Perspectives - October 2, 2020

Netanyahu Warns of Hezbollah Arms Depot in Beirut, Group Denies

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday accused the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah of maintaining a “secret arms depot” in a residential neighborhood of Beirut, warning it could cause another tragic explosion in the Lebanese capital.

Hezbollah denied the allegations and invited international and local media to immediately visit the site, where they found a small factory housing heavy machinery but no weapons.

In an address to the U.N. General Assembly, Netanyahu pointed to maps purportedly showing the missile depot’s location next to a gas company and residential housing, not far from Beirut’s international airport. He also revealed what he said was a picture of the entrance to the depot.

“I say to the people of Jnah...You’ve got to protest this. Because if this thing explodes, it’s another tragedy,” Netanyahu said. “Iran and Hezbollah have deliberately put you and your families in grave danger...You should tell them, tear these depots down,” he added.

The Israel Defense Forces identified two additional alleged Hezbollah missile sites in Beirut Tuesday night, in addition to a third that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed during an address to the United Nations earlier in the evening. According to the military, all three sites are tied to the terror group’s precision-guided missile project, an effort to convert its massive arsenal of simple rockets into highly accurate missiles, which present a far greater challenge to Israel’s air defenses and would potentially be a game-changer in the conflict with the Iran-backed militia.

Israel, Lebanon to Engage in Maritime Border Negotiations

Lebanon and Israel are to hold talks to end a long-running maritime border dispute between the two countries, which remain formally at war. The speaker of the Lebanese parliament said a “framework” had been agreed to for the negotiations, which will take place under the auspices of the United Nations. Israel’s energy minister said the talks would begin after mid-October. The United States welcomed what it called a “historic agreement” following almost three years of mediation.

“This offers the potential for greater stability, security, and prosperity for citizens in both nations,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted. Lebanon and Israel have declared overlapping boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and a resolution of the dispute would allow them to exploit offshore natural gas fields.

Prime Minister-Designate Mustapha Adib Resigns

Mustapha Adib, a little-known diplomat, tasked with forming a new emergency Lebanese government, resigned Saturday after less than a month. Adib was named on August 31 to replace Hassan Diab, whose government resigned in the aftermath of the deadly blast at Beirut’s port on August 4. Until then, he had been Lebanon’s ambassador to Germany since 2013.

Relatedly, binding parliamentary consultations to name a new premier following Adib’s will not be imminent. Sources said the call for consultations to designate a new prime minister would likely be made in the second half of the coming week, but no date has yet been scheduled for the consultations between the president and the parliamentary blocs to occur.

MP Ali Hassan Khalil of the AMAL Movement’s Development and Liberation parliamentary bloc said currently there were no talks about a new government in Lebanon, after the resignation of Prime Minister-designate Mustafa Adib over a Cabinet impasse. The MP added that President Michel Aoun and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri could hold discussions on the matter.

Lebanon Hits Back at Israel, Defends Hezbollah at U.N. Human Rights Council

Lebanon’s permanent mission to the U.N. in Geneva on Monday responded to remarks voiced by Israel’s envoy at a session for the U.N. Human Rights Council. The mission described Israel as “an occupation force armed with the fiercest weapons and in possession of a nuclear arsenal with which it threatens its neighbors.”

The mission added that Israel “has a history rife with severe human rights violations and with committing international crimes, in Lebanon and in other Arab territories that it occupied. The international community should one day carry out its duty in prosecuting the perpetrators…Lebanon stresses its right to resistance to liberate its land and defend its sovereignty, which is represented in the constitutional institutions that reflect the will of the Lebanese people, of which the Lebanese Hezbollah, one of the resistance movements, is an inseparable part.”

Lebanon Asks Interpol to Arrest Two Russian Nationals After Beirut Port Blast

Lebanon has asked Interpol to detain two Russian nationals after the deadly explosion at the Beirut port on August 4. The individuals are the captain and owner of the ship that carried the ammonium nitrate to Beirut seven years ago.

U.S. Senator Requests Exempting Lebanon from Caesar Act

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen reportedly presented a request calling on the Trump administration to grant Lebanon an exemption from the Caesar Act’s repercussions, Lebanese-American lawyer Cyline Atallah said in a statement on Tuesday. The request was signed by Shaheen, and Senators Chris Murphy and Tim Kaine.

The statement asked the U.S. State Department to exempt imports of electricity from Syria, stressing that in order to alleviate the energy crisis in the country, rebuilding the power network is a top priority that requires regional cooperation. It also urged the U.S. State Department to provide urgent American assistance on this issue.

Lebanese ambassador to Washington, Gabriel Issa, had earlier proposed the idea of exemptions, and submitted an official request to that effect to the Trump administration. Issa reportedly sought to advocate for the request in cooperation with Atallah.