Israel offered Lebanese army assistance four times last year - Gantz

Ex-IDF intel chief Amos Yadlin: Iran nuclear deal should lead to an Israeli-Arab defense deal.

 Army soldiers are deployed after gunfire erupted in Beirut, Lebanon October 14, 2021. (photo credit: AZIZ TAHER/REUTERS)
Army soldiers are deployed after gunfire erupted in Beirut, Lebanon October 14, 2021.
(photo credit: AZIZ TAHER/REUTERS)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz revealed on Wednesday that Israel has offered assistance to the Lebanese Army four times over the past year, including this past week.

“Unfortunately, Lebanon has changed to an island of instability, though Lebanon’s civilians are not our enemies,” he said, speaking at the virtual INSS conference sponsored by Tel Aviv University. “Therefore, I offered assistance to them four times over the last year, including over the last week, through UNIFIL. In a targeted manner, we want to support the Lebanese army that suffers from a lack of basic supplies, and which has lost 5,000 of its soldiers recently.”

Gantz said that this is problematic for Israel’s hopes that the Lebanese Army can stand as a counterweight to Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah.

The defense minister did not specify the reaction of the Lebanese Army to the assistance, or what kind of assistance was provided, subjects that could be highly sensitive.

During the Syrian civil war, Israel quietly assisted wounded Syrians near the border getting to Israeli hospitals in the North, and then providing safe passage back to Syria after they were healed.

DIRECTOR-GENERAL of the Institute for National Security Studies Amos Yadlin speaks at the Annual International Conference of the INSS, in Tel Aviv last year. (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)DIRECTOR-GENERAL of the Institute for National Security Studies Amos Yadlin speaks at the Annual International Conference of the INSS, in Tel Aviv last year. (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

Former IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin told the conference that if the world powers reach a new nuclear deal, Israel, the US and the moderate Arab states should reach a formal regional defense pact regarding mutual protection from the Islamic Republic.

“If there is a deal, it is not giving Iran a free check to do whatever they want,” Yadlin said. Rather, the US, Israel and its new moderate Arab allies “should have a defense agreement about how to protect ourselves from Iran. This was so obvious this week when Iran was firing” at both the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Dovetailing with Yadlin’s analysis, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East Dana Stroul said the recent talks between Iran and the UAE and Saudi Arabia “are not delivering,” since they are not leading to “less Iranian aggression, less rockets and less UAVs.”

Stroul also said that despite rumors to the contrary, “The Biden administration is willing to use force.”

She noted that the US has used force three times in the last year, “once very recently in self-defense strike” after an attack on American forces in Syria, “and two times last year both in self-defense... US forces have remained in the region, particularly in combat scenarios.”

More specifically, she mentioned Washington keeping “tens of thousands of forces” in various parts of the region.

The US defense official reaffirmed Biden’s “willingness to use force not only to protect ourselves,” but also to “protect US partners and allies in the region like Israel and some of the Arab states.”

Like US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides did at the conference the day before, Stroul gave some rare compliments to the Trump administration regarding the Abraham Accords, and that the Biden administration is as committed to the Abraham Accords as the Trump administration was.

The deal, she said, “had the potential to be the strategic game-changer for the region,” and that the Biden administration has been “pretty firm about this – strengthening existing agreements” and pursuing new deals.

On a different panel, former US vice presidential nominee and United Against a Nuclear Iran chairman Joe Liberman said that even if the Biden administration had disagreements with the Saudis about human rights issues, the countries’ common goals of resisting Iranian aggression were far more important.

Liberman criticized the Biden administration for not using sufficiently its sanctions leverage and its leverage as a superpower in facing down Iran to get a better nuclear deal.

Yadlin criticized both the Trump administration and the Biden administration for each lacking a “Plan B” if sanctions or diplomacy did not succeed in constraining Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.