Israel’s UN ambassador: If Lebanon peacekeepers don’t change, shut them down

Erdan said unless UNIFIL changes significantly, “we will support its dissolution” next week.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN said Sunday that unless the United Nations gives its peacekeeping force in Lebanon more power, Israel will support a U.S. veto next week to extend its mandate.

“Unless there is a significant change in UNIFIL’s powers including the authority to enter private homes to ensure that rockets and missiles are not deployed there, Israel will support the American veto that will in effect dissolve the UNIFIL force,” Erdan told Israel Army Radio.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was established in 1978 after the IDF withdrawal from southern Lebanon where it had gone to counter terrorists who had been firing rockets at Israel.

UNIFIL was supposed to ensure that the government of Lebanon took control of the area, but a weak government in Beirut allowed the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group to move in.

Hezbollah terrorists have refused to allow the Lebanese armed forces to assert sovereignty in the area bordering Israel and Israeli leaders have for decades complained that UNIFIL has been powerless to carry out its mandate that includes keeping terrorists and their weapons out of south Lebanon.

The UN force’s mandate has to be renewed each year by August 31 and comes up for a vote in the Security Council next week.

On Friday, Erdan met U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and among the issues discussed was the U.S. voting against the renewal of the UNIFIL mandate unless the force was given the authority to do something about Hezbollah.

“The UNIFIL force of the UN allows Hezbollah in effect to control south Lebanon and turn it into a terror base for attacks on Israel,” Erdan said.

The Iranians have provided Hezbollah with over 150,000 rockets that the terrorists have installed in Lebanese towns and villages, often hiding them in civilian houses where UNIFIL says it has no mandate to inspect.

In one development that outraged Israeli officials, in late 2018 the IDF uncovered a series of Hezbollah military attack tunnels built from the Lebanese side of the border and ending in Israel. One of the tunnels was dug from a civilian building only a few meters from a UNIFIL position.

Erdan said the huge UNIFIL contingent of 11,000 soldiers was not just ineffective, it was allowing Hezbollah to operate freely.

“It’s not just that it’s doing nothing and is paralyzed, but right under its nose Hezbollah is digging tunnels, is placing rockets and missiles in homes in south Lebanon where UNIFIL is powerless and afraid to go in.”