Who Needs UNIFIL?
By Ze'ev Schiff
The talks at which the subject of the UNIFIL videotape first came
up were meant to be about something else. UN special envoy
Terje Larson called the meeting to protest the reconnaissance
missions of the Israeli Air Force over Lebanon. In the course of
conversation, Major General Gaby Ashkenazy, the head of the
Northern Command, asked why the UN Interim Force in Lebanon
allowed members of Hezbollah to enter the village of Rajar,
which is under Israeli control, and film there.After that, he
inquired about the tape made by UNIFIL troops following the
kidnapping of the three IDF soldiers last October. Participants in
the meeting, among them Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz, were
surprised. Not everyone knew that Israeli intelligence already
possessed information on the tape.
The refusal to hand the videotape over to Israel shows that as far
as the UN is concerned, the Hezbollah kidnapping, in which three
Israeli soldiers were captured and taken over the border, is a
legitimate military maneuver. Had it been a film of the Lebanese
army, or even Hezbollah training exercises on Lebanese soil,
one could accept the argument that the tape qualifies as
intelligence data. But we are talking about Hezbollah crossing a
border demarcated by the UN surveyors themselves.
If the operation is not legitimate, then the UN should be doing all it
can to help locate the abducted soldiers. To impose a black-out
on the Hezbollah attack is to legitimize the actions of a body that
the United States has defined as a terrorist organization. Why
shouldn't Israel suspect that the UN will sit with its arms folded
next time Israeli civilians or soldiers are seized under UNIFIL's
The UN's demand that Israel halt its reconnaissance flights is the
height of chutzpah. This act of defense is perceived as an
assault on a neighboring country, while those who abduct Israeli
soldiers on Israeli soil are shielded and their identities kept
secret. The UN and UNIFIL have lost whatever moral right they
had to make demands. If Hezbollah ceased its attacks, there
would be no need for reconnaissance in the first place.
The moment that Hezbollah, and not the Lebanese army,
assumed military responsibility for the strip of land along the
border, Israel was wrong to promise Lebanon, and certainly
Syria, that it would refrain from reconnaissance flights. Reality
has shown that concessions should not have been made in this
matter - not to the UN, and not to Lebanon and Syria, the backers
of Hezbollah aggression.
Since the IDF withdrawal from south Lebanon, UNIFIL's
impotence has been laid bare. It has done nothing to prevent
large crowds of Lebanese citizens from congregating at the
border and flinging stones at Israeli soldiers and farmers. It has
done nothing to prevent Hezbollah attacks. UNIFIL soldiers ride
around the border district in their half-tracks as if they were on
some kind of nature hike. Who are they protecting over there?
The time has come for UNIFIL to disband and send its soldiers
home. With the IDF, the SLA and the Israeli "security zone" gone,
UNIFIL's mandate to restore Lebanese sovereignty up to the
international border has ended. Today, every penny the UN
spends on UNIFIL is a waste. UNIFIL is now inventing excuses
for its existence that have nothing to do with its original mandate.
The same thing happened with the UN observers from the War
of Independence, who have kept themselves going until today.
The Lebanese army, which should be defending the citizens of
Lebanon and the country's southern flank, is shirking its duty