Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Israelis Mull Offering Non-Aggression Treaty

Ha'aretz reports on discussions within Israel over different negotiating strategies, the latest being one of offering to respect Lebanon's territorial integrity - as well as the country's claim over the Shebaa Farms - in return for a non-aggression pact and a commitment by the Lebanese government to "significantly reduce Hizballah's weapons stores":
Eran Etzion, the head of the Foreign Ministry's political planning section, said a full peace agreement with Lebanon can only come in the wake of a similar deal with Syria. Still, he said, Israel can try to advance on a separate political track with Lebanon, the end result of which could be a long-term non-belligerence pact.

The agreement would be signed by both governments, and its focus would be a reciprocal agreement on the route of the border between the two countries. The deal would include a solution to the dispute over the Shaba Farms border area and the divided village of Ghajar, as well as a number of small border adjustments demanded by Lebanon.

Israel is expected to ask Lebanon to significantly reduce Hezbollah's weapons stores, and to extend the Lebanese army's authority across the entire country, with a special emphasis on the area south of the Litani River, which is the closest area to Israel. In return, an agreement would have to be reached over Israeli overflights in Lebanese airspace.

Supporters of this strategy said an agreement with Syria would be easier to reach than with the Palestinians, the chances for its success are greater and the strategic dividend Israel would receive is bigger. They also said such a deal would greatly change the balance of power in the region by removing the threat posed to Israel by the Syrian army, placing distance between Damascus and Iran and possibly engendering a deal with Lebanon.

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