The ground battle inLebanon is widening, but on the eve of a new United Nations Security Council decision on the Israeli- Hizbullah conflict, its days may be numbered. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is already dealing with “the day after,” the diplomatic arrangement that will install an international force north of the Blue Line to replace the Israeli army.
In interviews with the British newspaper The Times published Thursday, Olmert made clear what he expected of such a peacekeeping force.
“It has to be made up of armies, not of retirees, of real soldiers, not of pensioners who have come to spend leisurely months in south Lebanon, but, rather, an army with combat units that is prepared to implement the UN resolution,” he said.
“I think it has to have about 15,000 soldiers,” he added.
Olmert stressed that Israel would not accept another force in the tradition of UNIFIL, “which was very useless and very helpless.”
“Did you hear of any particular efforts of the United Nations UNIFIL force in the south of Lebanon to prevent the attacks against Israel in the first place?” he demanded.
The end of fighting in Lebanon was dependant on “the rapidity of deployment of the international forces into the south of Lebanon. Obviously, as I said, we will not pull out and we will not stop shooting until there is an international force that will effectively control the area,” Olmert said.
European, Arab troops
The prime minister noted that he would welcome an army made up of soldiers from European and Arab nations: “As far as I am concerned the French are welcome, the Germans are welcome, the Italians are welcome. Turkish forces are welcome. The Saudis, Egyptians.”
“Anyone that is determined to fulfill that mission, of stopping violence against innocent Israelis from Lebanon and disarming this murderous organization Hizbullah, which is the long arm of Iran,” he said.
Olmert added that he spoke with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair regarding the deployment of British forces, and told him he would welcome British forces, as, “I trust the integrity of the British government and the British soldiers.”