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.

  • http://www.warning1938alert.ytmnd.com Jimmy the Dhimmi

    With everything discussed in this post, you could have titled it “Bad news from Lebanon.” We already know how the UN and the Lebanese army will deal with Hezbollah; the same way they have been for the past 6 years.

    Hezbollah can now freely re-arm, they will be able to use the Lebanese army and the UN for cover, they’ve got new territory they can use to stage terror attacks, and the Israeli soldiers are still at Allah’s mercy.

    Get ready for round 2.

  • http://www.yozef.com Joseph

    Jimmy the Bhiim, If you look closely and follow Lebanese affairs, you will immediately notice that the Lebanese Government is more enthusiastic than Israel in disarming Hezbollah. As the majority parliamentary has asked repeatedly for the disarmement of Hezbollah, but cannot do so, because Hezbollah is by far stronger than the Lebanese Military, and to some extent able to resist and be a huge nuissance to Israel.

    Round two, isn’t in Israeli favor. The old sayin ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try again’… well that reminds me of ‘the fool who presists in his folley will become wise’… after all the wars Israel has been into wars since its creation, remains unwise to move towards peace diplomatically. They finally got an obvious blow from Hezbollah that the world hinted that Israel can not achieve peace through war.

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/thegameiam David

    That territorial dispute is the main obstacle to a permanent peace agreement between Israel and Lebanon,

    no, the main obstacle is that Hezbollah members regularly attempt to kill Israeli civilians by launching rockets at small towns.

    Please, call a spade a spade here – failure to identify real problems makes them that much less likely to be solved.

  • http://midtopia.blogspot.com/ Sean Aqui

    To be clear, if I was going to pick up a rifle to support one side or the other, I’d support Israel.

    My point about a permanent peace treaty is separate from Hezbollah. Yes, Hezbollah’s weapons would have to be dealt with. But Lebanon has refused to even negotiate a treaty until the Chebaa Farms dispute is settled. All I’m saying is that a point of contention that has been unresolved for years may be on the verge of being resolved — removing one more obstacle to some sort of permanent settlement.

    Jimmy, Hezbollah may be able to re-arm. But if they resume attacks on Israel, Lebanon will be responsible — something that pointedly was NOT the case as long as Lebanon refused to assume control of its southern border region. That is a fundamental change in the chess board. I think Hezbollah will find its freedom to operate highly constrained compared to what it had before the fighting broke out.

    It’s worth a try. Worst case, we get what appears to be your preferred scenario: continued fighting. As far as the ceded territory, if things go bad Israel can simply retake it. It’s not like either Lebanon or Hezbollah could hold it for long in the face of a determined Israeli assault.