The Germans are hesitating, the Italians are arriving, and Israel is preparing to leave.
In developments regarding the multinational force being deployed in southern Lebanon, the first wave of Italian soldiers arrived in Lebanon over the weekend and voices from Germany say they would not want to point their weapons at Israel. Meanwhile Israel is preparing to withdraw from the area.
As part of the efforts to create an effective international force, Israel has counted on countries such a Germany to help provide the ground troops needed for the task. Germany, however, has been hesitant to take on the assignment. So far, the German government has only agreed to send naval forces and to provide intelligence and training, but not to place any troops on the ground. The reason: a heavy historical burden.
“Although Israel might have accepted that we are dealing with a different Germany, which has internalized the lessons of the Holocaust, the Germans are unwilling to put themselves in a position where German armed soldiers might have to face, or even shoot an Israeli soldier,” said Israeli Ambassador to Germany Shimon Stein.
Stein added that although the measure to participate in the force – even if minimally – passes the required vote, it is still extremely contentious. “For the Germans, this is the most delicate and controversial foreign policy move in recent memory,” Stein added.
Meanwhile, a first wave of Italian soldiers arrived in the Lebanese city of Tyre over the weekend, heavily equipped with weapons, boats, vehicles and armored personnel carriers. The Italian force will total 2,400 soldiers. With them a small contingent of French soldiers arrived as well.
As the troops were arriving in Lebanon, security sources in Israel said that judging by the progress of the international deployment in the area, the IDF can fully withdraw its forces from Lebanon within 10 days to two weeks. Officials in Jerusalem are generally pleased with the deployment and are hopeful to complete the withdrawal soon.