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Thursday, July 27, 2006

US 'counseling' Israel to negotiate on Har Dov

The Jerusalem Post is reporting that the United States is 'counseling' Israel to negotiate a withdrawal from Har Dov. The problem with this is that the US is counseling Israel to negotiate with Lebanon and the UN has said that the area belongs to Syria. Syria refuses to negotiate with Lebanon over it until Israel withdraws. And you can bet that the Syrians are also going to want to negotiate over the Golan Heights at the same time - something Israel will refuse to do.
The US is "counseling" Israel to negotiate a possible withdrawal from the Mount Dov (Shaba Farms) area with Lebanon as part of a long-term arrangement for Lebanon, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

This issue was one of the focuses of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's talks in Jerusalem Tuesday with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

However, this issue - as well as discussions about the mandate and composition of a possible multinational force in Lebanon - was shunted aside Wednesday because of the bitter fighting and the IDF losses at Bint Jbail.


Regarding the day after the fighting, however, one component to emerge from Rice's meetings here Tuesday was a feeling among the Americans that eventually getting to a "cessation of hostilities" will entail both Israel and Lebanon - Lebanon, not Hizbullah - being able to point to some kind of victory. In this formula, Israel's victory would clearly be a roundly defeated Hizbullah pushed back from the northern border. For the Lebanese, a victory could be an Israeli withdrawal from Mount Dov, and a massive international aid package.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora alluded to the issue during his comments at the press briefing at the end of the Rome Conference Wednesday, saying that the conference presented an opportunity to express "Lebanon's demands that for so many years part of our country is still occupied, which is represented by the Shaba Farms, which [is] still occupied [by] Israel."

The US is not pressing Israel on the issue, but is discussing with Jerusalem when the right time would be to put it on the table, the Post has learned. The concern in both Washington and Jerusalem is that a willingness to talk about this not be interpreted as a victory for Hizbullah. Nevertheless, the US is counseling Israel to consider when to raise the issue.

The area is a 100 square mile parcel of land located at the foot of Mount Hermon where the Syrian, Lebanese and Israeli borders meet. Israel took control of the area after the Six Day War in 1967, and since then has built up a number of military outposts on the strategic hills.

The UN has said that this area is part of Israeli-occupied Syria, and the Syrians have never been willing to relinquish the area to the Lebanese. Any deal on this matter would also have to involve Syrian acquiescence.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mark Regev, when asked whether Israel would be willing to discuss this matter with the Lebanese, said, "As far as I know, no one in the international community believes that Shaba farms is part of Lebanon."

The Syrians are dying to find a way to get themselves into the current dispute with Israel. But as of now, they have nothing to offer.

If the US insists on Israel negotiating over Shaba Farms, it will give the Syrians a way to gain something out of the current war. Israel cannot negotiate over Shaba Farms with Lebanon in isolation from Syria, and Syria will not negotiate with Israel unless it gives Syria the entire Golan Heights at the same time (which would be madness on Israel's part).

The question is, having just orchestrated Syria's expulsion from Lebanon a few months ago, why would the US now want to reward them by handing them a hook against both Israel and Lebanon? I suppose it could be that the US is pursuing the "divide Syria from Iran" strategy and hoping that it can pry Syria loose from Iran by giving it this opportunity. But if that's it, the strategy is doomed to fail. Syria and Iran have been becoming closer. Allowing Syria to hold the cards on Shaba Farms is unlikely to change that.

I've been looking for an excuse to do a longer post on Syria's disappearance from the playing field. Perhaps tomorrow....


At 3:36 AM, Blogger Neurodoc said...

I am deeply afraid that the cease fire will be forced on Israel the day Hizbollah runs out of missiles. Olmert's lack of realism (combined with Barak and Sharon's) led to this problem. Rice's lack of realism about how hard the fighting really is will further lead to Israel being punished within US policy. Israel has no choice but to fight hill by hill until the whole of Hizbollah is defeated even if that takes months

At 7:44 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


Olmert is too busy worrying about how he will give Judea and Samaria to the Pali's when this is over and about how to get out of this debacle without killing any 'innocent civilians' to actually get the job done.

If he actually did what needed to be done, his LLL wife and daughter would throw him out in the street.

Hopefully, the 'Israeli street' will throw him out and bring about new elections. The sooner the better.

At 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Always land for a peace that never comes. Enough. The USA stopped a warmongering nation many years ago for less.


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