Eligible veterans will receive a one-time sum of $161,700 • “This is historic justice for those who fought with us, shoulder to shoulder,” says Israeli defense minister.
The Israeli government announced on Sunday new measures to assist veterans of the South Lebanon Army, the predominantly Lebanese Christian force that fought alongside the Israel Defense Forces against Hezbollah in the 1990s.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a joint statement that Israel would provide housing assistance to some 400 SLA soldiers currently living in Israel. According to the Israel Defense Forces, which promoted the measure to the government, eligible SLA veterans will receive a one-time sum of 550,000 shekels ($161,700).
“This sum will be granted to each of the eligible veterans between 2022-2026, in accordance with the ranking to be determined by an inter-ministerial team,” the IDF said in a statement. “The grant constitutes a solution for the housing shortage of around 400 families that were not properly accommodated upon their arrival in Israel,” the statement continued.
The assistance will only be provided to those who served in the SLA in accordance with the provisions of the South Lebanon Army Law, or to the spouse of a deceased SLA veteran, provided that they reside in Israel, according to the IDF.
“This is historic justice for those who fought with us, shoulder to shoulder, and who were torn from their homes and homelands,” said Gantz.
“As someone who closed the gate during the [Israeli] withdrawal [from Lebanon] over 20 years ago, I feel major pride and privilege in being able to close this circle with those who fought alongside me and became an inseparable part of Israeli society.”
Lieberman said the decision showed Israel’s “ethical commitment” to SLA fighters.
In an unrelated development, JNS also reported that Israel’s foreign minister “lashed out” at the European Union foreign policy chief on Sunday following the latter’s visit to Tehran the day before, Politico reported on Sunday.
Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, had reached out to Lapid before heading to Iran on Saturday to try to restart the stalled nuclear talks between Tehran and western powers, according to the report. The E.U.’s top diplomat had wanted to consult with
Lapid on a number of points ahead of his meetings with the Iranians, according to Politico.
However, Lapid reiterated in his reply to Borrell that it was the visit itself that was problematic, especially given Iran’s recent attempts to kill Israeli civilians in Turkey. The Israeli foreign minister had previously told Borrell that visiting Iran now was “a strategic mistake that sends the wrong message” to Tehran, according to the report.
“Talking about ‘great potential’ in the Iranian context, while Iran is trying to murder Israeli citizens throughout the world and especially in Turkey, indicates a worrying lack of care for the lives of Israeli citizens,” said Lapid.
In Brussels, however, Lapid’s criticism of the visit was brushed off as part of an effort to “sabotage” the nuclear talks, according to Politico.
Borrell himself has previously dismissed Israel’s concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear programs, saying at the Munich Security Conference in 2019, “Iran wants to wipe out Israel; nothing new about that. You have to live with it,” according to Politico.