Tel Aviv: The United States pledged continued support for Lebanon's military on Wednesday, calling it a potential counterweight to Hezbollah, even as Israel said the two forces were indistinguishable and fair game in any future war.
Such a public difference of opinion between two close allies was remarkable enough, but especially so as it was sounded by senior officials at the same event - an Israeli security conference.
The Lebanese Armed Forces took no part in the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel, which killed around 1,200 people in Lebanon and 158 Israelis.
It has received more than $1.5 billion in US military assistance since then and, in the last seven years, training and support from US special forces too.
With Hezbollah having helped sway the Syrian civil war in President Bashar Al Assad's favour, Israel and the United States both worry that the militia could now broaden its clout in its Lebanese heartland.
They disagree on whether the Lebanese army would help or hinder Hezbollah's expansion.
"We will sustain our efforts to support legitimate state security institutions in Lebanon, such as the Lebanese Armed Forces, which is the only legitimate force in Lebanon," David Satterfield, acting assistant US secretary of state, told the conference organised by Tel Aviv University's INSS think-tank.
Satterfield, a former US ambassador to Lebanon, added that the Lebanese army "could well serve as a counter-weight to Hezbollah's desire to expand its own influence there, as well as Iran's reach in Lebanon".
But speaking three hours later on the same stage, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman reiterated his view that the Lebanese army was subordinate to the better-equipped Hezbollah.