Soldiers in Ghajar
Photo: AP
Will Israel pull out of village?
Photo: AFP

Ghajar withdrawal on hold

Israel freezes plan to pull out of border village of Ghajar as result of toppling of Lebanese government, tensions over Hariri report, official in Jerusalem says. 'We won't be giving Hezbollah free gifts,' he says

Some three months ago, the Security Cabinet approved a plan to withdraw Israeli forces from the northern part of Ghajar, an Arab village that straddles the Lebanese border. However, an official in Jerusalem says the plan is now on hold due to recent changes in the region.


Namely, Hezbollah toppled the Lebanese government and tensions are high in preparation for the United Nations' report on the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri .


"We don't want to give the Hezbollah government free gifts," an official in Jerusalem told Ynet on Sunday, and it seems that for the time being the plan to withdraw from Ghajar has been frozen.


According to the ministers' decision back in November 2010, the IDF was to withdraw from the northern part of the village and leave it under the UN's authority, redeploying Israeli forces on the southern side of the border.


The Cabinet ordered the Foreign Ministry to complete negotiations with the UN force in southern Lebanon, UNIFIL, as soon as possible "while maintaining the regional security of Israel and the quality of life of village residents". Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said at the time the plan would be executed within a few weeks.


Ghajar border (Photo: AFP)


However, months have gone by and nothing has changed, with IDF soldiers still deployed in the Lebanese village. "The idea was to boost  the moderates, not the extremists," the Jerusalem official said. "Today it's problematic to hand over Ghajar to the Hezbollah government. We are discussing the matter with the UN and UNIFIL. Back in December we couldn't have predicted the current instability and Hezbollah toppling the government."


The Foreign Ministry is continuing to prepare the village for withdrawal while debating exactly how to handle recent developments, including the riots in Egypt that forced Israel to reprioritize. According to the Ministry's evaluation, the Ghajar plan might be presented once again to the Security Cabinet within a few months for additional approval. "Nothing will happen before the Hariri report comes out," the Israeli official estimated.


The Foreign Ministry refused to issue an official response to the story.



פרסום ראשון: 02.06.11, 23:05
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