In advance of Wednesday's Rome conference on the Hizbullah crisis, where there will inevitably be calls for Israel to withdraw from Har Dov (the Shaba Farms) as part of any international-backed arrangement in Lebanon, Israeli diplomatic officials said Tuesday there was nothing to talk about.
"This should not be part of the equation," one diplomatic official said.
UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, at a press conference at the UN on Friday, touched on the issue and said, according to a UN communiqu , that "Much of Lebanon's support for Hizbullah was linked to the Shaba issue, so if that was resolved, that would hit hard at the justification for a resistance."
But Israeli diplomatic officials said there was nothing to discuss and that the UN itself had determined that the area was part of Israeli-occupied Syria, an issue that needed to be settled with Syria, not Lebanon.
"We cannot give up this area to Lebanon, since it is not part of Lebanon," one official said.
The area, a 100 square mile parcel of land, is located at the foot of Mount Hermon where the Syrian, Lebanese and Israeli borders meet. Israel took control of the area after the Six Day War in 1967, and since then has built up a number of military outposts on the strategic hills.
Last year Roed-Larsen, who is the UN special envoy on implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, issued a report saying that both he and the Security Council had said repeatedly that "the Shaba Farms area is not part of Lebanon. Therefore, any Lebanese 'resistance' to 'liberate' the area from continued Israeli occupation cannot be considered legitimate."
In addition, Roed-Larsen said, "Even if the Lebanese claim to the Shaba Farms area were legitimate, it would be the responsibility of the government of Lebanon only to address this claim in conformity with international law and relevant Security Council resolutions."
Despite Lebanese requests, the Syrians have never formally delineated the region as Lebanese territory.
Roed-Larsen said during an HBO interview earlier this year that there was "no trace of evidence that these farmlands are Lebanese." He said that the UN studied 81 different maps - including Russian, French, British, Lebanese and Syrian maps - and that only one showed "that the Shaba Farms had anything to do with Lebanon." And that single map, he said, was of "questionable authenticity."