Lebanon: Hezbollah May Fight Israel to Recover Land

Lebanon's new government guidelines declare Hezbollah has the right to fight against Israel to "recover the land occupied by Israel." The document was drafted on Friday and will be brought before the government for approval tomorrow.

The Bush administration conveyed its serious dissatisfaction that President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora had succumbed to a number of Hezbollah directives.

While forces within Siniora's western-backed coalition demanded that military action to liberate occupied lands be carried out "under the aegis of the state," now the government guidelines state that Hezbollah has what is essentially an independent right to take action.

"Lebanon, its army, its people and its resistance [Hezbollah] have the right to take action to liberate lands that have remained occupied at the Shaba Farms, the hills of Shuba village and the northern portion of the village of Ghajar, with all legitimate means possible, and to resist Israeli aggression."

The new unity government in Lebanon was established after the parliamentary majority succumbed to the demands of the opposition, headed by Hezbollah, to take control of a third of the cabinet positions, effectively granting it veto power over government decisions. The new cabinet has 30 ministers, with 11 from the opposition.

Only Labor Minister Mohammed Fneish is a member of Hezbollah.

Finalizing the new government guidelines required 14 meetings of the ministerial committee charged with preparing the document.

Hezbollah welcomed the final version of the document and the deputy secretary general of the group, Naim Kassem, said, "it was a genuine expression of our situation, and an honest declaration that Lebanon insists that the means of its power remain in its control."

Suleiman announced Friday, during an address for Army Day, that "the countdown for the restoration of the Shaba farms and the hills of Shuba village has begun ... all means are possible and legitimate to this end."

In a strongly worded message to Suleiman and Siniora, the U.S. administration complained about the kid-glove treatment Hezbollah was receiving in Lebanon.

A political source in Jerusalem said that senior U.S. officials have stressed in talks with their Israeli counterparts that they are disappointed with the Lebanese leadership for succumbing to Hezbollah.

However, for the time being, the U.S. has not publicly withdrawn its support for Siniora. As part of the ongoing strategic dialogue between Israel and the U.S., the minister charged with conducting the talks on behalf of Israel, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, said in Washington on Thursday that "Hezbollah is taking over the government in Beirut and gradually taking over the organs of power."