Good news from Lebanon

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Yesterday Israel lifted its air blockade of Lebanon. Today, it lifted its naval blockade.

Israel turned over monitoring of Lebanon’s coast to Italian naval vessels, who “will continue to enforce the international embargo against the supply of armaments to Hezbollah,” Israeli government spokeswoman Miri Eisin said.

It also announced it would withdraw completely from Lebanon within two weeks. And Israel signaled it would be willing to leave ownership of the dispute Chebaa Farms area up to the UN, and cede it to Lebanon if the UN says so.

That territorial dispute is the main obstacle to a permanent peace agreement between Israel and Lebanon, so Olmert’s suggestion has fairly large implications.

On the downside, the last time the UN looked into the matter it said the Farms didn’t belong to Lebanon — a ruling Lebanon rejected (it doesn’t belong to Israel, either; the UN decision was based on the conclusion that it was originally part of Syria, same as the rest of the adjacent Golan Heights). Both sides would have to agree to abide by the UN’s decision for this to work.

More pragmatically, Israel might just cede the territory and be done with it. It’s militarily useful territory — the high ground looks down on Israel on one side and Syria/Lebanon on the other. But it’s uninhabited, and a few square kilometers are not worth more than a permanent peace.

All of this leaves one major item unresolved — the fate of the two Israeli soldiers whose capture sparked the recent fighting. Look for Israel to grudgingly agree to swap prisoners, like it did earlier with Hamas.

After that, we can get down to watching how the Lebanese Army, backed by UN peacekeepers, deal with Hezbollah.