The Biden Administration Caved to Hizballah in a Dispute with Israel—and No One Noticed

September 8, 2023 | Tony Badran
About the author: Tony Badran is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Levant analyst at Tablet magazine.

In the northwestern part of the Golan Heights, abutting the Lebanese border, there is a small strip of land—about seven miles long and two wide—known in Hebrew as Har Dov and in Arabic as Shebaa Farms. Israel acquired the territory from Syria, along with the rest of the Golan, in the Six-Day War. Since the IDF’s withdrawal from South Lebanon in May 2000, Hizballah has revived a legal dispute going back to the 1920s—claiming that Har Dov is in fact Lebanese territory illegitimately seized by Syria in the 1950s. By pressing this claim, the Iran-backed terrorist group can maintain that it still has a territorial dispute with Jerusalem to prosecute on Beirut’s behalf.

With this background, it is possible to understand the significance of a clause buried in UN Security Council  Resolution 2695, passed on August 31, that went entirely unnoticed by observers. Tony Badran explains:

A few months ago, Hizballah set up an outpost in the Har Dov region. . . . Hizballah orchestrated a full-blown campaign around this calculated move, which pro-Hizballah media framed as a response to Israel capitalizing on Donald Trump’s recognition of its sovereignty over the Golan [in 2019]. The purpose of the campaign, Hizballah’s leader made clear, was to force the reopening of the border file, from the coast to the Shebaa Farms.

UNSC Resolution 2695 [renewed] the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). . . . The [Biden] administration also put on a big show about upholding a provision in the resolution allowing UNIFIL to conduct patrols independently, without coordination with or prior authorization from the Lebanese authorities—practically meaningless language, evidenced, if nothing else, from UNIFIL’s typically terrible record over the past year, even though the previous resolution renewing its mandate explicitly authorized it to conduct unannounced patrols independently.

In that resolution, the U.S. government agreed for the first time to the introduction of language in the UNSCR referring to “the occupied Shebaa Farms.” Since the U.S. does not consider the farms to be Lebanese, but rather a part of the Golan Heights, the Biden administration had effectively reversed the official American position recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, without having to make an official policy announcement.

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