Friday, March 5th | 22 Adar 5781

August 9, 2018 8:11 am

UNIFIL Has Another Opportunity to Do Its Job in Lebanon

avatar by Ron Prosor /


Hezbollah deputy leader Naim Qassem alongside leading Iranian regime adviser Ali Akbar Velayati at a conference in Beirut in 2016. Photo: Reuters/Aziz Taher. Good riddance. These words are the proper sendoff for Maj. Gen. Michael Beary, the commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), who recently completed his four-year term.

Beary had one job: to prevent Hezbollah from spreading south of the Litani River. He consistently refused to enforce this prohibition, insisting that the terrorists moving south of the river were actually shepherds and hunters. Even during his farewell interviews, he could not utter the word Hezbollah.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has lambasted Beary for shirking his duty, calling him a disgrace to the organization and “blind.” His conduct is also the reason why, for the past year, I led an international campaign to have him replaced. The United Nations has appointed Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col in his stead.

I hope that when the outgoing and incoming commanders sat down to discuss the transition, the word Hezbollah came up. But since there is no way to trust Beary to do this most basic task, I would like to suggest several ways in which UNIFIL’s new leader could effectively do his job.

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Maj. Gen. Del Col, I am not so naive as to think UNIFIL can single-handedly remove Hezbollah from southern Lebanon, and no one expects you to actively take on the organization. But here is what you can and should do:

First, enforce your mandate to “take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its [UNIFIL] forces and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind.”

Currently, UNIFIL troops are too scared to operate after sundown and refuse to enter Hezbollah-held areas.

Second, you must use the tools you have at your disposal. I am not sure if Beary told you about the drones your troops have in storage. They can monitor Hezbollah’s activities and relay the footage to control rooms around the world with almost zero risk for troops on the ground.

It is time you unbox these drones and start using them.

The third thing you have to do is report findings accurately. You are taking over an organization that is at a low point. Your predecessor has made it into a laughingstock and undermined its credibility and deterrence. It is hardly surprising that no one takes UNIFIL seriously in this region. Restoring credibility will also restore deterrence.

As a proud Italian, you are probably fond of drinking wine from Tuscany. Israel’s Tuscany, the Galilee, is being threatened by Hezbollah’s presence in southern Lebanon. You have the power to ensure that the Galilee continues to produce fine wine for many years to come. We are going to monitor UNIFIL, and if you carry out your job faithfully, you have my word that I will send you several bottles of wine from the Galilee.

Ron Prosor is head of the Abba Eban Chair of International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations.

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