Israel’s security cabinet approved, on Wednesday, a plan to pull out troops from the northern half of Ghajar, a village on the country’s border with Lebanon, local agencies reported.The Israeli cabinet voted on Wednesday for handing control of the village’s northern sector to UNIFIL, the UN Interim Force deployed along the border with Israel to keep the peace. Once a withdrawal date is set, the cabinet will vote again to grant a final approval for the redeployment of Israeli forces.
According to the plan, neither Israel nor Lebanon will control security in northern Ghajar, and UNIFIL troops will be working to monitor access to the village from the Lebanese side.
The village of Ghajar, situated in a strategic corner across the boundaries between Syria, Israel and Lebanon, was captured by Israel from Syria in 1967 and has so far changed hands three times over the last century.
Following Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, Ghajar was split between Lebanon and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. Israel reoccupied the northern part of the village in the 2006 war launched against Lebanon.
Israel has allegedly negotiated a unilateral agreement with the UN with no consultation of the Lebanese government or the villagers. Referring to the originally Syrian villagers, an al-Jazeera correspondent said: ‘People here want all of Ghajar to be returned as part of a larger deal with Israel. Until then they say they’d prefer to remain under Israeli occupation rather than face the uncertainty of Lebanese rule.’
Alastair Crooke, founding director of the think tank Conflicts Forum, commented that Ghajar was being offered by Israel as a token effort to the international community in the face of heavy pressure over the settlement issue in the current Middle East peace talks.
After the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006, the United Nations’ Security Council issued resolution number 1701 calling on Israel to withdraw from al-Ghajar.
The resolution demanded Israel to respect Beirut’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, besides calling for the disarming of Hezbollah fighters, and the prevention of arms smuggling into Lebanon from Syria. Efforts to implement aspects of Resolution 1701 have so far only achieved mixed results.