Haaretz (Link) (February 28, 2009)
The Hezbollah deputy chief says his organization is ready for any confrontation with Israel, but that a war "was not in Israel's interest" following its "defeat" in the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
Asked his opinion on the recent election results in Israel, Naim Qassem told French newspaper Le Figaro that he saw "no difference between [Tzipi] Livni, [Ehud] Barak and [Benjamin] Netanyahu." He added that "Israel remains an aggressor state."
Qassem further reiterated the intention of Hezbollah to avenge the assassination of the organization's senior military figure Imad Mughniyah. "We have no doubt that Israel is behind the murder. We vowed to respond. It is our right," he said.
On recent reports of a potential thawing of ties between the United States and Iran, Qassem said it was "too early to say." He added that the U.S. was waiting to see the outcome of the presidential elections in Iran, due to be held in June.
The Hezbollah leader told Le Figaro that he did not see a significant change in U.S. President Barack Obama's statements and did not hold out much hope. Regarding the Palestinians, Qassem said that the new administration's position resembled that of its predecessor, with unconditional support for Israel and the failure to respect the democratic choices of the Palestinian people. Qassem was likely referring to the victory of its ally Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, an unexpected outcome which put the Hamas government on a collision course with the U.S., European Union and Israel.