8.6.06

The Shebaa Farms

This term refers to an area currently under Israeli control, which the Hizbullah uses as a pretext to continue its military struggle against Israel and keep its arms.

Definition

The Shebaa Farms include an area of approximately 25 square kilometers consisting of 14 farms, located on the western slopes of Mount Hermon to the south of the Lebanese village of Shebaa.[i]

At the core of the ongoing border dispute lies the question of whether this area falls under Lebanese or Syrian jurisdiction. This border anomaly is the result of both a poor colonial mapping and the lack of a formal binding agreement between Syria and Lebanon.

Since the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon (5/00), Lebanon argues that Israel has not fully withdrawn from its territory, as Israel continues to occupy the Shebaa Farms.[ii]

Background: The Territorial Dispute

After the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon (5/00), the UN defined and demarcated the Lebanese-Israeli border line for the purpose of certifying Israel's complete withdrawal from the Lebanese territory. The Shebaa farms were excluded from the Lebanese territory.[iii]

Though the government of Lebanon claimed the Shebaa farms as part of its territory,[iv] The UN partially endorsed Israel's position that the area was to be considered as part of Syria.[v]

The UN recognized that Israel had in fact completely withdrawn from all Lebanese territory,[vi] and also proposed to adopt the line separating the areas of operations of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the Syria-based United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) as the demarcation line.[vii]

However, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan specified that both this demarcation and the Blue Line[viii] have to be used "without prejudice to future border agreements between the Member States concerned."[ix]

Hizbullah and the Shebaa Farms

Hizbullah used the farms controversy to justify the continuation of its attacks against Israel,[x] and thus, to justify internally its need to maintain an armed militia.

The Lebanese government, on the other hand, has used the Shebaa farms dispute to justify their reluctance in fully enforcing UN Resolution 1559 and dismantling all local armed groups.[xi]

Israel's Current Position on the Shebaa Farms

Israel is in principle willing to discuss the option of a pullout from the contested area, once Lebanon complies fully with UN Resolution 1559, and after obtaining an international declaration recognizing the Shebaa farms as part of Lebanese territory.[xii]

Sources

Asher Kaufman, "The Shebaa Farms: a Case Study of Border Dynamics in the Middle East" (The Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, October 2002).

Asher Kaufman, "Who owns the Shebaa farms? Chronicle of a territorial dispute," The Middle East Journal 56.4 (Autumn 2002).

Asher Kaufman, "Understanding the Sheeba Farms dispute," (Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics and Culture, Vol.11 No.1, 2004).

Frederic C. Hof, "A Practical Line: The Line of Withdrawal from Lebanon and its Potential Applicability to the Golan Heights," The Middle East Journal 55.1, Winter 2001.

Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Security Council resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978), UN Security Council, May 22, 2000.



[i] "In focus: Shebaa farms," BBC News, May, 25 2000. Accessed July 31, 2006.

[ii] Asher Kaufman, "The Shebaa Farms: a Case Study of Border Dynamics in the Middle East," (The Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, October 2002).

[iii] On April 17, 2000 Israel informed the UN of its unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, in compliance with UNSC Resolutions 425 and 426 (1978). Consequently, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan sent a Special Envoy, led by Terje Roed-Larsen, to meet with the interested parties, and to identify a separation line between Israel and Lebanon for the purpose of verifying Israel's complete withdrawal. Upon completion of these operations, on June 16, 2000, Annan declared that Israel had completed its withdrawal from Lebanon. (See "Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Security Council resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978)," UN Security Council, May 22, 2000, accessed July 30, 2006.)

[iv] Lebanon argued that the Shebaa farms were Lebanese because it had administered and exercised de facto sovereignty over the area since its independence, and because a joint Syrian-Lebanese understanding dated 1964 proved that the parties had agreed to consider the area as Lebanese. (See Asher Kaufman, "Who owns the Shebaa farms? Chronicle of a territorial dispute," The Middle East Journal 56.4 (Autumn 2002): p576 (21), and "Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Security Council resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978)," Un Security Council, May 22, 2000, accessed July 30, 2006.)

[v] The government of Israel claimed that according to both the 1923 French administrative boundary between Mandate Syria and Lebanon, and the 1949 Armistice Demarcation Line (ADL) between Israel and Lebanon, and in the absence of successive formal agreements, the area was formally still under Syrian control. Israel showed numerous maps confirming that the Shebaa farms, although under a de facto Lebanese control, were under formally part of Syria previous the 1967 Israeli occupation. Furthermore, Syria had already accepted its jurisdiction over the Shebaa farms in 1974, in the context of the Separation Force Agreement with Israel. (See Gary C. Gambill, " Syria and the Shebaa Farms Dispute," Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. 3 Number 5, May 2001. Accessed July 31, 2006. See also Frederic C. Hof, "A Practical Line: The Line of Withdrawal from Lebanon and its Potential Applicability to the Golan Heights," The Middle East Journal 55.1, Winter 2001, [v] and "Israel-Syria Separation of Forces Agreement – 1974," 31 May 1974, with the Map of Disengagement Line, accessed July 31, 2006.

[vi] "Resolution 1428 (2002)," UN Security Council, 30 July 2002. Accessed July 31, 2006.

[vii] This line is also consistent with the Israeli position regarding the Shebaa farms, and it supports both the French administrative border, and the 1974 Israel-Syrian agreement. (See Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Security Council resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978)."

[viii] The Blue Line indicates the demarcation between Israel and Lebanon, as decided by the UN. It aimed at restoring the situation previous the Israeli intervention in Lebanon, in 1978. The blue line was established by the UN for the sole purpose of verifying Israel's withdrawal in compliance with UN resolutions 425 and 426 of 1978, and it is not the equivalent of an internationally recognized border.

[ix] "Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Security Council resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978),"

[x] Asher Kaufman, "The Shebaa Farms: a Case Study of Border Dynamics in the Middle East," pp. 12-17.

[xi] In an April 2006 interview, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora reiterated that he needed Israel's withdrawal from the Shebaa farms to have the legitimacy to disarm Hizbullah, and that only: "The Israeli withdrawal from the Shebaa and the end of Israeli aggressions will mean that the state of Lebanon has exclusive use of force on its territory." Also, on July 30, 2006, Lebanese PM Siniora has restated the impossibility of disarming Hizbullah until Israel occupies the Shebaa farms, and he said that: "(…) the Shebaa Farms is not a property of Hezbollah. It's a property of Lebanon and it's for all the Lebanese. (…)This issue has to be looked at in totality. Lebanon gets back its land and, ultimately, Israel gets a safe border." (See " Israel must quit Shebaa before Hezbollah disarms: Siniora," Agence France Presse, April 16, 2006. Accessed July 31, 2006, and Cilina Nasser, "Lebanon wants return of Shebaa Farms," Al-Jazeera, 30 July 2006. Accessed August 1, 2006.)

[xii] Aluf Benn and Amos Harel, "Rice: Shaba Farms for International Force," Haaretz, July 30, 2006. Accessed July 30, 2006.