Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres praised the recently-passed U.N. resolution that
is aimed at putting an end to fighting in Lebanon
between Israel and Hezbollah. In Washington Wednesday, he also told reporters that
during the recent fighting, Israel let some Arab countries fly over Israel
to bring humanitarian relief to Lebanon.
Deputy Prime Minister Peres said Israel was
prepared to reject the U.N. resolution, but finally changed its mind
following last minute U.S. efforts to include what he called
"For the first time, the Security Council, including Arabs, condemned
Hezbollah as the aggressors. It never happened before," he said.
He spoke at a news conference organized by U.S. Jewish federations,
which have launched a campaign to raise money for humanitarian relief for
Israel. Early Israeli estimates place damage at more than $2 billion. More
than 150 Israelis were killed.
Reconstruction costs for Lebanon are also expected to be significant.
Fighting there killed more than 1,100 people and destroyed more than
When asked whether Israel plans to offer some of the money raised to
help with humanitarian efforts in Lebanon, Peres said there are other ways
Israel has already helped Lebanon.
"Even during the war, some Arab countries wanted to send civilian aid
to Lebanon, and we agreed that they will over-fly Israel," he added. "We
let them over-fly Israel during the war."
But when asked for specifics, he said he could not identify the Arab
countries or say how many were involved because, in his words, he does not
want to "embarrass" them. He added that Israel was careful to ensure that
these flights were not used to provide arms to Hezbollah.
Peres also told reporters his government's position is that Hezbollah
should unconditionally release the two Israeli soldiers who have been
"To the best of our information, they [the two soldiers] are alive and
healthy," he noted. "Secondly, in the preamble of the United Nations
resolution, there is a clear call to release them without conditions and
without trading. And we expect that this will be implemented."
Peres added that, Israel has also learned that Hezbollah has acquired
more advanced equipment, including sophisticated missiles from China and
Separately, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told a
meeting of American Jewish organizations in New York that Israel's war
with Hezbollah is not over until the U.N. resolution to end the conflict
is fully implemented.
Meanwhile, the French government says it is ready to take over command
of an enlarged U.N. peacekeeping
force in Lebanon, at least until February.