Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gestures as he speaks to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, not seen, during their talks in Moscow yesterday. While Olmert’s appeals to Russia to help block the Iranian nuclear threat were rebuffed, the French are threatening to fire at any Israeli planes that fly over Lebanon. Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz says they will keep flying. Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press.

Jerusalem – Israel Defense Minister Amir Peretz reported to an Israeli Knesset committee that there is a new threat to Israeli jets operating in Lebanese airspace.

Peretz said that the commanders of the French forces that deployed in southern Lebanon relayed a warning to Israel that the continued Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace might provoke French anti-aircraft fire at the Israeli planes.

Peretz reported that the French delivered this message at a meeting of the joint IDF-UNIFIL-Lebanese army committee.

“They said that IDF planes fly over them and that there was no certainty that they wouldn’t open fire on them,” revealed Peretz. He said that, even though he anticipates that the disagreement surrounding the Israeli flights in Lebanese airspace was likely to heat up in the near future, this was a critical issue for Israel and the flights would continue, including over the border crossings along the Syrian-Lebanese border, until U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 was fully implemented, including the release of the kidnapped soldiers.

Peretz noted that Syria had renewed the flow of weapons to Hezbollah and that Israel has begun to collect evidence to prove the Syrian activity on this matter.

“We intend to announce by means of the coordinating committee for Israel, the Lebanese army and UNIFIL, that if the transfer of weapons to

Hezbollah becomes systematic, we will have to take care of it ourselves,” said Defense Minister Peretz.

The mounting international pressure on Israel includes all surveillance flights over Lebanon, including that of unmanned aerial vehicles that are sent to collect intelligence.

Israel, however, rejected a proposal by the United States and another European country that they would provide intelligence from their own spy satellites in exchange for Israel agreeing to terminate its flights in Lebanese airspace.

The U.N. Secretary-General’s Office has criticized Israel a number of times recently for the continued Air Force flights over Lebanon, arguing that this was a violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, international law and Lebanese sovereignty. The United Nations has cited at least 15 incidents of Israeli aircraft in Lebanese airspace in the last month alone.

United Nations officials warned that the continued Israeli flights would pose a problem for UNIFIL troops, which are in place to enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, and specifically so for the naval task force that is deployed off the Lebanese coast.

Israel is opposed to ending its flights and has argued that they are not a violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701. Israel asserts that in the absence of effective supervision of the Syrian-Lebanese border, IAF flights to collect intelligence of arms smuggling are necessary. Israel rejected the offer that was made by the United States and a European country whose troops are deployed in Lebanon to accept satellite images instead. Senior Israeli political officials said that, until the embargo was enforced, Israel would continue to fly over Lebanon.

©The Bulletin 2006

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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