Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman arrived at Ghajar Wednesday in order to conduct a tour in the village, which lies on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border.
"There will be no agreement with Lebanon and Syria. Ghajar is entirely under Israeli sovereignty," he announced after listening to pleas from residents to refrain from dividing the village and the families living there.
"Our decision regarding Ghajar will be based on security and humanitarian concerns; there are 2,000 residents here. We are discussing our thoughts with the US and the UN, but there is no connection to the Syrians or the Lebanese," Lieberman said after touring the area of Mount Dov and the Shebaa Farms and arriving at the village.
Lieberman told the residents, "You weren't conquered by Israel; you were liberated."
During the meeting with the FM one of the residents urged Israel "not to abandon us like Lebanese refugees; we are talking about a mere 300 dunams (about 74 acres); this can be worked out; don't split families up."
Following the meeting Lieberman told Ynet, "The residents of Ghajar want the village to remain under Israeli sovereignty; that is their preferred option. We will deal with the issue from the humanitarian and security-related aspects. I assume that within a few weeks we will formulate our policy regarding the village and present it the cabinet.
"I've yet to reach a decision. The issue must be studied; we need to look at maps and examine documents that have been drafted over the years," he said.
The foreign minister moved on to the Palestinian issue, saying that "those who listened to the Fatah conference yesterday realized that our problem is not with Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas), but with Ahmad Tibi."
Knesset Member Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) on Tuesday urged settlers to "get out of" the Palestinians' lands and soul.
"His remarks don't contradict Yisrael Beiteinu's platform, but the Proclamation of Independence," said Lieberman. "Israel must decided if it is a democracy defending itself – or committing suicide."
Ayalon: Syrian claim hypocriticalThe FM's deputy, Danny Ayalon, said the Foreign Ministry's recommendations regarding Ghajar would be brought before the security cabinet in the coming weeks.
"This is a first-priority issue," he told Ynet. "We must remember that the village is an inseparable part of land recovered from the Syrians in 1967. This is not territory conquered in Lebanon, so any Syrian claim that this is Lebanese land is strange, if not outright hypocritical."
Foreign minister in Ghajar (Photo: Avihu Shapira)
Lieberman met with the secretary of Ghajar's local council, Najib Khatib, in order to discuss recommendations made by the security establishment that the northern part of the village be transferred to UN control.
"For us this is a matter of life and death," Khatib said. "This is a war of existence. We will not allow the village to be divided nor will we allow UNIFIL to come in here."
Khatib said he had asked the foreign minister to transfer a message to the government saying: "Ghajar will be divided over our dead bodies."
"Ghajar is a Syrian village conquered in 1967 and is an inseparable part of the Golan Heights," he added. "If it is returned as part of a deal with Syria that's fine, but we will no suffer being returned to the Lebanese. We will be refugees there."
Khatib said there had been a mistake in maps dating back to 1923, causing the village to be the center of political turmoil since Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000.