The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Monday evening he is holding up previously authorized military aid to Lebanon following last week’s Lebanese army attack on the IDF in Israeli territory. Senior reservist officer Dov Harari was killed by a bullet fired by a Lebanese army soldier.
California Democrat Howard Berman said he is concerned that the $100 million in military aid for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) will be used by Hizbullah terrorist forces.
Earlier in the day, number 2 GOP Congressman Eric Cantor (pictured) said he would act to block the military assistance, and Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey, who chairs a key House subcommittee, said separately that she will delay implementation of the military aid.
Implying that the Lebanese army and Hizbullah terrorists are corroborating against Israel, Rep. Cantor said, “The days of ignoring the LAF's provocations against Israel and protection of Hizbullah in Southern Lebanon are over. Lebanon cannot have it both ways. If it wants to align itself with Hizbullah against the forces of democracy, stability and moderation, there will be consequences.”
Israel has warned that the lines between Hizbullah and the Lebanese army have been blurred as the terrorist organization’s political arm increases its political power in the pro-Syrian government in Beirut.
Earlier this week, visiting Democratic Rep. Ron Klein, who is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he will bring up the question of American aid to Lebanon, but he did not take a clear stand against the assistance pending a committee examination.
Rep. Cantor pointed out Monday that the United States has given Lebanon $720 in military aid since 2006 “to build up a Lebanese fighting force that would serve as a check on the growing power of the radical Islamist Hizbullah movement. For the past few years, the United States and the international community looked the other way as the lines between Hizbullah and the Lebanese military and government became blurred.”
Lebanese politicians reacted angrily Saturday to what they alleged was “a campaign to prevent the army from being properly equipped.”
U.S. Army General James Mattis, who will succeed General David Petraeus as the Head of the U.S. Central Command, was quoted by the Arabic language As-Safir newspaper as saying that the Lebanese Army was a “non-political institution.” He added, “I believe it will be fruitful to focus on building the capabilities of LAF to balance against the influence of Syria and Hizbullah.
A U.S. embassy statement in Lebanon two weeks ago stated, "This financing [military aid] will help the Lebanese army to continue its program of equipment and training over several years and allow it to preserve security and combat cross-border smuggling [and] prevent militias and other non-government organizations from resorting to violence to undermine the authority of the Lebanese government."
In response to tough questioning by reporters last week, U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said. “We have no indication that U.S. equipment played any role” in the Lebanese army attack on the Israel Defense Forces."
Retired Major-General Giora Eiland said after the attack, “Due to the fact that Hizbullah is the only significant military force north of border, I would not hesitate to think Hizbullah persuaded a Lebanese commander to do something,” TIME magazine reported.
After the clash, in which a second Israeli officer was seriously wounded and three Lebanese soldiers and a journalist were killed, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah praised the Lebanese army and warned that Hizbullah will not be passive. He said, “The army fought heroic confrontation with the Israeli enemy in southern Lebanon. This time we stood and watched ... but next we will not. Israel's aggression on Lebanon has never stopped. We will not stand idle ... we will cut any hand that attack our army."
In a wide-ranging interview with the Washington Post before last week’s battle, Defense Minister Barak warned “that the walls between the Lebanese armed forces and Hizbullah—it's quite porous. And whatever you give the Lebanese armed forces might end up in the hands of Hizbullah, be it technology or weapons or whatever.”
Referring to the Second Lebanon War in 2006, he added, “We didn't [attack Lebanon]. I think that they're responsible for what happens, and if it happens that Hizbullah will shoot into Tel Aviv, we will not run after each Hizbullah terrorist or launcher of some rocket in all Lebanon. We'll see the government of Lebanon responsible for what happens, and for what happens within its government, its body politic, and its arsenal of munitions. And we will see it as a legitimate to hit any target that belongs to the Lebanese state, not just to the Hizbullah.”