After being out of the news for almost four months, the question of the tiny town of Ghajar on the Israeli-Lebanese border is again a subject of high level political discussion. In a vote to take place on November 25th, 2009, the Israeli cabinet is expected to vote on (and probably approve) of a plan to withdraw from the northern (Lebanese) portion of the divided town and essentially implement a plan established by UNIFIL about a year ago.
The UNIFIL plan would have Israel withdraw from the town, have UNIFIL forces take up positions around the town, with a small internal police force, while all residents (who are Arabs) would maintain their Israeli identity cards. No barrier would be built dividing the town as residents have been explicit that they do not want any such barrier.
So far, it seems that Israel has not informed the Lebanese or UNIFIL of their plans to withdraw, but that's likely because the Israeli cabinet has not yet voted on the question. When the vote does come, it may face some vocal opposition. A Likud, Druze MK Ayoub Kara has dramatically pledged that he would fight even until his "last drop of blood" to prevent an Israeli withdrawal from the town. This position is probably taken because of the fear expressed by some Ghajar residents about what could happen to them--as Israeli citizens--if Hezbollah developed a presence in the area. Some residents have indicated that they actually fear for their lives.
Nonetheless, Netanyahu seems to have made up his mind and his decision is the right one. There is little or no strategic reason to hold on to Ghajar and if this small, relatively insignificant town is causing such extra tension, than certainly returning it, in compliance with the UN resolutions that gave UNIFIL their mandate, is the right thing to do. This is an easy one to get right and hopefully the stupidity and bluster of the likes of Kara will not have any impact at all.
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