By Jupiter, this is war!

(Wikimedia Commons)

“France needs a ‘Jupiterian’ head of state” said Emmanuel Macron during his candidacy. Recently, following his unpopularity rate, the French president distanced himself from that image. Some communication officers were fired. Lesson learnt.

However, President Macron’s phone conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu in November 2017 proved that the French establishment still behaves as if France was a Middle-east master, stubbornly rebuffing the adjustment of three French foreign policy paradigms to the Middle-east reality, thus jeopardizing its own interests and those of friends and allies.

What was said between the leaders is as follows: Following ISIS’ defeat, Israel is worried with the Irano- Hezbollah influence in Syria and Lebanon; should those two states fail to minimize that ascendancy, Israel will attack Iranian targets in Syria when they threat Israel’s security. Although Mr. Macron roughly agreed with the detrimental pressure of the Irano-Hezbollah domination in Syria and Lebanon, he asked Mr. Netanyahu to “preserve Lebanon’s stability and not run into hasty actions”. The rest of the transcript, especially in relation to Iran’s nuclear deal, illustrates today’s appeasement policy spirit of the European capitals.

This old French way of reading the Middle-east map and sermonizing Israel is based on three paradigms that France, in its quest against the establishment’s dormancy, should reconsider.

First, appeasement policies against aggressive entities don’t work. You may discuss a “Brexit” deal with a friendly, peaceful and democratic UK, for instance. But, facing an aggressive and obsessive enemy – state or organization – words fail.

This conciliation policy with pro-Iranian factions has clearly damaged the Western interests in South Lebanon. UNIFIL, to which France contributes around 5% of 10,000 troops, preserved neither peace nor stability. Instead of confronting the illegal implantation of pro-Iranian forces in sovereign Lebanon, UNIFIL turned away to appease fanatics. Hence, South-Lebanon has become a nest of Hezbollah warriors, a gallery of underground tunnels targeting Israel, an explosive area. Yet, against proven facts, the French officials pretend that there are no Hezbollah weapons on the ground. “Messieurs”, wake up! Appeasement failed. Hoc est bellum! This is war!

The second French paradigm in regard to the “Levant” is the myth of Lebanon’s stability and French interests. True, maintaining France’s historical relations with Lebanon is important. It has recently helped France selling 3 US$ billions of weapons to the Lebanese Army Forces (LAF) thanks to a generous Saudi check. However, contrary to its stated goal, the LAF isn’t preserving stability between the various Lebanese factions; rather, it has become a tool in the hands of Iran. From its intelligence directorate till officers on the ground, the LAF intensely collaborates with Hezbollah, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told his pairs in Western capitals. The symbol of Lebanon’s stability has been rotten by Iran’s proxies.

Lebanon’s Christians, officially under France’s “protection”, aren’t dupe. Today, they count a third of the population, per US governmental bodies and NGOs statistics – that’s a steady decline in Lebanon’s Christian demographics. Their rights are “constitutionally guaranteed” and they can pray in churches, but it is their feeling of freedom which has seriously been eroded, and their youth abandons Lebanon to western countries.

Demographically, socially, politically, the Christians are the target of Lebanese radical forces.

No much stability has remained in Lebanon, where the French traditional interests are today imperiled.

Third, there is the French paradigm of perceiving Israel as a paranoiac trouble-maker. One Israeli national –  vital – interest is to protect its northern border with Lebanon and Syria. Till now, mainly due to the war against ISIS, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has been quite tolerant with the Hezbollah. Indeed, it is doubtful that President Macron himself would tolerate that an entity, arming itself to the level of Hezbollah only a few miles from its borders, would be able to call for France’s destruction without reaction from the French military.

In contrast, look at Israel’s restraint: Today, from 200 civilian villages transformed into Hezbollah outposts, 50,000 Iranian and Hezbollah personnel operate near Israel’s border: intelligence officers, fighters – many trained by Iranian military elite units. On UNIFIL and LAF territories, Hezbollah’s special operation forces are training in infiltration, land and navy missions.

150,000 rockets and smart missiles jeopardize Israel.

That’s no paranoia. And certainly, Mr. Netanyahu shouldn’t be preached about “restraint”. This is war!

President Macron, the leader of a friendly nation, should agree with the Israeli leadership: Appeasement of Shiite extremists failed; Lebanon’s sovereignty has been violated and its equilibrium crushed; radical Islamists critically endanger Israel.

France should categorically defend Israel’s way to fight for survival; that would also contribute to Lebanon’s stability and France’s national interests.

Hoc Est Bellum! By Jupiter, this is war!

About the Author
Dan (Jerome) Vitenberg is an international political analyst. He has taught Political Science and International relations for the LSE via the University of London's International Programs at DEI College, Greece. He holds a BA in Political science and International relations from the Hebrew University and a MA in Political science (International political communication) from Tel-Aviv University. Through years of experience in International Business, he developed a multicultural expertise in Asia, Africa, Europe and Middle-East.
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