Israel has suggested that the Lebanese government will have to destroy Hizbollah after a peace treaty is signed between the Lebanese and Israelis, but Sayed Nasrallah insisted that his 'Party of God' planned to pursue a political role in Lebanon after a settlement, which he admitted now seemed likely. The 32-year-old Hizbollah secretary-general, who was speaking hours before leaving Beirut for Tehran, has lost none of his political enmity for Israel; nor does he seem likely to forgive Yasser Arafat for making peace with Yitzhak Rabin. He said that when he watched their handshake on the White House lawn on television: 'I felt that . . . the future is waiting for new men, new leaders . . . Of course I felt pain - for here was a man (Arafat) who wasted in one moment of weakness all the martyrdom that has taken place over 45 years. What right does Arafat have to give up the rest of Jerusalem. What right does Arafat have to give up that part of Palestine that was occupied in 1948?
'But with the pain I felt there was also great hope - because it's not the first time in the history of this region that the world powers have forced upon it an abnormal situation . . . and always the people of this region have shown that their will is stronger than all the world . . . So the occupation of Jerusalem is an abnormal situation that cannot continue, despite all that has happened.'
When first asked if Hizbollah's 11-year war against Israeli occupation troops in southern Lebanon would end after a withdrawal, Sayed Nasrallah replied: 'No one can give a definite answer to this question because it's related to a great extent to the nature of the situation that will come about at the moment of withdrawal . . . at that time we will be able to decide whether the reasons (for the war) are still there or have been got rid of.'
But when I asked on what conditions Hizbollah would call a halt to their resistance activities, he responded: 'They (the Israelis) have to get out of our land . . . we are working for the liberation of Lebanese territory. If Israel withdraws from Lebanon, we will consider that our land has been liberated and we will close the file concerning the occupation of Lebanese land.'
'Closing the file' was the phrase Hizbollah traditionally used when calling for an end to the drama of the Western hostages in Lebanon.
'Then we will face another issue,' the Hizbollah leader continued. 'This is the issue of Palestine. On a political and intellectual level, we believe that Israel is an occupier country and that the land of Palestine is occupied land . . . You will not find in all the Arab world or in the Islamic world anyone who will say anything contrary to this - even Sadat, even Arafat who has just signed the agreement. There is resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
'But we believe this is the responsibility of the Palestinian people. When Israel occupied Lebanon, we did not ask anyone to come and fight on our behalf. And nobody can fight for an end to the occupation of Palestinian land other than the Palestinian people who resist inside Palestine . . . this nobody can do other than the Palestinians themselves.'
Sayed Nasrullah added that it was 'the right of all Palestinians and Arab people and Islamic people to support the Palestinians' and 'stand by them in their just cause'. But when I asked if it was none the less true that after a total Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon, the war there would end - and that it would be up to the Palestinians to fight their conflict, albeit with Hizbollah's moral support, he responded 'mazbout' - 'correct'.
Scathing in his criticism of the United Nations - 'any child will tell you the UN is under the control and influence of the US' - the Hizbollah leader refused to contemplate that Israel would be anything but an occupier state. 'We say the truth as it is - despite the opinions of the strong and the big,' he said. 'We have learned this from Islam: that you may not be able to change oppression by your own actions but you must still describe it as oppression. We may not be able to return Palestine to the Palestinians; but for a thousand years we can say: 'This is not the land of Israel.'