Sunday, May 3, 2009

Ghajar to be Returned to Lebanon, Sort of, Maybe

I had never heard of Ghajar before this week and most of what I now know about it comes from the wikipedia link in this sentence.

In a nutshell, Ghajar is a village that was annexed by Israel in 1981 and that lies partly in the Golan Heights and partly in Lebanon. When Israel withdrew from Lebanon, however, it did not withdraw from the Lebanese side of this village. Today, residents of Ghajar are Israeli citizens.

The reason this small town has made any news is that Israel has now declared its intent to withdraw from the Lebanese side of the town. Apparently, after being asked by the US government, Israel will withdraw from the down as a good will gesture to the incumbent, moderate Lebanese government in advance of Lebanon's upcoming elections.

Ghajar, to the best of my understanding is not one of the seven villages listed in Hizbollah's grievances and official reasons for fighting Israel. Perhaps this is why Israel is withdrawing from this town, the "liberation" of which Hizbollah is not seeking, and instead choosing this less contested area as a support for the current Lebanese government. Indeed, this is a factor in deciding how to conduct the Israeli withdrawal, to ensure that the optics do not seem to indicate a Hizbollah victory.

From an Israeli point of view, the withdrawal may be complicated and or delayed by the fact that there are Israeli citizens living in the portion of the village to be evacuated and they may petition Israeli courts to stop the withdrawal. The way Israel handles this may be a test case for how the pre-1967 residents of the Golan Heights who accepted Israeli citizenship would fare should Israel ever withdraw from those mountains.

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