The Opposition Wants Separate Peace with Israel

For the first time in the annals of the Arab-Israeli dispute, Lebanon’s senior opposition politicians are pressing for the government in Beirut to recognize Israel and sign a separate peace treaty with the Jewish state – without reference to Damascus.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Middle East sources report that the move was initiated this week by former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and the Christian Maronite archbishop Nasrallah Sfeir, acting on a signal from Washington.

The demand for Lebanon’s divorce from Syria for the purpose of making peace with Israel is the direct consequence of the January 29 UN Security Council resolution drafted by France and adopted by all 15 Council members, which ruled that the controversial Shabaa Farms along Israel’s northern border was part of Syrian Golan prior to the 1967 War – not Lebanon.

That resolution knocked the stuffing out of the Shiite terrorist group Hizballah’s main justification for attacking Israel, which is the battle to liberate so-called Lebanese territory that Israeli failed to hand back when it pulled out of South Lebanon in May 2000.

With that issue out of the way, the three Lebanese leaders say Beirut has no further quarrel with Israel and there is no bar to the establishment of normal peace and economic relations between the two neighbors.

Naturally, the trio has an ulterior motive too, which is to bring pressure to bear on Syrian ruler Bashar Assad to remove his troops from Lebanon and stop meddling in Lebanese affairs. This line backs up the demand for fresh clarifications Washington has presented to Damascus and for which answers are expected by the end of March when Lebanon goes to the polls.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources report that for Washington, the most important test with which they are confronting the Syrians is no longer their implementation of Security Council 1559 on Lebanon or even the evacuation of Syrian troops. Both are important but not the key, which is the dismantling of the Syrian-Lebanese intelligence outfit which

our intelligence sources reveal is composed of the Syrian Reconnaissance Service and Lebanese General Intelligence commanded by General Jamil al Sayad. This is the mechanism that controls Lebanese politicians, including members of parliament. As long as it is active, there is little to be gained by pulling Syrian troops out of the country; Syria will continue to pull the strings in Beirut.

Although Lebanon’s election is only six weeks away, our sources reveal that Lebanese politicians have still not agreed on the lines of the polling constituencies. They say Damascus is impeding this step for fear that the Americans will run an airlift to the home country of hundreds of thousands of Lebanese expatriates living in the United States, Latin American and Europe, in order to win seats away from pro-Syrian candidates.

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