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Beirut has a choice to make. Even before the explosions that sent forth a massive orange mushroom cloud devastated the city, taking the lives of at least 137 people, wounding approximately 5,000 and leaving 300,000 homeless, Lebanon has been in dire political and economic shape.

What was once described as “the Riviera of the Mediterranean” Beirut has allowed itself to be the kept mistress of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iranian proxy, Hezbollah, has increased its grip on the government. It now controls two major ministries, including the health ministry, which is of critical importance during the days of COVID-19. Even the Lebanese Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, although Sunni, was nominated by Hezbollah, and so felt he owes a tremendous amount to that terrorist group. (Although Mr. Diab stepped down on Monday ,he has been asked to remain in power while a new government is being formed).

(August 9, 2020 / Israel Hayom / JNS)

Most homes in southern Lebanon, irrespective of whether they are Muslim or Christian owned, have been taken over by the armed thugs of Hezbollah, where they have been storing their vast arsenal of approximately 150,000 missiles that are staring down at Israel. Even the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), to which the American taxpayer gives upwards of $221 million a year in order for it to act as leverage against Hezbollah, has a very cozy relationship with the terrorist organization. The LAF shares their uniforms and equipment with Hezbollah, including American made armored vehicles. They even pose together in photos on the LAF’s own website, flanked by flags of both the LAF and Hezbollah on each side.

Even before the tragic explosion that rocked the city, the Lebanese economy has been in rapid freefall. One Lebanese pound is valued at 0.0006 of the U.S. dollar. Hyperinflation and chronic mismanagement have eroded the economy. Many in Lebanon describe the Central Bank of Lebanon as “a government-controlled Ponzi scheme,” because it would simply borrow more and increase the debt, to pay back old debt.

For several months now, prior to the explosion, masses of Lebanese citizens would gather in “Martyrs Square,” demonstrating because of the skyrocketing price of food, and the government’s corrupt practice of taking more and more taxes out of the wages of their workers in an effort to make up their enormous economic deficit. Lebanon, before the blast, has a 152% debt to GDP ratio.

Lebanon was blessed with vast natural resources, yet most of their food has been imported, because, as Lebanon’s own Prime Minister Hassan Diab wrote in the Washington Post in May, of political mismanagement and a lack of investment in the agricultural sector. Even before the blast, Lebanese people would say that they would “either die of Coronavirus or of hunger.”

Nations throughout the world are now rushing to Lebanon’s aid, including France, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Poland, Cyprus and the Netherlands.

Despite the suffocating grip that Hezbollah has with the Lebanese government, and the fact that Lebanon is still in a state of war with Israel, Israel was quick to offer medical and humanitarian assistance. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin immediately tweeted, “We share the pain of the Lebanese people and sincerely reach out to offer aid.” In a show of solidarity, a municipal building in Tel Aviv was illuminated with the colors of the Lebanese flag. Israeli hospitals in the north of Israel, such as Ziv Medical Center in Safad which treated thousands of Syrians throughout their civil war, and Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, implored Lebanon to let them treat their patients, and doctors from Sheba Medical Hospital have offered to fly  to Cyprus where some of the victims are being transferred. And the Israeli foreign ministry posted a heartwarming video on twitter, showing scores and scores of ordinary Israeli citizens expressing their genuine compassion and pain for what the Lebanese people are going through.

Back in 2005, after the assassination of Prime Minister Rafic Harari, there was a rare moment of hope in Lebanon’s tragic history, called the Cedar Revolution. That was when secular Muslims and Christians felt free to proudly march through the streets of Beirut. The results of the UN probe investigating Harari’s assassination were supposed to have been revealed tomorrow, but because of this disaster, they are going to be put off.

We already know the results of the investigation. All fingers are pointing in the same direction, to that of the shadowy group that controls the government like a puppet master, whose corruption has managed the port and did not close the warehouse because of the 2500 tons of explosive sodium nitrate that has been stashed there since 2014, despite an order to not allow it to arrive in the ports or to be stored there.

It is time for Lebanon to evict the Iranian proxy from their bedroom. The good people of Lebanon are fed up. They deserve more, and they have a neighbor directly to their south that is ready, willing, and able to help them.

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About the Author

Sarah Stern
Sarah Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

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