In recent weeks, high-ranking State Department officials have involved themselves in mediating territorial disputes between Israel and Lebanon. One of these disputes, writes Evelyn Gordon, is based on a real problem—the lack of a recognized international maritime boundary between the two countries—although the State Department’s proposed solution tilts unreasonably in Beirut’s favor. The other, however, is the result of a spurious Lebanese claim:
[According to Beirut], Israel’s planned new border wall encroaches on Lebanese territory in thirteen places. And on this, there should be no question whatsoever, because a recognized international border, known as the Blue Line, already exists and the UN has twice affirmed that Israel isn’t violating it. . . .
Given the existence of both a recognized international border and unequivocal UN confirmation that Israel hasn’t violated it, the only proper response to Beirut’s protest over a new fence would be to tell it politely that it has no case whatsoever. The territory in question is unarguably Israel’s, and Israel is free to build whatever it pleases there.
Instead, the State Department has treated Lebanon’s claim as legitimate. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson demanded that Israel halt construction until it reaches an agreement with Lebanon on the border, while Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield proposed land swaps to satisfy Lebanon’s claims. In other words, the State Department is asking Israel to cede land that the UN Security Council unanimously recognized as sovereign Israeli territory just because a thuggish neighbor covets it and has threatened war if its demands aren’t satisfied.
Needless to say, this is an excellent way to encourage aggression. If Lebanon can get Washington to pressure Israel to cede internationally recognized Israeli territory merely by claiming land to which it lacks any vestige of right and then threatening war if its demands aren’t met, why wouldn’t Lebanon—or any other country interested in grabbing Israeli land—keep repeating this tactic?
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