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Opinion

Israel Hayom

UNIFIL’s existence still remains in Israel’s interest

Many in Israel believe that the United Nations Interim ‎Force in Lebanon is like the three wise monkeys at ‎the Tosho-gu shrine in Nikko, Japan; it sees no ‎evil, hears no evil and speaks no evil.

Yoav Limor
Yoav Limor
Yoav Limor is a veteran Israeli journalist and columnist for Israel Hayom.

Many in Israel believe that the United Nations Interim ‎Force in Lebanon is like the three wise monkeys at ‎the Tosho-gu shrine in Nikko, Japan; it sees no ‎evil, hears no evil and speaks no evil. This, they ‎claim, is the only way to explain the selective ‎blindness the U.N. peacekeeping force exercises when ‎it comes to Hezbollah’s actions in southern Lebanon ‎since the end of the 2006 Second Lebanon War.‎

In the 12 years since then, the Shi’ite terrorist group ‎has turned the villages of southern Lebanon into ‎urban warfare compounds. Prior to the war, ‎Hezbollah operated mainly in open areas. After it, the Iranian-backed group focused on developing its ‎infrastructure in the area’s towns and villages, ‎knowing that in times of peace it would be ‎protected from U.N. personnel, and in times of war ‎it would be relatively protected by the inherent ‎complexities of fighting in such a densely populated ‎area.‎

Israel, which monitors these developments closely, ‎was furious. Israeli intelligence about the scope of ‎Hezbollah’s operations was given to UNIFIL, as was ‎intelligence on the group’s top operatives ‎orchestrating these activities. ‎

UNIFIL did little to counter these developments, ‎especially over the past few years, under the ‎command of former UNIFIL chief Maj. Gen. Michael ‎Beary.‎

Now, with Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col leading the ‎‎international peacekeeping force, Israel hopes ‎‎things will change. Del Col ‎is unlikely to provoke ‎an overt ‎confrontation with Hezbollah, but he is ‎likely to help Israel neutralize potential volatile ‎situations so as to maintain Israel’s principal ‎interest in the northern sector: peace and quiet.‎

This is why UNIFIL’s existence is, in fact, in ‎Israel’s best interest: While U.N. troops may hinder ‎the IDF’s operations in times of war, for the most ‎part, UNIFIL is an efficient venting mechanism and a ‎vital liaison to the Lebanese government and through ‎it, to the Lebanese army.‎

This is also why Israel is encouraging keeping the ‎United Nations Disengagement Observer Force on the ‎Golan Heights border with Syria.‎

Given the uncertainty on this front now ‎that Syrian President Bashar Assad has regained ‎control of the area, and especially given Iran’s ‎attempts to entrench itself militarily in southern ‎Syria, UNDOF troops’ presence can be a calming ‎factor that would allow for communications, albeit ‎indirect, with Damascus. ‎

It is highly doubtful that U.N. peacekeeping troops ‎can actually bring peace and it is equally doubtful ‎they would be able to prevent war in the event of a ‎wide-scale escalation in the northern sector, but ‎they can ‎certainly be an effective mechanism to ‎defuse tensions on both borders. ‎

Yoav Limor is a veteran Israeli journalist and columnist for Israel Hayom.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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