Facing the prospect of having to resign under indictment at some point in the near future, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited the disputed village of Ghajar along the nation’s northern border, and declared that the village, which is populated largely by Alawite Shi’ites, will forever remain under Israeli control.
Control over the tiny village has been hotly contested since the 1967 Israeli capture of the Golan Heights from Syria. The “blue line” border between Israel and Lebanon split the village in twain, with the northern half in Lebanese territory and the southern half within the Golan Heights, still ruled by Israel but also claimed by Syria.
Israeli troops re-captured the northern half of the city during the 2006 invasion of Lebanon, though UN officials have since been trying to negotiate a withdrawal back to the border. Israeli defense officials had previously denied that the troops’ presence was intended as part of an attempt to claim the village, and insisted that the withdrawal was only held up by security concerns.
But the hawkish FM Lieberman now says of the 2006 invasion “you weren’t conquered by Israel; you were liberated,” and says the entire village now belongs to Israel. Deputy FM Danny Ayalon added that Syria’s claim that it belongs to Lebanon was “hypocritical,” insisting that Syria knows perfectly well that it was part of the Golan Heights.
From the villagers’ perspective, there is likely no perfect solution. The village elders seem to prefer that the village not be seperated from the Golan Heights, though this puts them in the middle of a territorial dispute between Israel and Syria. The alternative, cutting the village in half again, is certainly no more preferable. In the end, what the villagers want is likely immaterial, and they will continue to be a pawn in a much larger struggle.
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