Why is the Israeli government pleased?
Because the U.N. put out a report that acknowledges that Syria has helped Hizbullah rearm, in violation of UNSCR 1701 and that Hizbullah is not only back to its pre-war strength but has exceeded it with a larger arsenal of rockets with longer ranges.
The U.N. is certainly even-handed because while they have permitted Syria and Hizbullah to violate the resolution flagrantly right under their noses, the organization admonishes Israel for continuing to fly over parts of Lebanon and for not providing more assistance with the cluster bombs. Israel has no choice but to continue the fly-overs since the U.N. is permitting Israel’s enemies to prepare for the next war. The cluster bomb issue is more complex but Israel should be trying to put this issue behind it by coming clean even if it means handing a victory to its enemies.
Where is Olmert in all of this? He continues to govern and create policy despite this fiasco of a war he managed and the lousy outcome – UNSCR 1701 – which he helped to father and which he declared a benefit and perhaps even outright victory for Israel. At the time I wrote that this was a serious error in judgement because having foreign troops serve as a buffer hinders Israel and its established military far more diplomatically, politically and even militarily than a guerrilla group that experiences few repercussions when they do not comply. This sets a bad precedent and will return to haunt Israel in the future when peace arrangements are being considered with the Palestinians and the Syrians.
As smart as Olmert may be about political survival, he is not the person I would trust to lead Israel into any upcoming talks with the Palestinians at a time when the US is applying pressure on Israel to “settle” the conflict. You need someone who can navigate the difficult straits of appeasing the American government (with the State Dept. taking the lead) while protecting Israeli interests and future security needs. What Olmert gave up for 1701 does not bode well for future negotiations and dealmaking.
The Israeli government should be concerned, not pleased.
Ha’aretz has a different take about why Israel is pleased than the Jerusalem Post. They believe Israel is pleased that the UN isn’t forcing them to relinquish control or enter into negotiations to relinquish control of the Shaba Farms area to the Lebanese or Syrians. Israel should not be pleased about this either. It does postpone the problem indefinitely, but there is no indication of who actually controls it because despite the U.N. cartographer’s best intentions, since Syria withheld important data, his conclusions may not be the last word. Part of the Ha’aretz article:
In his report to the Security Council, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon released the findings of cartographer Miklos Pinter, whose assignment had been to determine the borders of the disputed area.
“I am pleased to report that, based on the best available information, the senior cartographer has arrived at a provisional definition of the Shaba Farms area,” writes the Secretary General. He also points out that “this exercise has not been aimed to delineate international boundaries as regards to the Shaba Farms, but should assist Lebanon and Syria in their efforts to agree upon their common border.”
According to Pinter’s findings, the territory in question includes many IDF military positions, and serves as a strategic crossroads between the borders of Lebanon, Syria and Israel.
The area forms a trapezoid (see map) beginning on the international border, close to the village of Majidiye in southern Lebanon, and moving southeast toward an area known as Ma’ar Shaba. It then runs along the Siyon stream toward the northeast, until it meets the international border again, just north of the Barhata Farms.
Pinter’s findings are based on evidence he received from the government of Lebanon and on visits to the area on both sides of the border, the latest being on September 5, from the Israeli side of the border.
According to the calculations of Dr. Yigal Kipnis from Haifa University, the territory described in Pinter’s findings includes large portions of Mount Dov, and covers an area of approximately 25 square kilometers.
Israel is particularly pleased that the secretary general included in the report that the issue of the Shaba Farms “cannot be separated from the principles and elements required for the permanent cease-fire and long-term solution identified in resolution 1701 (2006).”
The Shaba Farms are in an area that was part of the French Mandate over Syria and Lebanon and which is now controlled by Israel, which annexed it as part of the Golan Heights. The area was never clearly marked since the British and French Mandates in the area.
Following the IDF withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, Lebanon has insisted that Shaba Farms constitute part of its sovereign territory. However, at the time the United Nations determined that the area was part of the Golan Heights, and that the matter would be decided in a future agreement between Israel and Syria.
Following the Second Lebanon War, the UN began marking the border area between Lebanon and Syria, and Israel has insisted that the sovereignty issue over the Shaba Farms cannot be decided conclusively until the border between its two neighbors is fixed.
Both Lebanon and Syria have asked in recent months that the Shaba Farms be transferred to UN custody, but Israel is opposed to the idea.