International mediators suggest Qatar shore up Lebanese army in bid to avoid Hezbollah war

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

International mediators working to find a diplomatic solution to head off a war between Israel and Hezbollah are considering bringing Qatar in as a lead financial backer for funding the Lebanese Armed Forces and the reconstruction of southern Lebanon, The Times of Israel has learned.

Qatar has already been providing tens of millions of dollars annually for fuel and salaries to the Lebanese army in recent years.

However, Qatari funding is likely to arouse ire in Israel. Millions of dollars from Qatar were sent every month — with Israeli consent — to prop up Hamas’s government in Gaza in the years leading up to the October 7 attacks.

Over the past month, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani has spoken with US President Joe Biden by phone, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and French President Emmanuel Macron in person.

The mediating powers believe that any proposal cannot appear to be a US-Israel diktat, and therefore an Arab country is needed to play a central role. They understand that the Saudis and Emiratis are uninterested in backing such projects.

They also view the terms of a peace agreement between Israel and Hezbollah as fairly straightforward; the challenge is how to create a process for getting indirect negotiations moving forward to reach that agreement.

Hezbollah continues to say it will not stop its fire on Israel until the IDF campaign in Gaza ends. However, mediating countries believe that a temporary truce between Hamas and Israel will be enough for Hezbollah to halt its attacks. Israel, meanwhile, is adamant that there be no overt linkage between the Gaza and Lebanon fronts in any agreement.

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