Photo: Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP/Getty Images

A senior State Department official has rejected Israeli criticism regarding U.S. assistance to the Lebanese armed forces, as well as the Israeli demand to condition the aid on the Lebanese government acting against Hezbollah’s precision missile factories.

Why it matters: The U.S. gives the Lebanese army around $105 million a year and supports it with training and equipment. Israel is concerned that the Lebanese army is infiltrated by Hezbollah and that any U.S. assistance to the Lebanese army will end up in the terror organization’s hands.

The big picture: David Schenker, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs, said in a briefing with reporters in Jerusalem that the Trump administration thinks giving aid to the Lebanese army is “a good investment."

  • Schenker added: “We have confidence in the Lebanese army and we think they are important partners in the fight against Sunni jihadists. We listen to our ally Israel and we will take their request under consideration."

Between the lines: The State Department officials added that contrary to press reports, the funding to the Lebanese army was not withheld but is going through a process of review.

  • Schenker said there was no funding that was supposed to be transferred and wasn’t transferred, and that there was no military hardware that was supposed to be given to the Lebanese army and wasn’t given.

The bottom line: Schenker also said the U.S. is still ready to mediate between Israel and Lebanon on a deal that will demarcate their maritime border and will allow more exploration of natural gas in the Mediterranean, but the Lebanese government is still unwilling to do it.

  • He stressed that the Lebanese can get billions of dollars in natural gas revenues that will help them in their financial crisis if they settle the dispute with Israel on the maritime border, “but for some reason, they don’t want to sign the deal."

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