Saturday, November 28, 2009

Why so Secret about Ghajar?

Israel's plans for the town of Ghajar, Lebanon, remain obscure.

UNIFIL maintains that it has not received any official notification from Israel of any plans to withdraw from any part of the town. So, as far as the UN is concerned, things are status quo. Nonetheless, an obscure statement published in a Lebanese newspaper suggests that Israel has informed UNIFIL that they are ready to withdraw from Ghajar in a matter of hours. What makes this so obscure is that it's unclear if it means that Israel is about to withdraw, or that once the order if given to withdraw, it can be done quickly.

Meanwhile, on the domestic Israeli political front, the the Arab, Likud Member of the Knesset, Kara, continues to rail against the idea of any Israeli steps away from Ghajar. He warns against turning over any security along Israel's border to UNIFIL who he called "doll" soldiers--either to imply they were puppets being controlled or they were as effective as dolls, or both. As he rages, Lieberman the foreign minister, fumes and smolders that any news of any withdrawal from Ghajar has made the papers at all. The withdrawal, which many speculate Israel wants to make so as to reduce international criticism of/pressure on it was supposed to be kept very secret. Lieberman is so angry that any news of this story made it to the public that he now wants his staff and the cabinet to take polygraph tests to see where the leak is from.

This of course begs the question, why is this so secret? After all, this is not the first time a withdrawal from Ghajar has been discussed. On e reason to keep this quiet may have been that Lieberman, or someone else in the government (Kara, maybe?) is trying to scuttle the planed withdrawal and Lieberman would hate to raise expectations and then come off looking like the bad guy if the deal fails. Maybe Liberman is concerned about how such a withdrawal may look to his ultra nationalist base and he was hoping that any withdrawal could happen quietly, without too much media attention.

There are perhaps also security concerns. Maybe Israel wants to sneak agents into Lebanon through Ghajar before the opportunity is lost. Perhaps raising this in the media will place Lebanon on higher alert for such infiltrations. Perhaps Israel is concerned that Lebanon or Hezbollah will try to take advantage of an imminent withdrawal, trying to sneak their people into the town. Or, even worse, perhaps Hezbollah would use the opportunity of a withdrawal to attack Israel or Ghajar, to make the withdrawal appear as though it's happening under fire or to simply draw a connection between their actions and the recovery of Lebanese land.

Given the reaction to this story, it will be interesting to see if it ever even comes up in the media again, but if it does hopefully the next story will be that Israel has pulled out of Ghajar.

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