Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to announce this week that Israel is interested in withdrawing from the northern part of the village of Ghajar on the border with Lebanon.So far, so good. Except there's an unexpected snag:
A senior political source in Jerusalem said on Saturday that Netanyahu wants to respond to the American request on the matter; the move would also be a goodwill gesture to the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora ahead of Lebanese parliamentary elections in early June.
The withdrawal from the northern part of the village is not expected to take place before the Lebanese elections because of the high number of petitions village residents are expected to file with the High Court of Justice against the pullback.Huh? Aren't Arabs supposed to be deeply offended and humiliated by cruel Israeli colonial Occupation? Aren't they persecuted, forced to live as second class citizens? Don't they all uniformly yearn to be free of the oppressive Israeli yoke? What kind of poor joke is it to claim some of them might go to the (Israeli) High Court of Justice to force the Israeli government to keep them inside Israel?
Many Palestinians undoubtedly feel this way, though probably not tens of thousands or more of the ones in East Jerusalem. And the townspeople of Rajar are an even stranger story.
Until 1967 Rajar was a village at the meeting point of Syria, Lebanon and Israel, on the Syrian side. Yet even then it was cut off from Syria by the shoulder of Mount Hermon, and its neighbors were the Lebanese villages of Marg Ayoun and its surroundings - and also the Israeli villages just across the line. During the last hours of the Six Day War the town elders sent a delegation to the Israelis calling their attention to the fact that they were notionally part of the Golan, and thus must now be under Israeli rule.
In 1981, when Israel effectively annexed the Golan, it's people were offered full Israeli citizenship. Most of the Druze on the Golan rejected the offer (some accepted); the townspeople of Rajar, however, mostly accepted. Many of them even joined Likud. Between 1982 and 2000 the Lebanese side of the border was also controlled by Israel. Rajar, sitting right on the line, grew northwards because that was topographically the easiest direction to build in. In 2000 when Israel asked the UN to draw the exact line to which it should draw back its forces when unilaterally leaving Lebanon, the UN surveyors drew the line right through the middle of Rajar. (I was there after the removal of Israel's troops from Lebanon, and we crossed the line without ever noticing it; only after we'd left the town and I looked at a map was it clear).
I wrote about this in Right to Exist, and summed it up by telling of the Syrian Likudnik Israelis who live in Lebanon.
I'm not certain what Netanyahu is proposing to do, beyond putting on a show. Israeli troops don't go into the northern part of Rajar since 2000, because it's in Lebanon. So what's the "concession"? That a wall be built through the middle of town, along the Lebanese-Golan border? Turn over the whole town to Lebanon including the Syrian parts of it? And what will happen to the Israeli citizens who live there? Complicated.