Macron briefs Netanyahu, Arab leaders on Lebanese crisis

Hariri’s resignation, which still is not formalized, threw Lebanon into political crisis and put it center-stage in the Middle East's overarching rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comments on the resignation of Said Hariri (REUTERS)
French President Emmanuel Macron briefed Israel on the crisis in Lebanon as Saudi Arabia and other Arab foreign ministers held an emergency meeting in Cairo on Sunday to discuss confronting Iran and its Lebanese Shi’ite ally Hezbollah.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit told ministers that Arab nations would raise the matter with international organizations, including the UN Security Council, but the assembly gave no details on what measures it would take.
“Iranian threats have gone beyond all limits and pushed the region into a dangerous abyss,” Gheit said.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is due in Egypt on Monday, after meeting with Macron on Saturday, and will return to Lebanon on Wednesday. He left earlier this month, when he announced that he was resigning because he feared an assassination plot and warned against Iran gaining control of his country.
Hariri’s resignation, which has not yet been formalized, threw Lebanon into political crisis and put it center-stage in the Middle East’s overarching rivalry between Sunni Saudi Arabia and its allies and a bloc led by Shi’ite Iran.
“What Iran is doing against some Arab countries calls for taking more than one measure to stop these violations, interferences and threats, which are carried out through many various means,” Hossam Zaki, Arab League Assistant Secretary, told Asharq al Awsat newspaper in an interview. “Stopping them requires a joint Arab policy.”
He said the meeting would send a “strong message” for Iran to step back from its current policies.
After meeting Hariri, Macron spoke with US President Donald Trump and regional leaders such as Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and UN Secretary- General Antonio Guterres.
On Sunday, the French president reached out to Netanyahu.
“The conversation lasted about half an hour and was scheduled at the request of the French president,” Netanyahu said.
The two leaders agreed to meet in Paris next month for what would be their second meeting since Macron took office in May.
Israel is unofficially part of a growing Arab alliance against Iran but is seeking to formalize that connection.
It has used the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Anwar Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem to start to forge a peace deal with Israel, to call on the Arab countries to follow in the former Egyptian leader’s footsteps.
“Today, we mark 40 years to the historic visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in Jerusalem and Israel. President Sadat took a bold step, he came to the Knesset; he came to Israel.
He was welcomed by the entire nation,” Netanyahu said at the start of his weekly government meeting on Sunday.
“Since then, the peace treaty with Egypt has survived despite its ups and down,” he said. “Today, Egypt and Israel, as well as other countries, are on one side of the barricade in a stubborn struggle against the terrorism of radical Islam in its various fronts.”
“This contributes significantly to the security of Israel.
And I hope that in the future it will also contribute to the expansion of the circle of peace,” Netanyahu said.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman took to Facebook to invite moderate Arab leaders to come to Jerusalem and forge a coalition against Iran.
Separately, Netanyahu is seeking European support to create a series of new understandings among the six world powers that would amend what he perceives as flaws in the 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear capacity.
He also discussed this issue and Iran’s quest to strengthen its foothold near Israel’s border with Syria.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu and Macron discussed “the nuclear deal with Iran, Iran’s establishment attempts in Syria and its activities in the region.”
Reuters contributed to this report.