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Israeli Army Rejects Netanyahu’s Request to End 'Northern Shield' Operation

Israeli Army Rejects Netanyahu’s Request to End 'Northern Shield' Operation

Thursday, 27 December, 2018 - 08:15
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (AFP)
Tel Aviv – Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli Army rejected the request of Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benjamin Netanyahu to announce the end of the "Northern Shield" operation, launched on the 4th of this month, to uncover and destroy Hezbollah tunnels on the border between Lebanon and Israel.

Amid doubts that Netanyahu will exploit the operation for election purposes, the army said it could not announce the termination of the campaign because it was still looking for other tunnels to be "neutralized".

Informed political sources explained that the issue creates some tension between Netanyahu and his close associates with the army and the rest of the security services.

Touring the border with Lebanon, the Prime Minister said Tuesday that 'Northern Shield' operation to expose and neutralize terror tunnels along the Israel-Lebanon border is nearly complete.

The sources confirmed that one of the leaders accompanying Netanyahu in his tour "did not like" this visit, for fear that it would be used in the PM’s electoral campaign.

The army leadership does not favor the involvement of the army in the elections in such a way, and noted that Netanyahu is taking advantage of his position as security minister to establish himself as the "first man of security."

In the same context, Netanyahu finds himself in a tough position given that only a month ago he announced that elections should not be held early given the security conditions in Israel, and that they are in the midst of a major security operation to destroy Hezbollah tunnels.

When asked about the reasons behind changing his position and what happened this month, Netanyahu replied that the operation to uncover and destroy Hezbollah’s tunnels is “mostly behind us.”

The army replied that such an order was not correct in the framework of regular military activities, and it still needed to continue to search for tunnels and exhaust resources and the time needed to end the search for all tunnels.

This means the army wants the government to take responsibility in funding the campaign from the reserve budget, and aims to keep the operation away from the prime minister's electoral ambitions.

Netanyahu believes that continuing this process and the security tension it causes on the northern front does not benefit him in the elections, according to an army official.

However, the Israeli army is now trying to delay the termination announcement of the operation as much as possible, and promote it in the media as being of great importance.

Political officials who participated in the security deliberations on the issue noted that the search for tunnels was merely an engineering operation, and all intelligence services admit that Hezbollah contained the destruction of the tunnels and does not intend to act against Israel.

Meanwhile, several political officials close to Netanyahu accused the army of seeking to exaggerate the importance and complexity of the operation.

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