BEIRUT: Israel warned Lebanon’s new Cabinet Wednesday to respect its international legal and border agreements, including the cessation of hostilities between the two one-time belligerents.
A statement released by Israel’s Foreign Ministry also appeared to indicate that it was prepared to negotiate with Lebanon, should the latest government in Beirut recognize Israel’s right to exist.
“Israel hopes that the new Lebanese government will contribute to reinforcing regional stability and respect for the law along its border,” the ministry said. “Israel expects the Lebanese government to apply U.N. Security Council resolutions, in particular Resolution 1701, and it calls for the resolution of all outstanding issues through negotiations and with mutual respect.”
Resolution 1701, drafted in the wake of the devastating 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel – a conflict that killed more than 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis – stipulates that the Blue Line be respected.
Pre-existing U.N. resolutions demand the eradication of all non-state arms in Lebanon, an obligation Israel accuses Hezbollah of ignoring.
Israel routinely violates Lebanese airspace with near daily reconnaissance flights and mock air raids and has been accused by the Lebanese Army countless times of crossing the Blue Line into southern territory. The Blue Line is not the border between Lebanon and Israel. Rather, it is the U.N. delineated boundary of Israeli military withdrawal from south Lebanon.
U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon spokesperson Neeraj Singh said that both Lebanon and Israel had made a commitment to respect a cessation of hostilities, even before Resolution 1701.
“In 2000, when Israel withdrew from south Lebanon, both the parties agreed to respect the Blue Line,” he told The Daily Star. “UNIFIL’s mandate doesn’t touch upon a long-term solution [between Lebanon and Israel]. That’s something that has to be addressed through political means.”
Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Cabinet, formed after nearly five months of negotiation, contains 18 ministers from Hezbollah’s March 8 bloc. Announcing the conclusion of the talks Monday, Mikati said the new government would work on “defending Lebanon’s sovereignty and its independence and liberating land that remains under the occupation of the Israeli enemy.”
The new Cabinet has been endorsed by Iran, Hezbollah’s prime regional backer, and Syrian President Bashar Assad. A senior U.S. lawmaker has threatened to withdraw financial assistance to Lebanon, and France, which still wields influence over a country it used to have a mandate on, has urged Beirut to adhere to its international obligations, including cooperation with the U.N.-backed court probing the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor said his ministry’s statement did not constitute a call for immediate negotiations with Lebanon.
“The way to solve everything, one day, is through negotiations,” Palmor told the German Press-Agency DPA.
“We call on the Lebanese government to adopt the negotiating approach. If they agree to negotiate, then yes, of course we would. If the other side agrees to recognize Israel and to negotiate with Israel and to solve problems through negotiations, then yes, we will negotiate with them,” Palmor said.