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Speaker Events - Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cambanis: “Hezbollah's Top Choice is a War with Israel”

"Hezbollah's top choice is a war with Israel they can blame on Israel at the best time for Hezbollah," said Thanassis Cambanis, reporter and author of the book A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah's Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel. His statement came in response to a question put to him on whether Hezbollah wants to provoke an attack by Israel or if it would rather avoid it.

"I think that's what they’re planning for, and, in the worst-case scenario for Hezbollah, they just have to outright provoke a war," he said at an IPI event on January 18th. “And that’s bad in a number of ways. That’s just bad, and it’s bad for the world."

Mr. Cambanis also said that all of Hezbollah is "wedded to a war against Israel," in contrast to Hamas, where some “aren’t necessarily interested in fighting."

To do his reporting, Mr. Cambanis told the IPI audience he sought out Hezbollah fighters by driving as close to the Israeli border as possible looking for "people with beards and cargo pants."

"No one in Lebanon wanted to join me in this, because they thought it was a completely suicidal approach," he said.

His approach worked, however, and Mr. Cambanis obtained an interview with Hezbollah fighter Rani Bazzi, who he describes as a “fanatic" who also had a "human mode."

"How could someone be eager to die and also appear to be so constructive?" he said. "This is the mystery that Hezbollah has resolved for itself, and it’s the reason why their society is so dynamic."

"The Israeli military can go in and kill every single Hezbollah fighter and destroy every single rocket in Lebanon, and unless Israel decides to occupy all of Lebanon for the foreseeable future after that, they’ll go back to Israel, and Hezbollah will still be there as the dominant force with more sympathy than ever before, and just like after the last war," he said.

"If there's a war, they win," he said, "and that's the thing that Americans and Israelis often don’t understand."

The event was moderated by Warren Hoge, IPI Vice President for External Relations.

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