Israel and neighboring Lebanon have reportedly reached a “historic agreement” regarding their shared maritime border, according to Israel’s prime minister, which may allow for natural gas exploration and lower hostilities between the rival nations.
The agreement, which comes after months of negotiations mediated by the United States, would represent a significant improvement in ties between Israel and Lebanon, which have been officially at war since Israel’s establishment in 1948. But there are still some challenges that the deal must overcome, including Israeli political and legal issues. Lebanon did not make a formal announcement, but officials said they would accept the agreement.
President Joe Biden made the announcement in Washington, D.C., that the maritime boundary dispute between Israel and Lebanon had been “formally ended.” He claimed to have spoken with Lebanese President Michael Aoun and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, both of whom indicated that they were prepared to implement the agreement.
In order to create a more secure and prosperous region, the agreement “will provide for the development of energy fields for the benefit of both countries,” according to Biden.
Rights to exploit undersea natural gas reserves in eastern Mediterranean regions claimed by the two countries are in jeopardy. Lebanon hopes that gas exploration will aid in resolving its nation’s escalating economic crisis. Along with reducing tensions with its northern neighbor, Israel also wants to take advantage of the gas reserves.
A “historic achievement,” according to Lapid, the agreement “will bolster Israel’s security, inject billions into the country’s economy, and ensure the stability of our northern border.”
About 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea are claimed by both Israel and Lebanon. These waters would be divided in accordance with the agreement along a line that crossed the important “Qana” natural gas field.
Lebanon would be permitted to produce gas from that field, according to Israeli negotiators, but Israel would receive royalties for any gas extracted from its side of the field. Although actual production is probably years away, Lebanon has been collaborating with the French energy giant Total on the preparations for exploring the field.
According to the officials, the agreement would also maintain the “buoy line,” which currently acts as a de facto border between the two nations.
The officials said the agreement would include American security guarantees, such as assurances that none of the gas revenues will go to Hezbollah, while speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing negotiations taking place behind closed doors.
The agreement has received praise from numerous senior Israeli security figures, both active and retired, as it may ease tensions with the militant Hezbollah organization in Lebanon, which has repeatedly threatened to attack Israeli natural gas assets in the Mediterranean. Now that Lebanon has a stake in the region’s natural gas industry, analysts predict that both sides will reconsider starting another conflict.
Following a lengthy conflict between the two sides in 2006, Israel sees Hezbollah as its main military threat.
Yoel Guzansky, a senior fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, said that it “might help create and strengthen the mutual deterrence between Israel and Hezbollah.” “This is a great development for Israel.”
The agreement’s final draft will be presented to Israel’s interim government this week for approval prior to the country’s fifth election in less than four years on November 1.
The agreement will be sent to parliament for the required two-week review after the Cabinet approves it in principle on Wednesday, according to an Israeli official. The official stated that the government would give final, official approval following the review while maintaining their anonymity to discuss government policy. It’s still not clear whether parliament must approve the agreement or can just review it.
The approval is not assured. The caretaker government, according to former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is not authorized to sign such a significant contract, and if he is elected again, he will renounce it. He charged Lapid on Tuesday with giving in to Hezbollah threats.
“This agreement is not a landmark one. In a Facebook video, Netanyahu proclaimed, “It’s a historic surrender.
An appeal to the Supreme Court to stop the deal has already been made by the influential conservative think tank Kohelet Policy Forum.
The forum’s director of international law, Eugene Kontorovich, asserted that parliamentary approval is necessary for the agreement. He claimed that the government was trying to force an agreement through because Hezbollah was pressuring it. Hezbollah now has the upper hand over Israel’s democracy, he claimed.
However, Yuval Shany, a leading expert on international law at the Israel Democracy Institute, asserted that while seeking Knesset approval for such agreements is customary, it is not required.
“Normally, peace agreements are presented to the Knesset, but this is not one. He explained that it was a border and limitation agreement.
According to local media and officials, senior U.S. energy envoy Amos Hochstein, who Washington appointed a year ago to serve as a mediator, gave the lead Lebanese negotiator, Deputy Speaker Elias Bou Saab, a modified version of the maritime border deal proposal late Monday night.
The latest iteration of the proposal “satisfies Lebanon, meets its demands, and preserves its rights to its natural resources,” according to the office of Lebanese President Aoun. The office said it will consult with officials before making an announcement.
According to a senior official with knowledge of the negotiations, Aoun, Prime Minister Najib Mikati, and Speaker Nabih Berri are all pleased with Hochstein’s most recent affirmation of the maritime border agreement. According to rules, the official spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Although Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has stated that the organization will support the Lebanese government’s stance, the group did not immediately respond. But in the past, he has threatened to defend Lebanon’s economic rights by using its weapons.
Later on Tuesday, Nasrallah was anticipated to issue a formal statement.