Saturday, November 20, 2010

Israel to Retreat From Lebanon Border Village

In an effort to get the United Nations to declare it free of Lebanon border violations, Israel has agreed to withdraw Israeli forces from the northern part of a village that straddles the Israeli-Lebanese border. Israeli Security Cabinet officials voted on Wednesday to transfer the northern section of Ghajar, an Arab village, to UN control.
Ghajar came under Israeli rule in 1967 when its citizens decided to take on Israeli citizenship in addition to Syrian. The village later grew to extend beyond the border with Lebanon, leaving it partially on Lebanese territory after Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. Hezbollah then became active in the area, attempting to kidnap Israeli soldiers, launching rocket attacks and trying to infiltrate the village. At the conclusion of the Second Lebanon War in 2006, UN Resolution 1701 stipulated that Israel must withdraw from all Lebanese territory, including the northern part of Ghajar.
Village residents are reportedly against the move, saying the entry of UN forces will split the village in two. Some 400 people took part in a protest, vowing to prevent UN forces from entering the village. It is not that they want Israeli rule, however. This is part of an effort for the fate of the village to be linked with that of the Golan Heights. “We demand that the village remain whole and that the debate on it be part of a peace agreement with Syria stipulating the return of the Golan Heights,” said council spokesman Najib Khatib.
For its part, Lebanon is pleased with the Israeli retreat, clearly seeing it as a victory. “The Lebanese government will be able to show that an Israeli retreat can be brought about by diplomatic means, and not only through military confrontation,” a Foreign Ministry source told Haaretz.
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon will take over security for the northern part of the village, supposedly to prevent Hezbollah infiltration. The idea is for unifil to isolate the village from the rest of Lebanon by preventing civilian access to it, while the northern part of the town itself will not be the military responsibility of any party. While this may sound plausible in theory, unifil’s track record in southern Lebanon—where it has simply looked on while Hezbollah has rearmed and rebuilt to be stronger than ever—does not provide much assurance. In reality, this unilateral retreat by Israel is just one more concession by Israel that will weaken its security and only be met with more demands from its Arab enemies.