Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Shebaa Farms

Jeff Weintraub sent me another response:
But as I indicated, what this primarily requires is a "diplomatic solution" with Syria (as the relevant UN resolutions stipulate).  If Syria agrees to hand over the so-called Shebaa Farms area to Lebanon--which it has refused to do--then a diplomatic settlement of the issue with Israel becomes easy.
On my point about Hezbollah having "broad Lebanese political support" on this issue :
   I'm afraid this is true ... and to the extent that it is, the non-Hezbollah and anti-Hezbollah Lebanese who supported Hezbollah's fiction that Israel was still "occupying" part of Lebanon share some responsibility for what is now happening.  As I said in What Hezbollah is fighting for - A reality check ...

Hezbollah seized on the "Shebaa Farms" issue simply as a pretext for continuing armed confrontation with Israel. Unfortunately, ever since 2000 other Lebanese political tendencies, including groups that are strongly opposed to Hezbollah, have echoed this rhetoric and colluded in the pretense that Israel's occupation of Lebanese territory was not unambiguously over. It is easy to understand some of the political reasons that might lead them to do this, but it has been abundantly clear since 2000 that if they kept it up they were unwisely and irresponsibly playing with dynamite--which has just blown up in their faces.
I came across an article by Zvi Bar'el in Haaretz - The road to peace runs through Shaba Farms  (via Gregory Djerejian)

Jeff responded again:
Zvi Bar'el:
Energy Minister Mohammed Fneish, a Hezbollah representative, announced that once the IDF withdrew from the Shaba Farms area, Hezbollah's role as a "liberating" army would be over, and it would stick to a purely a defensive role.
   Right.  But other Hezbollah spokespeople (some of them considerably more senior than Fneish) have said the contrary on many occasions--i.e., even if Israel gave up the Shebaa Farms area, they would continue "resistance" (i.e., armed conflict) until Israel was destroyed.  So while this may mean something, it may not.  One can't simply take it at face value--though one should certainly pay attention to it.
This is a very significant statement, because it begins to define the conditions for Hezbollah's disarmament.
   Not really.  I see nothing in that statement about Hezbollah's disarmament.
At this stage, however, it is not enough for only Hezbollah and the Lebanese government to agree that the return of the Shaba Farms area would spell an end to the movement's "liberating" role. Syria is no less an important player in this regard. In keeping with maps approved by the UN, the Shaba Farms area lies in Syrian territory, so an official document in which Damascus relinquishes the area would be required too.
The next stage would have to be securing Israel's consent to withdraw from the Shaba Farms area, as this would then be a withdrawal from Lebanese territory; and only then could the Lebanese Army take up positions in the south, perhaps with the assistance of a multinational force if Hezbollah gives its okay.
So, at least part of Israeli opinion believes the area should be part of Lebanon. This seems to be in accord with what Jeff argues. Just going back to the politicians' "every last inch of Lebanon" (I heard it from Ehud Barak, I think), it's technically correct, but things are a bit more complicated than that (what's new?).  
    Yes, it is more complicated.  But what you quoted just bears out what I said before.  Israelis have no special interest in holding on to the Shebaa (or Shaba) farms area per se.  (According to Syria, the UN, and just about every other government in the world, this area is part of the Golan Heights, which will presumably go back to Syria in some future Syrian-Israeli peace accord anyway, if such a treaty is ever signed.)  The key to a solution is for Syria to acknowledge that this area is not Syrian territory (or for Syria and Lebanon to work out a diplomatic resolution of the issue--as stipulated in UN Security Council resolution 1680).

    Whatever the legal rights or wrongs of the matter (which, in themselves, are of quite secondary importance), it might well make sense for Israel to give up the Shebaa Farms area for reasons of realpolitik, if this came in the context of a reasonable diplomatic/political agreement--for which Syria probably holds the key.  No problem ... and in fact various Israelis have suggested this in the past (see, e.g., David Edelstein's recent post, "Plans").  In the context of a wider resolution of the current crisis (which would have to include major involvement by the so-called "international community"), a concession by Israel on the Shebaa Farms as part of the package would probably make excellent sense.  Among other things, if it were handled right, it could allow the Lebanese government to claim "success" on the issue and might make it politically possible for the government to sign on to an agreement that Hezbollah (and Iran & Syria) would strongly dislike. Let's hope that something like that actually occurs.

    But that in no way contradicts the simple and unequivocal fact that the use of this fabricated issue as a pretext for Hezbollah's continued "armed struggle" with Israel is completely bogus.  One shouldn't confuse these issues.

 =>  Having said all that, Fneish's statement might be significant as a sign that Hezbollah might be susceptible to pressure on this matter, and that it's trying to position itself for a face-saving adjustment of its position.  If so, possibly a good sign.  Or, possibly, it means nothing.  We'll see.

Jeff Weintraub


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