Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, after meeting with a number of key cabinet ministers and National Security Advisor Maj.-Gen. Giora Eiland on Wednesday decided not to split the northern border town of Ghajar.
On Monday evening it was reported that the Alawite town might be split in order to resolve a border contention between Israel and Lebanon. After Israel pulled out of Lebanon in 2005, Ghajar was left straddling the international border with openings into both Israel and Lebanon.
The option to build a fence traversing the international border in the middle of the town evoked a lot of contention on the part of Ghajar's residents. The plan suggested that the residents living in the northern half of the town - who are Israeli citizens in spite of living in a region that formally belongs to Lebanon - would be relocated to the southern half and be appropriately compensated.
The Prime Minister's office revealed that the reason for the decision to shelve the proposal was a combination between the opposition by Ghajar residents to the idea of moving them to the southern part of the town, as well as a whole basket of diplomatic, legal, and financial issues.
Instead of implementing the controversial plan, but still account for security problems, including smuggling of terrorists and arms, the Prime Minister's Office decided to strengthen the fence around Ghajar and beef up the checkpoint on the road into the town.
The IDF presence was planned to maintain its deployment on the southern side of Ghajar, while civil services provided by the state would be established just outside the Israeli side of the fence. The idea was that the citizens of Ghajar would be able to move in and out of the town, but it will be more difficult for non-residents to enter the town.
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