the region."[6]   

The Kataeb Party: Any Attempt To Drag Lebanon Into The Resistance Camp Will Fail

The anti-Hizbullah Kataeb (Phalnges) Party declared in a statement it issued on June 28: "The moves of Hamas political bureau head Isma'il Haniya, his visits with official and non-official [Lebanese] elements and the statements he made during these visits, remind us of the days leading up to the [Lebanese civil] war, when [the PLO's] Palestinian factions controlled the country's power-centers and threatened to fight [Israel] from [Lebanon's] southern border, which caused the collapse of the [Lebanese] state and brought destruction upon it… 

"[I say to] Mr. Haniya and his old-new friends, whom he visited openly and in secret: Those days are gone for good. All the attempts to drag Lebanon into the resistance axis in the service of some negotiations [referring to the nuclear talks between Iran and the superpowers in Vienna] or some agenda have failed in the past  and will fail again in the future, as long as there are freedom-loving people in Lebanon… [Haniya's] visit highlighted how much [Hizbullah's] weapons control this country's decision-making, and belied the claims of Hizbullah's secretary-general that he does not control Lebanon’s constitutional institutions. For here he is, forming military coalitions with his allies in the resistance [axis] – amid shameful silence on the part of those who claim to be the leaders of those constitutional institutions and who claim to be the ones who lead [Lebanon’s] negotiations with foreign elements…"[7]      

The Saydat Al-Jabal Association: Haniya's Statements Have Nothing To Do With Lebanon's National Interest

A statement issued by the  Saydat Al-Jabal Association, a Christian organization opposed to Hizbullah, said: "As the representative of the Iranian occupation [in Lebanon], Hizbullah is once again insisting on turning Lebanon into an arena of conflict and into a 'mail box' used by the resistance axis to convey political and security messages, not only to [elements] outside [Lebanon] but also to the domestic arena within it. Hizbullah organized and sponsored the visit of Hamas political bureau head Isma’il Haniya to Lebanon, during which the latter made statements that had nothing to do with this country. [These statements] once again place [Lebanon] on the fault lines of  the regional conflicts and rekindle internal conflicts within it about the Palestinian issue – the same conflicts that led to the outbreak of the civil war, which had devastating political, security and socio-economical repercussions that Lebanon has not overcome to this day…

"The president of the republic, Michel 'Aoun, found the time to hold a reception for Isma'il Haniya… [thus] lending the visit an official character and supporting [Haniy'a] odious positions, which most of the Lebanese people oppose because they do not want their homeland to become a platform for conveying regional messages…

"The Saydat Al-Jabal Association condemns Haniya's visit in Lebanon and the statements he made during this visit, and holds the president of the republic, [Michel 'Aoun]… directly responsible for backing Haniya's [act of] violating Lebanon’s sovereignty with his statements that had nothing to do with [Lebanon's] national interest…     

"The Saydat Al-Jabal Association warns once again about the implications that will ensue if the political [echelon] makes light of [the attempts to] involve Lebanon more and more in Iran's regional policy…"[8] 


Hamas delegation visits the presidential palace (Source: Shehabnews.com, June 24, 2022)

The National Council Of The Cedar Revolution:  Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Is Not A Lebanese Problem

Another anti-Hizbullah organization, the National Council Of The Cedar Revolution, also responded to Haniya's visit in Lebanon, stating: “Isma'il Haniya's visit to the presidential palace in Ba’abda reminded us of [Yasser] Arafat’s visit [to this palace in 1975, when he met with Lebanon’s president at the time, Suleiman Frangieh,] and of the statement later made by [Fatah official] Abu Iyad, that the road to Jerusalem passes through Jounieh [a Christian-majority city to the north of Beirut]. Today, Mr. Haniya stresses once again that Lebanon has not stopped being a theatre [for foreign conflicts]. Moreover, all the signs indicate that Iran’s party [i.e., Hizbullah] is turning Lebanon into the next arena, and perhaps into the only arena, for the conflicts of the new [Iranian] empire with the countries of the Middle East. Despite all the tragedies experienced by the Lebanese people, it appears that the instructions of [Iran’s ruling] jurisprudent [i.e., Khamenei] now focus on equipping this arena with means and elements that can delay the solutions and bring violence, suffering and destruction upon the entire Lebanese people…

"Lebanon believes, especially since [Israel's signing of] the Oslo Accords and of the other agreements with the Palestinians, that settling the affairs between Israel and the Palestinians is no longer its problem, and that Arab solidarity is no longer relevant in this context…

"International resolutions, first and foremost [UN Security Council] Resolution 1559, call for the weapons in the [Palestinian] refugee camps and the weapons of the parties, including Hizbullah, to be turned over [to the state], as a basic condition for the existence of a [sovereign] state and for restoring [Lebanon's] stability. We say once again that the Palestinian weapons, whether they are held by Arafat, Abu Mazen [i.e., Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas] or anyone else, as well as the weapons of Khomeini's party [i.e., Hizbullah], will only cause violence and prevent [Lebanon]  from existing as a [sovereign] state…  

"The council is puzzled by the shameful silence of those who purport to represent the Lebanese people, and by their failure to express outrage at the attempt of the party of weapons [i.e., Hizbullah] to drag Lebanon [into the regional conflicts]… [The council] emphasizes that the plots being hatched in the operations room of [Iran's Islamic] Revolutionary Guards [Corps] will not manage to bring a dark fate upon the Lebanese people, and that their plan will come back to bite them, while Lebanon will survive.” [9]

Lebanese Elements To Haniya: Cut Down Your Visits To Lebanon; We Have Paid Enough For The Sake Of The Palestinian Cause

Nadim Koteich, a Shi'ite journalist and known opponent of Hizbullah, also contended that Haniya was serving Iran in his visit to Lebanon. He wrote: "Nothing could be a more apt, at the end of the hellish era [of Michel 'Aoun's presidency] ,than the reception held by the president of the republic, Michel 'Aoun, for the head of Hamas’ political bureau, Isma’il Haniya… [By hosting Haniya], Lebanon, which is almost completely isolated in the world… reaffirmed the reasons for its isolation it [by proving that it is] nothing less and nothing more than a proxy of the entities that make up the resistance axis, headed by Iran.

"[During his visit here], Haniya told us about 150 missiles that would 'pulverize the Zionist entity within less than five minutes in case of a new aggression,' without telling us where these missiles will be launched from. Addressing the Israelis, he added, 'It is from Lebanon-of-the-resistance that your dreams will be shattered. There is no place for you in Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. It is our Arab and Islamic nation that is deserving of Jerusalem.' No Lebanese official issued a single response explaining to the Lebanese people why Lebanon was serving as a platform for Haniya’s boasting – unless this was a prelude to Lebanon serving as the platform for [the launching of] the missiles themselves, sometime in the future.           

"Isma'il Haniya is in Beirut, [and] Lebanon will not attend the Gulf-U.S. summit at which American President Joe Biden will meet with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] countries and of Egypt, Iraq and Jordan… and perhaps also of other Arab countries that will join this historic meeting in the [Saudi] Kingdom…

"The Arabs of the stable and moderate [countries]… hope to use this summit and its outcomes to adjust the American attitude towards their national security interests and  towards the Iranian nuclear issue, and to enhance America's contribution to the existing defense systems and to [new systems that are being] proposed…

"It is no secret that Iran is following the events and preparing accordingly, determined to maintain and improve its position through various [moves], one of them being Isma'il Haniya's visit to Beirut and his statements there…

"Lebanon has been dragged into the middle of the greatest tug-o-war in the Middle East, in the service of one of the sides, as Haniya's visit indicates…”[10] 

Bishara Sharbel, the editor of the Lebanese daily Nida Al-Watan, expressed concern that Haniya's attempts to use Lebanon and to form an alliance with Hizbullah would bring further suffering upon Lebanon. He wrote: "Haniya's sincere wishes of security and stability for Lebanon are worthy of gratitude. The problem is not with them, [but with the fact that] he should have been asked, at the very least, about the issue of the 'single front' that he wants to establish with Hizbullah…  

"It is natural that Haniya should be interested in the condition of the Palestinians in the diaspora; in an alliance with Hizbullah, which is sponsored by Iran, and in the renewal of Hamas' ties with the regime in Damascus… [But Haniy's] stay in Lebanon had a distinct flavor… unlike anything he experienced in the cycle of visits [he made] in Arab countries in an attempt to gain support for his policy in Gaza. This is because neither in Egypt, in Morocco, in Mauritania or even in Syria does Hamas have an ally [like Hizbullah] that enjoys the status of an independent political, military and ideological entity and can form alliances across borders and transport missiles according to regional needs and according to its wishes. None of the aforementioned countries have refugee camps [like the Palestinian camps in Lebanon] that are jungles of weapons where Hamas is in control…

"Haniya visited Hizbullah and the [Palestinian] refugee [camps]. All the other meetings he held with the president, prime minister and parliament speaker, with [Lebanon's] mufti, ['Abd Al-Latif] Derian and with others, were [just] ornamental and did not serve any crucial need. Since Haniya is interested in the future of the 'resistance axis' in general, and in increasing Hamas' influence in the refugee camps at the expense of Fatah and the [other Palestinian] factions, it is the duty of the Lebanese state, and especially of the president, to go beyond the old refrain of refusing to naturalize [the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon] and to readdress a more important question: What is the use of the weapons in the refugee camps? What use are they to the Palestinians in Lebanon, who suffer greatly from deteriorating services, unemployment and a lack [of access to various] jobs?  How long will these weapons continue to be used in internal conflicts? How long will they continue to protect criminals and to serve a regional [force] that is willing fire 'anonymous missiles' [at Israel] that can cause trouble for the Palestinians and for Lebanon?

"Nobody is condemning Haniya for visiting his Palestinian people in the refugee camps. But it is reprehensible of him to repeat the PLO's historic mistake of treating Lebanon like an abandoned country that can be used and where alliances can be made with [various] parties. After all, he knows that Lebanon has suffered a lot…

"My brother Isma'il [Haniya], we have paid heavily for the sake of the [Palestinian] cause. [We paid] with a civil war, so please visit [us] less often.”[11]

 

[1] Almanar.com.lb, June 23, 2022.

[2] Almayadeen.net, June 26, 2022.

[3] Almayadeen.net, June 25, 2022.

[4] Aljoumhouria.com, June 24, 2022; almanar.com.lb, June 27, 2022; alahednews.com.lb, June 27, 2022.

[5] Al-Arab (London), July 6, 2022.

[6]  Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 26, 2022.

[7] Aliwaa.com.lb, June 28, 2022.

[8]  Saydeteljabal.org, June 27, 2022.

[9]  Annahar.com, June 30, 2022.

[10]  Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 28, 2022.

[11]  Nidaalwatan.com, June 25, 2022.

Share this Report: