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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Israel to stay in Lebanon indefinitely?

The Jerusalem Post is reporting that as a result of UNIFIL's failure "to take its job seriously," Israel may stay in Lebanon indefinitely. That's the upshot of a meeting that took place today among IDF officers, representatives of the Lebanese army and the UNIFIL commander. The IDF had planned to pull the last several hundred troops that remain in Lebanon out by the end of this week.
A source in the Northern Command said that the meeting, which took place Tuesday at UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura - north of Rosh Hanikra - was a "failure" and that the IDF threatened to keep its soldiers inside Lebanon for as long as it took for UNIFIL to take its job seriously.

"We told UNIFIL that we plan to pull our troops out of Lebanon by Yom Kippur," a high-ranking officer said, referring to the Jewish festival this Sunday. "Although we haven't committed to a year."

The meeting exploded after the IDF demanded that UNIFIL adopt more combative rules of engagement. What particularly angered the IDF was an interview UNIFIL's commander Maj.-General Alain Pellegrini gave to The Jerusalem Post last week and in which he said the peacekeeping force would not actively engage Hizbullah guerrillas even if they were on their way or in the midst of an attack against Israel. [If they won't engage Hezbullah under those circumstances, what the heck is their job? CiJ]

"We demand more effective rules of engagement," the officer said. "If they don't adopt them, we are prepared to stay in Lebanon for as long as necessary."

In an official statement to the press Pellegrini said that the meeting was constructive. "It is my belief that with the necessary cooperation by both parties we should see the IDF leave South Lebanon by the end of this month," he said. [That's Saturday. I think he's dreaming. CiJ]
The following is a quote from Olmert's interview with the Post, which was published in this morning's print editions:
"I think it is a slow process, and sometimes some of the UNIFIL people - Pellegrini and others - because of all kinds of complex political considerations don't want to announce publicly that which might irritate some, but at the same time when you look at the ground and see what is going on you see the reality is that you don't see Hizbullah any place," Olmert said.
Olmert sounds positively Clintonesque.


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