Israel: Mount Dov issue must be solved

Gov't officials say matter should be resolved within the framework of direct negotiations with Lebanon.

rice saniora 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
rice saniora 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Israel wants to resolve the Mount Dov (Shaba Farms) issue within the framework of direct negotiations with Lebanon, government officials said Wednesday amid a spate of reports that US Secretary of State Condoleezza is determined to settle the matter. "Israel has a desire for peace with Lebanon," said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev. "If we are negotiating with the Palestinians and the Syrians, there is no logical reason not to talk to the Lebanese as well. And if we do indeed have direct bilateral talks, all issues of dispute between the two countries can be put on the table." Rice, during a visit to Beirut on Monday, told Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora that the US believed the time had come to solve the issue. Israeli government sources said that the US interest in the Mount Dov issue now stems from the belief that solving the long-standing dispute would weaken Hizbullah and strengthen Saniora and the moderates in Lebanon. The sources said the issue was discussed during Rice's meetings in Jerusalem on Sunday with Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, but that there was no perceptible US pressure on Israel to immediately solve the matter. The Mount Dov area is where the borders of Lebanon, Syria and Israel meet. Israel captured the area during the Six Day War from the Syrians, and the UN has determined that the land is Syrian, but Lebanon claims the area and Hizbullah has used the issue to justify its "resistance." Olmert told the weekly cabinet meeting last week that he would have been happy had the announcement last month of indirect talks with the Syrians been accompanied by an expression of readiness on Lebanon's part to enter into bilateral talks with Israel as well. "I see much advantage in that." Olmert said. Lebanon made it clear the very next day, however, that it had no intention of doing so, with the government issuing a statement saying, "There are pending bilateral issues between Lebanon and Israel which are governed by international resolutions which Israel must respect... and which cannot be the object of political negotiations." Saniora has said in the past that Lebanon would be the last to sign a peace treaty with Israel.