The Multi-National Force in Southern Lebanon – Asset or Liability?

, October 30, 2006

The stationing of a Multi-National Force (MNF) in Southern Lebanon constitutes a liability, and not an asset.  It has been demonstrated by a recent confrontation between Israel's air force and a German battleship off the coast of Lebanon, by the French threat to hit Israeli aircraft on intelligence missions over Lebanon, and by UNIFIL's refusal to disarm Hizballah.

 

The MNF would create a short-term false sense of stability, while weakening Israel's long-term national security. It is destined to fail, to undermine Israel's war on terrorism, to strain Israel's ties with member nations and to erode Israel's strategic and deterrence posture in the US and in the Mideast.

 

A PREDETERMINED FAILURE

 

In 1993, the US military evacuated Somalia following the lynching of US soldiers in the streets of Mogadishu. In 1984, the US and the French military retreated from Lebanon following the blowing up of the US embassy and Marines headquarters in Beirut, by Syria and PLO-assisted Moslem terrorists.  On the other hand, UNIFIL has refrained from any confrontation with Hizballah, hence sparing itself the wrath of terrorists. The MNF is expected to follow in the footsteps of UNIFIL, since its soldiers do not intend to sacrifice their lives on the altar of Lebanon's stability and Israel's security.

 

In1967, the UNEF aborted its presence in the Sinai Peninsula, as a result of Egyptian pressure, thus paving the road to the Six Day War.  UNDOF has been stationed in the Syrian side of the Golan Heights since 1974, and will stay there as long as it serves Syrian interests.  It will evaporate from the scene as soon as Syria changes its mind.  Contrary to the precedents of Sinai (where the MFO has been stationed since the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty), Kosovo and Bosnia, there is no agreement, on the role of the MNF, among the key parties to the conflict.  Iran, Syria and Hizballah tolerate MNF's presence as along as it facilitates the reconstruction of Hizballah's capabilities, the weakening of Israel and the undermining of US interests in the Mideast.  The inherent disagreement among the key parties is a prescription for failure, which would result in an unpredictably unilateral withdrawal by the MNF, suiting the timetable of terror organizations and regimes and adrenalizing their veins.

 

ASSET TO TERRORISTS, LIABILITY TO ISRAEL

 

UN Security Council Resolution 1701 has facilitated the continued flow of missiles, other weapon systems, ammunition and personnel to Hizballah through the Syria-Lebanon border and via the Mediterranean. The interpretation of 1701 is not in accordance with Israel's understanding; it is dominated by the UN and to by the nations comprising the MNF.  It is much closer to Hizballah's interpretation, and much farther from Israel's interpretation.  Therefore, the MNF does not consider the disarming of Hizballah and the enhancement of Israel's security to be among its duties.  On the other hand, the MNF focuses on the safeguarding of its own soldiers – hence no confrontation with Hizballah – and observing Lebanese sovereignty. Hence, the MNF is not equipped with military hardware and intelligence, required to combat terrorism.  It does not intend to arrest terrorists, to confiscate illegal weaponry or to seize missile launchers without the specific approval by the Lebanese authorities, which would not dare agitate Hizballah or Syria. Just as the presence of UNIFIL in Southern Lebanon advanced the fortification of Hizballah since the 2000 withdrawal by Israel, so has the presence of MNF and UNIFIL facilitated the reconstruction of Hizballah capabilities since the 2006 evacuation by Israel. The international military presence serves as a human shield for terrorists and a human obstacle for the IDF, which is reluctant to hot pursue terrorists through MNF lines and to bomb terrorists bases cushioned by thousands of MNF and UNIFIL personnel, which is stationed around them.

 

EROSION OF ISRAEL'S STRATEGIC POSTURE

 

Finger-pointing, tension and crises between Israel on one hand and the UN and countries comprising the MNF on the other hand will become a daily routine, especially if the MNF will be stationed also in Gaza and Judea & Samaria. Further deterioration would be caused by possible MNF casualties, which could be blamed on Israel.  Does Israel need headlines about French, German, British or US soldiers killed on Israel's borders?!  Does Israel wish to forfeit its classic image as a country, which seeks foreign military systems, but rejects the employment of foreign soldiers for its own defense?!  What a celebration would that be for Anti Semites, who have blossomed during displays of Jewish weakness and receded during displays of Jewish daring?!

 

Turkey and India do not request/allow international troops on their borders with Syria and Pakistan, in their battle against Kurdish and Islamic terrorism. They realize that the presence of such forces on their borders would constrain their sovereignty and their military maneuverability.  They understand that the willingness to pay a heavy price on the altar of sovereignty constitutes a prerequisite for sovereignty, and therefore they have earned strategic respect, while targeted for diplomatic criticism. On the other hand, Israel's reliance on counter-terrorism subcontractors, in order to combat Lebanese terrorism (MNF) and Palestinian terrorism (Palestinian Authority), has frustrated Israel's solid friends in Washington, who have also been disappointed by the results of the recent war in Lebanon.  They are concerned that the defiant Israel – of Entebbe and Ozirak – is gradually transformed from a producer of national security, which extends US military arm, into a consumer of national security, which needs the US helping hand.

 

Israel should reassess the presence of the MNF in Southern Lebanon and examine why did pre-1993 Israeli Prime Ministers consider the presence of international forces on Israel's borders a liability and not an asset.