US, Israel Aim to Bolster UNIFIL Mandate in Lebanon
The United States and Israel are working in tandem to expand and enhance the authority of United Nations peacekeepers (UNIFIL) in southern Lebanon; this, ahead of a scheduled Security Council vote Thursday to extend the mission’s mandate. Both Washington and Jerusalem have been critical of UNIFIL, accusing the organization of turning a blind eye to Hizbullah’s military activities in the volatile region it is tasked with monitoring. The UN Security Council (UNSC) established UNIFIL in 1978 with a view to ensuring that Israeli troops stopped operating in southern Lebanon, where the Palestine Liberation Organization had set up shop and was orchestrating terrorist attacks against the Jewish state. Following a war in 1982 meant to uproot the PLO, Israeli soldiers remained in South Lebanon until 2000, when then-prime minister Ehud Barak ordered a full withdrawal. Thereafter, Hizbullah began militarizing the area along the shared border, eventually leading to another major conflict in 2006. That war was effectively ended by UNSC Resolution 1701, which demanded that Hizbullah fully disarm. Since then, however, the Iranian proxy has amassed some 150,000 rockets and missiles. UNIFIL is currently not authorized to conduct inspections without the prior approval of the Lebanese Armed Forces, which Israel claims has become subservient to Hizbullah. Both the US and Israel are pushing to devise a mechanism that would allow UNIFIL – which is comprised of some 10,500 peacekeepers and has an annual budget of nearly $500 million – to report on Hizbullah infractions in real-time.