Contested Frontiers in the Syria-Lebanon-Israel Region studies one of the flash points of the Middle East since the 1960s—a tiny region of roughly 100 square kilometers where Syria, Lebanon, and Israel come together but where the borders have never been clearly marked. This was the scene of Palestinian guerrilla warfare in the 1960s and '70s and of Hezbollah confrontations with Israel from 2000 to the 2006 war. At stake are rural villagers who live in one country but identify themselves as belonging to another, the source of the Jordan River, part of scenic and historically significant Mount Hermon, the conflict-prone Shebaa Farms, and a defunct oil pipeline.

Asher Kaufman uses French, British, American, and Israeli archives; Lebanese and Syrian primary sources and newspapers; interviews with borderland residents and with UN and U.S. officials; and a historic collection of maps. He analyzes the geopolitical causes of conflict and prospects for resolution, assesses implications of the impasse over economic zones in the eastern Mediterranean where Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Turkey all have claims, and reflects on the meaning of borders and frontiers today.

Asher Kaufman is an associate professor of history and peace studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He was a fellow at the Wilson Center in 2009–2010.



Part I. Mapping the Tri-Border Region
1. Colonial Mapping
2. Mapping the Mandates
3. After Independence
4. The United Nations: Mapping, Mediating, and Peacekeeping, 1949–2000
5. Cartographic Wars: The Israeli Withdrawal from South Lebanon and Beyond

Part II. Borders, Boundaries, and Frontiers, 1924–1982
6. The Making of the Tri-Border Region, 1924–1949
7. During and Between Wars: 1949–1973
8. Fatahland: How Lebanon Became a Frontline State
9. Whose Water Is This? Boundaries and Hydropolitics
10. Crossing Boundaries: The Trans-Arabian Pipeline and the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Part III. The Shebaa Farms Dispute and Beyond
11. A Fabricated Border Quandary?
12. The Shebaa Farms, Hizbullah, and Lebanese Sovereignty
13. Joha’s Nail? Israel and the Shebaa Farms
14. Resolving the Dispute? The United Nations in the Tri-Border Region, 2000–2010

Conclusion: On Cartography, Sovereignty, and Conflict


"Kaufman examines the connections and links that complicate the problem of the tri-border region between Lebanon, Syria, and Israel in a sensitive and sympathetic manner. Moreover, the work manages to explain a complex technical and factual problem in a straightforward manner."—Nadim Shehadi, Chatham House

"Kaufman has knitted together maps, archives, and other sources to give a comprehensive view of a collection of issues (fuzzy borders, water resources, state sovereignty, and non-state actors) in a complicated little corner of the Levant that has not hitherto received serious academic treatment. Given that this little corner is crucial to the future of relations among the three states, the author has done a major service in offering a rigorous, balanced, detailed, and fascinating interpretation."—William Harris, author of The Levant: A Fractured Mosaic