BEIRUT: The Future Movement hit back at Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah Sunday, accusing him of using the party’s resistance against the movement instead of Israel. The war of words between the two sides, sparked mainly over the divisive issue of Hezbollah’s arms, heightened tension in the country already sharply split over the nearly two-year turmoil in Syria and a few months before the parliamentary elections that are scheduled in early June.
The Future Movement, headed by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, also criticized Nasrallah for quoting former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri as saying a few months before his assassination in February 2005 that he supported Hezbollah retaining its arsenal even if an overall Arab-Israeli peace settlement was reached.
Referring to Nasrallah’s speech Saturday in which he responded to Hariri’s televised speech two days earlier, the movement said in a statement: “ Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah fully approved what [former] Prime Minister Saad Hariri said that Hezbollah upheld the equation that ‘all policies are in the service of arms.’ What is most important [in Nasrallah’s speech] is that he frankly confessed that his resistance against the Israeli enemy has turned into a resistance against the Future Movement, as if the Future Movement has become the enemy.”
The statement accused Nasrallah of attempting to twist historic facts for saying that the slain leader, unlike his son, Saad, supported Hezbollah’s arsenal.
“Using the martyred former Premier Rafik Hariri as a witness to historical facts is inappropriate and out of place,” it said, referring to Saad Hariri’s quick response to Nasrallah Saturday.
“Doesn’t the case of martyr Rafik Hariri deserve from you, Sayyed Hasan, the least of appreciation, help or for you to stand by the majority of Lebanese by accepting to hand over the four accused who are all from Hezbollah, instead of boasting about their protection?” the statement said.
Shortly after Nasrallah finished his speech, Saad Hariri said the Hezbollah chief had no right to speak about his father’s history.
“The protector of the suspects involved in the killing of martyr Rafik Hariri does not have the right to talk about the [former] prime minister’s history,” he wrote on his Twitter feed.
Hariri has repeatedly urged Hezbollah to hand over four party members indicted by the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon in his father’s assassination. Nasrallah, who dismissed the STL as “an Israeli-American project,” has vowed never to turn in the four suspects.
In his televised speech, Nasrallah said the late Hariri had voiced his full support for Hezbollah retaining its arsenal during a meeting with him a few months before his assassination.
“Months before Feb. 14 [2005 when Hariri was assassinated] ... he told me he supported the presence of the resistance and its arms and not only until the liberation of the Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shuba Hills or the return of prisoners from Israeli prisons, but more than that, until a comprehensive and just peace is signed [with Israel],” Nasrallah said.
Nasrallah claimed that Saad Hariri had offered to withdraw his calls for the resistance group to disarm if he agreed to keep him in power following the collapse of his national unity Cabinet in January 2011.
He referred to the 2011 initiative by Qatar and Turkey to resolve the government crisis after March 8 ministers resigned from Hariri’s Cabinet, forcing its collapse.
Nasrallah asked whether Hariri’s acceptance of the tripartite equation “The Army, the people and the resistance,” which was mentioned in the policy statement of his Cabinet in 2010, amounted to bribery.
Addressing Hariri, who has repeatedly called for Hezbollah to disarm, Nasrallah said: “You are the one [who offered] to put aside the arms issue so that you could remain prime minister but we refused.”
However, Nasrallah’s remarks were dismissed by the Future Movement. “To say that [former] Prime Minister Saad Hariri had agreed to Hezbollah retaining its arms in exchange for his return to power is totally rejected for the thousandth time. The paper which spoke about dealing with the illegitimate arms which Sayyed Nasrallah says included a clause in brackets that ‘Hezbollah’s arms are not the target,’ was subjected to a lot of interpretation and give and take,” the statement said.
It added that Nasrallah was aware that this clause did not aim to neutralize Hezbollah’s arms because this issue was put up for discussion during National Dialogue.
The Future Movement said Nasrallah’s refusal to have Hariri as prime minister in 2011 came from orders from Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“As for Nasrallah saying that he rejected Saad Hariri’s return to the premiership, everyone knows, especially the Qatari and Turkish mediators, that the rejection came from a direct order from Bashar Assad, which Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah executed in Beirut with the formation of a new Cabinet that still functions under his [Nasrallah’s] supervision,” the statement said.
“It seems that Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah was very upset by the national initiative proposed by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to the point that he jumped over all the facts that were mentioned in the speech by the head of the Future Movement on the eighth anniversary of the martyrdom of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri [on Feb. 14] and chose bits of the speech that he considered valid material for a response while attempting to distort many historical and current facts,” it added.
The Future statement said that Hezbollah’s arms unfortunately were no longer used to resist Israel.
“[Hezbollah’s arms] are a major bone of contention among the Lebanese. At any rate, [former] Prime Minister Saad Hariri has presented a comprehensive national vision outlining the means for a real solution from the national predicament from which Lebanon is suffering, the predicament of the illegitimate arms which Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah insists on retaining as a tool to blackmail the Lebanese and the state and control its institutions,” the statement added.
In his speech marking the annual commemoration of the party’s leaders who were killed by Israel, Nasrallah slammed Hariri over a “provocative” speech against Hezbollah. “Whoever is keen on preserving the civil state and keen on preventing Lebanese from fighting would not use such language that provokes political forces against each other,” he said.
In a speech marking the eighth anniversary of his father’s assassination last Thursday, Hariri blasted Hezbollah, saying its arsenal was at the root of Lebanon’s problems. He warned of the consequences if the party retained its weapons at the expense of state authority and the country’s stability.
Nasrallah also warned Israel against launching an assault on Lebanon, saying the party was capable of targeting key installations in the Jewish state.
“I warn Israel and those behind it that the resistance in Lebanon will not remain silent to any aggression against Lebanon,” he said. “I would like to remind them that only a few rockets are needed to [target] their airports, ports and power plants.”
“ Israel knows all we say is true and this is why it is devoting all it can toward intelligence [operations] and attempts security breaches and [launches] aerial reconnaissance jets and warplane overflights,” Nasrallah said.
He said Hezbollah was fully equipped to fight Israel in any future war without arms from Syria and Iran. “Today, the resistance in Lebanon is fully equipped. We have everything we need here in Lebanon, and we don’t need to transport anything from Syria and Iran,” Nasrallah added.