Israel lifted its air blockade of Lebanon long enough to allow Kofi Annan’s helicopter to fly from there to Tel Aviv where he met with families of the kidnapped soldiers and defense minister Peretz. But after hearing the statements he made Israel may’ve wished it hadn’t let him in:
Annan said this week the Lebanese saw the blockade as a “humiliation and infringement of their sovereignty”. But he also urged Beirut to exert control over its borders to stop arms smuggling.
“I will also discuss … with the prime minister the need to lift that blockade as soon as possible in order to allow Lebanon to go on with normal commercial activities and also rebuild its economy,” he said.
Israel provided a semi-response which at least puts it on record as signaling an indefinite time in the future when it would end the blockade:
Mr Peretz said told the secretary-general that Israeli troops would remain in southern Lebanon for “several weeks, no longer than that”, and would pull out once the UN’s expanded peace force was on the ground in “reasonable” numbers.”
But those Israelis must think Kofi’s a big kidder because this is what Haaretz reports on the subject:
However, a diplomatic source told Haaretz Tuesday that while Annan has publicly expressed reservations over the ongoing blockade, the UN quietly recognized that the blockade had to continue until UNIFIL forces completed their deployment along the Lebanon-Syrian border.
Interesting that Haaretz quotes a “diplomatic source” who in turn quotes an unnamed UN source leaving you unable to determine whether this statement is worth a wad of toilet paper in terms of credibility. I’d tend to question it myself as Israel doesn’t have a stellar record of truth-telling when it comes to this war.
The NY Times notes that Annan also charged Israel with numerous ceasefire violations:
A daily report from Unifil that Mr. Annan gave to Israel’s defense minister, Amir Peretz, Tuesday evening showed that Hezbollah had violated the cease-fire four times, while Israel had done so nearly 70 times. “Hezbollah is showing incredible discipline,” Mr. Annan said.
The BBC notes that it highly unusual for a UN secretary general to visit Israel:
Put simply, Israel currently needs the UN…
Mr Olmert’s only hope of regaining public support is a secure northern border – and that can only happen through the UN force, our correspondent says.
In fact, I can’t remember this happening in my lifetime going back to 1967, though my memory may be faulty. It’s quite astonishing to see, since the only thing that Israelis hate more than the UN is Palestinian terrorists–or so it has seemed to me when I lived there. The idea of an Israeli PM “needing” the UN so much that he welcomes the Secretary General there is something akin to Alice watching herself grow taller and smaller in Alice in Wonderland–it’s just that strange. And it illustrates how tenuous Olmert’s hold on political power is right now.