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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Condi's revenge: Rice calls for UN action on Shaba; Olmert willing to concede

On Monday, I reported that the Israeli government had finally told US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice where she could stick her pressure not to build Jewish housing in Jerusalem and in those parts of Judea and Samaria that Israel anticipates retaining in any 'final settlement.' Later in the day on Monday, Rice took revenge on the Israeli government. Unfortunately, that is not to imply that it's the last we will hear of her.

Rice flew to Beirut on Monday afternoon (presumably with a quick stop in Amman so as not to offend her Lebanese hosts) and met with Lebanese government officials, including representatives of parties affiliated with Hezbullah, to show her support for the Doha Agreement, which gave Hezbullah much broader powers in Lebanon.

Parenthetically, there is a report here in Israel that Rice actually met with Hezbullah representatives. That report is based on a New York Times report that says nothing of the sort. Here's what the Times said:
Ms. Rice met with government leaders from both the government majority and the Hezbollah-led opposition, signaling her support for a compromise that appears to have stabilized the country — at least for the short term — even as it delivered another setback to American allies in the region.
Note that it says, "the Hezbullah-led opposition" and does not specify Hezbullah itself. Accounts from Lebanon specify the persons with whom she met, and none of them is actually Hezbullah. She met with current President Michel Suleiman.
She also met Premier Fouad Siniora, Speaker Nabih Berri and March 14 Forces leaders MP Saad Hariri, MP Walid Jumblatt, former President Amin Gemayel and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea at Hariri's residence in Beirut.
Berri is the leader of the Amal militia, which is allied with Hezbullah (this week), but is not Hezbullah itself.

That's not to say she didn't do significant damage to Israel's interests while she was in Lebanon.
After meeting Siniora, Rice called for UN action on the disputed Shebaa Farms, a district that remains occupied by Israel but which Hizbullah has pledged to liberate and the Lebanese claim to which the parliamentary majority backs.

"The United States believes that the time has come to deal with the Shebaa Farms issue ... in accordance with [UN Security Council Resolution] 1701," Rice said after discussing the issue with Siniora

She told reporters Washington intends to press UN chief Ban Ki-moon to "lend his good offices" to resolve the dispute over sovereignty over the area where the Lebanese, Syrian and Israel borders meet.

"The [UN] secretary general should intensify his efforts," Rice said.

Siniora's adviser, Mohammad Shattah, who attended the meeting, told The Daily Star on Monday that the US was pressing the United Nations to speed up its efforts to resolve the issue of the Shebaa Farms.

"We noticed that the Americans are encouraging the UN to work on a speedy solution for this issue," Shattah said.
For those who have forgotten, Shaba Farms is a small strip of land at the northern tip of the Golan Heights, which Israel liberated from Syria in the 1967 War. After Israel fled from Southern Lebanon in May 2000 under the orders of current Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Hezbullah claimed that Shaba Farms was Lebanese - and not "Israeli-occupied Syrian" - territory, and has used it as a pretext to continue attacking Israel ever since. But on June 16, 2000, the Secretary General of the United Nations certified to the Security Council that Israel had withdrawn to the 'Blue Line' (see map below and notice that Shaba Farms is outlined in green and not in blue) and had thus complied with the terms of Security Council Resolution 425 from 1978. By doing so, the United Nations was effectively certifying that Shaba Farms, which is outside the Blue Line, was classified in UN-speak as "Israeli-occupied Syrian territory."

In July 2007, the rules of the game were suddenly changed by the United Nations at the behest of Hezbullah and the Arab countries that wished it to have a continued pretext to attack Israel.
The United Nations has transmitted messages to Israel in recent weeks that the organization's mapping experts have determined that the controversial Shaba Farms on Mount Dov near the Lebanese border, now controlled by Israel, is Lebanese territory. The UN, which has communicated to Israel that the disposition of the Shaba Farms should be dealt with as soon as possible, has proposed to senior government officials that Israel withdraw from the area and that it be considered international territory to be controlled by UNIFIL.
So when Condoleezza Rice called yesterday for United Nations action on Shaba Farms, she was calling for control of the strategic high ground area to be turned over to UNIFIL - and because of UNIFIL's weakness she was in effect calling for it to be turned over to Hezbullah.

For those of you who were wondering where Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert came into this, here he comes. DEBKA is reporting that Olmert - desperate to remain in office at any cost - is willing to concede Shaba Farms to the kind auspices of the United Nations, ahead of any negotiations with Syria.
Ehud Olmert told US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice when they met in Jerusalem Sunday, June 15, that he was willing to evacuate Israeli troops and hand this strategic enclave on the Hermon slopes to United Nations custody as early as July. He has not brought the issue either before the full government or the security cabinet. Defense minister Ehud Barak and the IDF high command are against this step, just one more topic at sharp issue between Olmert and Barak.

Rice took the news to Beirut Monday at the end of her talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. She informed Lebanese president Michel Sleiman and prime minister-designate Fouad Siniora: “The United States hopes for an early settlement to the Shebaa Farms issue.”

Israel’s withdrawal from the Shebaa Farms would expose its vital military positions on the northwestern slopes of Hermon to the Syrian 10th and 14th Divisions, elements of which are deployed in Lebanon close to the three-way border junction. Israeli military sources warn that handing it to the UN, namely the South Lebanese peacekeeping force, will extend the force’s lackadaisical control over South Lebanon to this strategic sector as well, granting Hizballah freedom of action in a fresh arena.
DEBKA reports that this is also connected with another item that's been reported in the media here this week: Olmert has requested that Assad meet with him in Paris - apparently on July 13 or 14. But so far Assad is refusing to meet with Olmert. For that matter, he is not even willing to cut his ties with Hamas and Hezbullah. So while Olmert's commitment to the United States (and to France according to DEBKA) to abandon Shaba Farms is harmful and may come to pass, it will not gain him anything in return. Besides, even if Israel were to concede Shaba Farms, Hezbullah has more claims in its bag of tricks.


A couple of the factual points I made above have been confirmed.

Rice confirmed that the United States still considers Hezbullah a terrorist organization despite their de facto control of the Lebanese government. And Rice did not arrive in Lebanon directly from Israel. She arrived on a helicopter from Cyprus (okay, so I guessed Amman rather than Nicosia).


At 6:35 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

It looks like Ehud Olmert would do more than sell his mother to keep his job. He's selling pieces of Israel to stay in power. Let's pray its to no avail and that Clueless Condi doesn't get revenge on Israel for defying her on Jews building in Jerusalem.


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