Keeping the Blue Line

Israel obviously hardly expects the UN to take into account its acute security concerns.

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August 21, 2007 21:00
3 minute read.
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In May 2000, on the eve of Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, the UN carried out painstaking measurements to establish precisely where the international border ran. The boundary it marked is popularly known as the Blue Line. The aim was to make absolutely sure that Israel indeed indisputably retreated from every last centimeter of what was ascribed to Lebanon's jurisdiction. In the end, the UN officially proclaimed its satisfaction that Israel had exited fully and incontrovertibly from Lebanese territory, as per UN Security Council Resolution 425. Beirut agreed to honor the line of withdrawal as certified by the UN. But apparently even the most careful cartography is mutable. What was once determined ostensibly categorically, after the most nitpicking of evaluations, is no longer definitive by rapidly evolving UN standards. Hence UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is dispatching new surveyors to review the situation around Mount Dov - dubbed the Shaba Farms by Hizbullah. The sole impetus is the assertion of the militia, regarded as terrorist worldwide, that this is Lebanese land and therefore a pretext for an ongoing confrontation with Israel. Thus the UN, though directly responsible under Security Council Resolution 1701 for curtailing Hizbullah, might now embolden its chieftain, Hassan Nasrallah, who last year triggered the war with Israel. This even as Nasrallah still violates UN demands for the return of two abducted Israeli reservists and keeps reinforcing and pouring more arms into border areas in direct and impudent contravention of the UN resolution. The dispute revolves around an uninhabited patch of undefined size beyond the village of Majdal Shams on Mount Hermon's slopes. Some of the maximalist Hizbullah appetites take in an extensive segment of the Golan, including the Hermon, Dan River springs and the Banias. The only certain fact about the vague Shaba designation is that it's part of the Golan - which until the Six Day War was under Syrian control - and that it featured in the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement with Syria. Though the international community doesn't recognize the 1981 extension of Israeli law of the Golan, neither did it perceive Shaba as Lebanese. Now under pressure from Beirut, which is in turn pressured by Nasrallah, Ban is toying with a Lebanese-hatched plan to alter the disputed territory's status. There's ample reason for the worry this engenders in Israel. Mount Dov, which directly commands all access to Israel's Hermon outposts and constitutes an alternative approach to them, is vital for retaining Israel's positions at the peak. Without control of Mount Dov, Israel would not only be deprived of the ability to observe the goings-on in southern Lebanon, but would also face a reality in which the ascent to the Hermon would be at the mercy and whims of whoever takes over. But perhaps even more important than such military considerations is the principle. Ceding territory which was never under Lebanese sovereignty would be tantamount to capitulation to Hizbullah and a reward for its aggression. It would also constitute a dangerous precedent, as there's no stopping Hizbullah, for instance, from pursuing its belligerence by laying claim to seven abandoned Shi'ite villages in the Galilee within Israel proper. Israel obviously hardly expects the UN to take into account its acute security concerns. The UN's inimical record in that context speaks loudly for itself. But particularly galling is the fact that the UN can contemplate an ignominious surrender to the provocations of a terrorist organization that recently spawned a costly war, after the UN failed to live up to its own resolution and disarm it. That same UN is now out to extend the mandate of its UNIFIL forces without expanding UNIFIL's authority. This means that UNIFIL will continue to fail in preventing Hizbullah's massive rearmament and reentry (albeit informally) into areas adjacent to Israel. UNIFIL will continue not to operate where it is needed most: to monitor and enforce the UN embargo against the smuggling of weapons to Hizbullah across the Lebanese-Syrian border. The anyway imperfect promise of Resolution 1701 has been dissipated by the UN itself. But even the mockery the UN makes of its own undertakings would be eclipsed if it were to revise maps of its own charting, and change its meticulously drawn demarcation lines as per the specifications of some of the world's most aggressive and uncompromising terrorists. Put starkly, such a shift would render UN determinations worthless. For whatever can be retroactively modified to appease implacable enemies of peace plainly isn't worth the purportedly peace-upholding paper it is written on.


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