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Lebanon First!

Lebanon First!

Ma’ariv, Israel, April 18

Since his election, and before he even completed 100 days of grace in office, US President Joe Biden has made decisions concerning us and our region that have raised some serious questions. He increasingly seems like a politician who seeks to erase what his predecessor in office accomplished, and not as a statesman with an orderly political plan. For example, Biden decided to renew financial assistance to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the Palestinian refugee organization, as if he didn’t know about the organization’s troubled past and ongoing relations with terrorist groups in Gaza. After all, its very existence perpetuates a problem instead of solving it. The decision of the president of the United States begs the question: How does an organization like UNRWA, whose leader is suspected of corruption and whose existence perpetuates a problem instead of solving it, receive preferential treatment over far more pressing needs? Indeed, there are dangerous issues that could ignite the Middle East. Lebanon is in the process of economic, social, and political disintegration. Inside of it is a monster that is working to convert it into an Iranian statelet. If achieved, this disintegration will cause a severe crisis — not just locally but also regionally. And then the United States will be forced to intervene. So why not invest efforts now in rescuing Lebanon instead of rescuing an organization whose very right to exist is questionable? The only actor that can save Lebanon is the United States. Russia lacks this ability. The Egyptian foreign minister and the deputy secretary-general of the Arab League recently met with Lebanese figures to stop this alarming disintegration. The talks show that the Arab League, including Egypt, is seeking to prevent Iran from realizing, through Hizbullah, its plot in Lebanon. And the president of the United States gives priority to UNRWA. The United States must act quickly in Lebanon and it has the ability to do so. It could propose an economic emergency plan in exchange for halting Hizbullah’s precision weapons program. It could bring Lebanon to the table with Israel to demarcate the maritime border between the two nations, which would generate large revenues for the Lebanese treasury. It could strengthen those who oppose Iranian activity. The United States could threaten sanctions if Lebanon does not agree to all of these. France, the Arab League, most of the Gulf states, and most of the ethnic communities in Lebanon, with the exception of the Shiites, support the removal of Lebanon from regional conflicts and the rescue of nations from collapse. So why does President Biden prefer UNRWA instead of Lebanon first? –Itzhak Levanon, former Israeli Ambassador to Egypt (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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