Israel's Border Tense over Shaba Farms

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AL GHAJAR, Israel -- Should terrorists be allowed to arm themselves within a fragile democracy?

The Lebanese government apparently thinks so.

Its cabinet has approved a proposal allowing Hezbollah members to keep their weapons.

Proponents say it's a necessary step because of an ongoing border dispute with Israel.

Hezbollah has insisted it needs to remain armed as long as Israel still occupies even a fraction of Lebanese territory.

Many of those who think Hezbollah should disarm say the Lebanese army, not Hezbollah, should defend Lebanon.

In May 2000, the Israeli troops withdrew just north of here in a territory called the Lebanese security zone. But they held on to one piece of land. It's called the Shaba Farms and today it's at the center of the next step of the peace process.

The Shaba Farms is a small area of land located at the base of Mount Hermon.

Israel says it is part of the Golan Heights which it captured from Syria during the 1967 Six Day War. Syria and Lebanon say it belongs to Lebanon.

Lebanese Christian leader Samir Geagea says Israeli withdrawal from the Shaba Farms would eliminate any excuse Hezbollah has to remain armed.

"If the Shaba Farms are delivered, then you have no pretext whatsoever for anybody to come and fire from here on Israel and from Israel to here and the Lebanese south would be stabilized for the long term," Geagea said.

Yuval Steinitz is a member of the Israeli Knesset. He says Hezbollah is just making excuses to keep its weapons.

"This is nonsense in my view," Steinitz said. "The reason they are fighting us is not because this or that border arrangement or territorial dispute, but because they want to eliminate us and any non-Muslims, infidels in the Middle East."

And according to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Hezbollah now has three times the number of missiles it had in south Lebanon at the start of its war with Israel two summers ago. They now can reach deep inside Israel.

Most of the Hezbollah weapons are smuggled into Lebanon via Syria. Israel has reportedly expressed concern about the arms smuggling during indirect peace talks with the Syrians.

Steinitz says Syria cannot be trusted, Hezbollah will not disarm if the Shaba Farms are given to Lebanon and the international community should not give in to terrorist blackmail.

"When we pulled out from Lebanon in 2000, the UN dictated the final line of withdrawal. Enough is enough and an end should be an end," Steinitz said.

But with Hezbollah continuing to stockpile arms, the Shaba Farms dispute -- and tensions along Israel's northern border -- isn't expected to end anytime soon.

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CBN News
Gary Lane

Gary Lane

CBN News Senior Reporter

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