The United Nations Security Council must address the build up of weapons in southern Lebanon in the hands of the terrorist group Hezbollah, Israel’s ambassador to the UN said on Saturday one day before the UN secretary general was set to arrive in Israel.
“I call on the Security Council to adopt a more robust UNFIL mandate that will address the serious security threats posed by Hezbollah,” said Danny Danon.
United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was established in 1978 in order to monitor activities in the south of Lebanon and hostilities between Lebanon, mainly Hezbollah, and Israel. On Friday, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley accused UNIFIL of “not doing its job effectively” and criticized its commander, Major Gen. Michael Beary for his lack of effectiveness.
“What I find totally baffling is the view of the UNIFIL commander Gen. Beary,” Haley said. “Gen. Beary says there are no Hezbollah weapons. He seems to be the only person in south Lebanon who is blind. That’s an embarrassing lack of understanding on what’s going on around him.”
Haley’s comments in the UN were met with side support from Israeli leaders.
“U.S. Ambassador Haley is correct. UNIFIL cannot continue to remain blind to the weapons buildup in southern Lebanon and they must put an end to Hezbollah’s Security Council violations to ensure calm in our region,” Danon said.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely echoed the sentiment on Sunday.
“We shall not allow this blindness to continue,” she told Israel Radio. She said this would be a “very central issue” in talks with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres over the coming days.
“He will meet the head of military intelligence and receive a briefing, and also meet the prime minister, and I am sure that he will not leave here with the feeling that the mandate given to the UN is being implemented on the ground,” Hotovely said.
United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric defended UNIFIL and Beary saying, “We have full confidence in his work.”
Member states are currently debating the future of UNIFIL at UN headquarters in New York as the mandate of its peacekeeping mission is up for renewal and a vote expected on Aug. 30. The mandate expires at the end of the month, and the United States would like to the 10,500-force to take a tougher stance on Hezbollah.
“Since 2006 there has been a massive flow of illegal weapons to Hezbollah, mostly smuggled in by Iran,” Haley alleged. “They openly threaten Israel. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that is very destabilizing to the region.”
Haley said she would underscore in the new mandate that UNIFIL would disarm illegal groups.
The topic is expected to come up in the next few days as Guterres arrives in Israel on Sunday night. He is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and even the U.S. President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the region Jason Greenblatt, among others.