BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) – The head of Lebanon’s largest parliamentary block blasted both Israel and Syria in a fiery nationalistic speech Thursday to hundreds of supporters.
“The history of Israel is a black history, a hateful one, of destruction,” said Saad Hariri, in a speech praising the Lebanese army for moving into south Lebanon.
“Israeli attacks can destroy Lebanon (physically) but will not touch Lebanese unity,” Hariri said.
The son of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a top U.S. ally, said Israel had a history of “living off the blood” of Palestinian, Lebanese and other Arab people.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev, when asked about the Hariri speech, said: “Too often in the Arab world, people think that political legitimacy is attained by bashing Israel.” Regev had not heard the speech but was responding to a news account of the address that was read to him. He also accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of trying to sow strife in the neighboring country where it kept an occupation force for 29 years.
Hariri was responding to a speech Tuesday by the Syrian leader in which he accused Lebanon’s anti-Syrian groups of allying themselves with Israel, which bombarded Lebanon for 34 days.
“The speech was an incitement for sedition in Lebanon. The Syrian president has hurt his position, Syria’s and Lebanon’s,” he said in a speech to supporters.
The United States has accused Syria of meddling in Lebanese affairs, and the U.N. Security Council has demanded Syria stop interfering.
In his speech, Assad attacked Israel and its prime supporter, the United States, and said U.S. plans for a new Middle East have become an illusion following what he described as a victory by the Iranian and Syrian-backed Hezbollah against Israel in the July 12-Aug. 14 fighting.
Hariri, a strong backer of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora’s government, called on Lebanese to rally behind the government of Lebanon. He went on to attack Syria’s domestic and regional policies.
“The Syrian regime is exploiting the blood of Qana and Gaza and Baghdad to bring sedition to Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq so that the Muhajereen Palace now deserves to be called the ‘Mutajereen’ palace,” he said playing on words.
Muhajereen is the presidential palace in Damascus, while Mutajereen means exploiters. That was a reference to Qana, where 29 Lebanese civilians were killed in an Israeli airstrike on July 30. Syria also was accused stirring up trouble in Iraq.
Hariri and his supporters have accused Syria’s leadership of involvement in the late Hariri’s assassination in 2005, an event that sparked mass protests in Lebanon and intensified international pressure that led Syria to withdraw its army from the country. Syria denied involvement although a U.N. investigation has implicated Syrian intelligence officials in the bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others.
Relations between Lebanon and Syria have plummeted since the Syrian troop withdrawal last year, with politicians in both countries leveling insults and accusations against each other.
However, that tension eased during the Israel-Hezbollah fighting as Syria hosted tens of thousands of Lebanese refugees, until Assad fired the new salvo in his Tuesday speech, drawing sharp condemnation from opponents in Lebanon.