A congressman said Sunday he would ask the U.S. administration to freeze the $230 million aid package to Lebanon proposed by President Bush until the Lebanese government takes control of its borders with Syria and prevents arms smuggling to Hezbollah guerrillas.
Rep. Tom Lantos, the top Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, spoke after meeting with senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Lantos said he told Olmert the U.S. aid package to Lebanon was important, "but that this package should be withheld until the Lebanese government displays responsibility."
"A porous Syrian-Lebanon border will only invite the repetition of Hezbollah attacks in the future. Hezbollah must not be allowed to rearm again," he said.
Israel fought a 34-day war against Hezbollah after the guerrillas crossed the border July 12 and attacked an Israeli patrol, killing three soldiers and capturing two others. A U.N.-brokered cease-fire that took effect Aug. 14 stipulated the deployment of 15,000 Lebanese troops along the border with Israel, backed by a 15,000-strong U.N. force.
However, the cease-fire resolution only called on the Lebanese government to secure the border with Syria, saying the U.N. force could help, but only if asked by Lebanon.
Israel's Defense Minister Amir Peretz told the Cabinet on Sunday that Israel expects the international community to control Lebanon's border crossings.
Lantos said he aimed to put a temporary hold on the aid package until the Syrian border was secured
Add Rep. Lantos to the list of people I respect for saying or doing the right thing despite party affiliation. Good for him. Perhaps he's one of the few Dems who are looking out for the common American and calling things as they are. Perhaps it's an election year ploy to cater to the Middle, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I hope he backs up these words with actions.
If he does, it would be interesting to see how his party responds to him. Will they kick him off to the side right next to Joe Liebermann? My guess is yes. If so, I'm sure they can find room for him in the mainstream.