UNIFIL rips IDF for lack of hot line

UN: Hot line would prevent accidental escalation; IDF: Issue not a "big deal."

unifil lebanon 298 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
unifil lebanon 298 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
UNIFIL officials have slammed the IDF for refusing to set up a hot line that could connect senior military commanders and, according to the peacekeeping force, allow them to quickly deal with misunderstandings and border incidents that could spark conflict. The decision to establish a hot line with the IDF was made following the Second Lebanon War and after Italian Maj.-Gen. Claudio Graziano assumed command of the peacekeeping force. The decision was made during one of the tripartite meetings that are held at least once a month at UN headquarters in Nakoura, Lebanon, by IDF, Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), and UNIFIL officers. Senior UNIFIL officers told The Jerusalem Post recently that they had established a hot line with the Lebanese army and that it was used often to quickly connect senior officers to calm situations that had the potential of escalating. The IDF, the UN officers claimed, had refused to set up the hot line since it did not want to be committed to talking with senior officers like Graziano in the middle of an incident, instead preferring to take its time in making real-time decisions. "We have a hot line with the LAF at the highest levels and at all times," UNIFIL's deputy commander, Indian Brig.-Gen. J.P. Nehra, said. "We do not have the same with the IDF." Senior Israeli defense officials said UNIFIL was turning an unimportant issue into a "big deal" that could have negative repercussions for Israel, which is already being blamed for not completely implementing Security Council Resolution 1701 by continuing overflights in Lebanon and by not withdrawing from the northern part of Ghajar, a village that has been cut in two by the UN-delimited Blue Line border between Israel and Lebanon, and has been used by Hizbullah to launch attacks. The officials said Graziano was recently given the private cellular phone number of OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot's senior assistant. In response, the IDF Spokesman's Office said in a statement that the IDF was in continuous contact with UNIFIL at all levels - from low-ranking liaison officers to high-ranking commanders. The Spokesman's Office also said the IDF had agreed in principle to set up the hot line with UNIFIL and was currently involved in the technical process of establishing the communication line.