By Ahmed Asif
It is the closest the Iranian President has ever come to his arch enemy Israel. 4 kilometers of land to separate them to be precise. And in the town of Bint Jbeil he delivered another one of his trademark fiery speeches to a loyal crowd.
As part of his official two day visit to Lebanon, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the town just 2 miles to the border and the stronghold of Hezbollah who fought with the Israeli army in a devastating war in 2006. The damage inflicted upon the Lebanese town was repaired with the willing help of the Iranian government who poured millions into its reconstruction. Iran has been a major contributor of aid to the country in the past few years and it may extend that help by possibly helping to equip the Lebanese with weaponry which the US has put on hold after the deadly battle along the blue line just a short while back.
The Iranian President arrived to the southern town to a hero’s welcome, with signs established at the entrance of the town reading “The south welcomes the protector of resistance.” The reception was of such volume that it was reported on Israeli TV that it was audible on the Israeli side of the border. A noise that surely would have further annoyed his bitter foes.
A man who regularly voices his opposition against America and the “Zionist entity” got the opportunity to go as controversially close to the country he has long refused to recognize as a state, and there he delivered more of a restrained speech. In it the President praised the resistance of the town; “The Zionists planned to destroy this community, but it stood strong against the occupiers.” As the packed football stadium deafening cheered Ahmadinejad continued; “You will stay and your enemies, who are the enemies of humanity, are on their way to demise and annihilation. You are honoured and your Zionist enemies are humiliated and weak.”
Iran is known to have close ties with the Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah and it was made apparent when Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah emerged from hiding to meet with his friend and then presented him with a present. But not just any ordinary gift that leaders often exchange, rather a symbolic gift; Nasrallah passed on to Ahmadinejad a weapon of an Israeli soldier that was taken by a Lebanese fighter during intense battle. A sign of victory.
A short distance away on the Israeli side of the border Israeli Prime Minister chose surprisingly to directly respond to Ahmadinejad’s comments. In the same hall that Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, declared the existence of the state Netanyahu said; “We heard today the cursing and the language of contempt from the Lebanon border. . . We will continue to build our country and we will know very well how to defend it.”
The visit by Ahmadinejad and the immediate response by Netanyahu billed upto what the public expected. A show in which Ahmadinejad showed his unwavering support for the group that not only exposed Israel’s Achilles heel but defeated its military might and Netanyahu who once again emphasised, to not only Iran but the world, that Israel has the capabilities and the vital support of the US to protect themselves and exist in the worlds most hostile region. The only piece missing to this iconic visit was an all out military confrontation at the volatile border.