Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Puzzling Withdrawal from Ghajar Village | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Al-Ghajar village has rarely been the subject of public attention, except on occasions when its name is used as a slogan to emphasize the legitimacy of resistance, as long as Israel continues to occupy Lebanese territories.

We are yet to understand why the Israelis have decided to return this village [to Lebanon] free of charge. Such an act is akin to members of the resistance returning Israeli corpses to Israel, or signing additional agreements, and so on.

Certainly, Israel has never relinquished a single meter of land it occupied, out of the goodness of its heart, or in a spontaneous manner. Rather, all previous withdrawals have taken place amidst calculated circumstances, and in return for a specific price, or as a result of continuous resistance. However, this time Israel is prepared to return al-Ghajar village to its rightful owners without a war, confrontation, missiles being launched, demonstrations, or political envoys.

Though the Lebanese and Syrians have debated over the national affiliations of the village residents, such disagreements will not escalate any further, and will very likely be settled before the last Israeli soldier withdraws from al-Ghajar. However, one question remains: Why did the Israelis withdraw for free?

One answer – which has been widely circulated, and represents significant cause for concern – is that Israel, in the event of an upcoming war with Lebanon, is intending to demonstrate that it has kept to its word, in terms of the withdrawals it had previously pledged. Thus, if Hezbollah carries out an aggressive act, it would be interpreted as an unprovoked assault, rather than an act of resistance against an occupant force. According to this conclusion, Israel’s peaceful withdrawal is in fact a preparation for a future conflict. I doubt this very much, for Israel has developed its own style for handling disputes, and it has never sought to pave the way for aggression by cleaning up its legal file. It has always had sufficient arguments to rely upon – very often being security-related – and thus it would not need to justify an upcoming war by committing to previous withdrawal pledges.

Were there ongoing hidden negotiations, which produced such a symbolic act? I would also rule this out, because the Israelis are not used to offering gifts under the radar.

Despite the numerous interpretations – all of which do not correspond with Israel’s customary way of thinking – I am in fact unable to understand the true reason [for the withdrawal]. I believe we should consider the withdrawal as a positive outcome, and not necessarily a foreshadowing for evil, until proven otherwise. The Israelis have carried out several withdrawals in the past, albeit none in the manner that they plan to relinquish Ghajar village. The most notable of such decisions was Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. At the time, this was doubted extensively by several groups, most notably Hamas, which currently governs Gaza. Yet Gaza was problematical for Israelis, and over time, they gained a lot from the withdrawal. Gaza was a divisive factor between the Palestinians, and the city tuned into a hotbed of tension. With their withdrawal, the Israelis passed the burden on to the Palestinians. As we can see, some people wish that Gaza was not liberated, for it has ceased to be a symbol of resistance against the occupant. Gaza is now a symbol that Israel can use to intimidate the rest of the Arabs, as since the withdrawal, the city has renounced its allegiance to the central Arab political regime.