US urges UN force in Lebanon to prevent Hezbollah weapons

American Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks after the Security Council voted on a new sanctions resolution that would increase economic pressure on North Korea to return to negotiations on its missile program, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017 at UN headquarters. (AP)
Updated 08 August 2017

US urges UN force in Lebanon to prevent Hezbollah weapons

UNITED NATIONS: US Ambassador Nikki Haley urged the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon on Monday to step up efforts to prevent the spread of illegal arms in the south, which she said “are almost entirely in the hands of Hezbollah terrorists.”
Haley made clear in a statement that the United States is seeking “significant improvements” to the UN force, known as UNIFIL, when the UN Security Council renews a mandate that is due to expire Aug. 31.
Her statement was in response to a letter to the Security Council from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres saying he intends to look at ways in which UNIFIL could “enhance its efforts.”
But the UN chief stressed that the Lebanese armed forces have primary responsibility for ensuring that “there are no unauthorized armed personnel, assets or weapons” in the southern area between the Litani River and the UN-drawn Blue Line separating Lebanon and Israel where UNIFIL operates.
“On its part, UNIFIL, in coordination with the Lebanese armed forces, remains determined to act with all means available within its mandate and capabilities on concrete information provided regarding the illegal presence of armed personnel, weapons or infrastructure inside its area of operations,” Guterres said.
Israel has long complained that Hezbollah militants operate freely in the south.
Haley said the United States, a strong ally of Israel, “will continue to raise the threat posed by Hezbollah as we seek significant improvements to UNIFIL when the Security Council renews its mandate this month.”
The secretary-general said that despite the “long period of relative calm and stability in southern Lebanon and along the Blue Line,” neither Israel nor Lebanon have fulfilled their obligations under the Security Council resolution that ended the Israeli-Hezbollah war in 2006.
“Israel must withdraw its forces from Lebanese territory and stop violations of Lebanese airspace,” Guterres said.
“The government of Lebanon must exercise effective authority over all Lebanese territory, prevent hostile actions from its territory, ensure the safety and security of the civilian population, in addition to United Nations personnel, and also ensure the disarmament of all armed groups,” he said.
Ensuring that there are no weapons or “authority” in the south except the Lebanese government and army is vital “in moving from the fragile cessation of hostilities to a permanent cease-fire,” Guterres said.
He urged all parties to use the current relative calm to take “positive steps” toward a permanent cease-fire and long-term solution to the conflict.


Israel parliament moves for third election as talks falter

Updated 11 December 2019

Israel parliament moves for third election as talks falter

  • On Wednesday morning the Israeli parliament passed 50-0 a preliminary reading of a bill immediately dissolving parliament and setting a new election for March 2
  • New elections would add to the political challenges facing Benjamin Netanyahu
JERUSALEM: Israel’s parliament began rushing through a bill on Wednesday to call a third general election within a year as talks between embattled premier Benjamin Netanyahu and his centrist rival broke down ahead of a midnight deadline.
A deal to avert a new election must be reached before 11:59 p.m. (2159 GMT), following a deadlocked vote in September.
But Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz, both of whom have repeatedly failed to build a governing majority in the Knesset, or parliament, have spent days trading blame for failing coalition talks.
On Wednesday morning the Israeli parliament passed 50-0 a preliminary reading of a bill immediately dissolving parliament and setting a new election for March 2.
It must face three more plenary readings and votes during the day before being passed.
New elections would add to the political challenges facing Netanyahu — Israel’s longest serving premier, now governing in a caretaker capacity — at a time when, weakened by corruption charges, he must fend off internal challengers in his right-wing Likud party.
Netanyahu and Gantz, a former armed forces chief who heads the centrist Blue and White party, had been discussing a potential unity government, but disagreed on who should lead it.
Last month, when Netanyahu was indicted on corruption charges, Gantz called on him to step down.
On Tuesday night Netanyahu called on Gantz to stop “spinning.”
“After 80 days, it’s time that for one day, for the citizens of Israel, we sit and have a serious discussion about forming a broad unity government. It’s not too late,” he said on social media.
Gantz said his party was making “efforts to find a way to form a government without us giving up the fundamental principles that brought us into politics.”
If confirmed, it would be the first time Israel’s weary electorate has been asked to go to the polls for a third time within 12 months.
The parties of Netanyahu and Gantz were nearly deadlocked in September’s election, following a similarly inconclusive poll in April.
Israel’s proportional system is reliant on coalition building, and both parties fell well short of the 61 seats needed to command a majority in the 120-seat Knesset.
Both were then given 28-day periods to try and forge a workable coalition but failed, forcing President Reuven Rivlin to turn to parliament with his deadline for Wednesday.
New elections are deeply unpopular with the Israeli public, which has expressed mounting anger and frustration with the entire political class.
Both parties had been trying to convince Avigdor Lieberman, a crucial kingmaker, to join their blocs.
But the former nightclub bouncer, whose secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party holds the balance of power, has refused.
Kann Radio reported Tuesday that Netanyahu had abandoned hopes of earning Lieberman’s endorsement.
Lieberman pointed out that Likud and Blue and White wouldn’t need his support if they could agree to work together.
“If during the next 24 hours a government is not formed it will be solely because the leaders of the two big parties — Likud and Blue and White — were not willing to set aside their egos,” he said on Facebook Tuesday.
“All the rest is lies and excuses.”
Netanyahu was indicted last month for bribery, breach of trust and fraud relating to three separate corruption cases.
He strongly denies the allegations and accuses the media, police and prosecution of a witch-hunt.
No date has yet been set for the beginning of the proceedings and, under Israeli law, Netanyahu can remain in office despite an indictment.
He also faces a potential challenge from within his own Likud party.
To boost his support, Netanyahu has pushed his plan to annex a strategic part of the occupied West Bank, as well as signing a defense treaty with the United States.
He is a close ally of US President Donald Trump, who has taken a number of controversial steps in support of Netanyahu’s agenda.
Blue and White, meanwhile, pledged Monday to run with only one leader in the next election — Gantz.
Previously Yair Lapid, second in command in the coalition, was meant to alternate the premiership, but on Monday Lapid said: “We’ll all get behind Benny Gantz, our candidate for prime minister.”
Despite Netanyahu’s indictment, polls suggest that a third round of elections could still be neck and neck — prompting some Israelis to speculate about yet another electoral stalemate.
A commentary writer for the Israel Hayom newspaper suggested that “a fourth election is even now visible on the horizon sometime in early September 2020.”