Netanyahu Accuses UN Peacekeepers of Failure to Report Arms Smuggling Into Lebanon

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Spanish UN peacekeepers patrol the Lebanese-Israeli border, Lebanon, January 29, 2015.Credit: AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized UN peacekeepers stationed in Lebanon and accused them of failing to report the smuggling of weapons into the country's south.

Netanyahu made the comments in a conversation with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday.

The prime minister thanked the UN chief for his condolences over the deaths of the two Israeli soldiers, Capt. Yochai Kalangel and Sgt. Dor Chaim Nini, in an attack by Hezbollah on the Israel-Lebanon border Wednesday.

Netanyahu expressed regret over the death of a Spanish UNIFIL soldier, Cpl. Francisco Javier Soria Toledo, who was killed in an exchange of fire between Israel and Hezbollah following the border attack. The prime minister noted that he and his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy decided on the implementation of a joint investigation of the incident.

Netanyahu also told Ban that Iran was behind the attack, adding that the international community has failed to lay the blame at the door of the Islamic Republic. He said Iran was also guilty of attempting to set up terrorist infrastructure against Israel in the Golan Heights and of sponsoring global terrorism.

During the conversation, Netanyahu criticized the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, saying it fails to live up to its commitments as stated in UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War. Netanyahu said the force fails to report the smuggling of weapons into south Lebanon.

Netanyahu also mentioned the Palestinian bid to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague and warned that it could destabilize the region.

The conversation between Netanyahu and Rajoy was the peak of Israel's conciliatory efforts vis-à-vis Madrid since the death of the Spanish soldier. The Spanish foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, announced on Wednesday that Spain is demanding the UN hold a quick and thorough probe of the incident, and laid the responsibility for the soldier's death upon Israel.

Jerusalem wishes to avoid a diplomatic crisis with Spain. This is because of the central role Spanish soldiers have in UNIFIL and because Spain has last month assumed the position of a temporary member of the UN Security Council, and will vote on many Israel-related issues in the coming two years.

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