Israel Blames U.S., France for Arming Lebanon

United States has given Lebanon approximately $400 million over the past year to purchase arms, despite Israel's objections.

Israel will launch a diplomatic campaign calling on the United States and France to stop their military assistance to Lebanon following Tuesday's exchange of fire on the northern border.

Clash on Israel-Lebanon border

"Countries are providing the Lebanese army with advanced weaponry for it to fight Hezbollah, and instead the Lebanese army is using the weapons to fire on IDF soldiers," a senior official in Jerusalem said on Tuesday.

The United States has given Lebanon approximately $400 million over the past year to purchase arms, despite Israel's objections. France has also sent a great deal of weaponry to Lebanon, including advanced anti-tank missiles.

Israel is expected to ask the U.S. Congress to limit its approval of financial aid to Lebanon for arms purchases.

The United States and France issued sharply worded messages to Jerusalem and Beirut yesterday, calling for immediate de-escalation. Top White House Middle East adviser Dan Shapiro phoned Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, asking him to inform Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the administration expects him to act with restraint. A similar message was sent to Lebanon's ambassador to Washington, Antoine Shadid.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner telephoned Defense Minister Ehud Barak, asking that Israel show restraint and "check the facts surrounding the events." Barak asked Kouchner to make it clear to Lebanon that any further baiting of Israel would lead to an even harsher response. Barak called the incident a "planned provocation."

The UN Security Council held a closed-door session on Tuesday after the event. The head of the UN peacekeeping forces, Alain Le Roy, presented the council with the results of UNIFIL's initial probe of the incident. Le Roy did not blame either side for the incident, nor did he accept Israel's claim that the Lebanese troops opened fire first.

The Security Council made do with issuing a short statement at the end of the meeting, calling on both sides to show restraint.

Senior officials in Israel were angry the Security Council had not found Lebanon responsible for the incident.

Earlier on Tuesday, Israel's UN envoy Gabriela Shalev wrote to the UN secretary general and the president of the Security Council, saying that Israel had coordinated its work near the border fence with UNIFIL and that the Lebanese army opened fire first, in a flagrant violation of Security Council Resolution 1701.

The deputy chief of Israel's delegation to the United Nations, Ambassador Daniel Carmon, told Haaretz that "the two attacks yesterday on an Israeli patrol were not decided on by a single soldier or local commander."