Why Is the U.S. State Department Backing a Lebanese Land (and Sea) Grab?

March 6 2018

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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Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: Israel & Zionism, Lebanon, Rex Tillerson, State Department, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war