Lebanon and Israel set to resolve dispute over Mediterranean gas field

Hezbollah has however cautioned that the deal does not mean any formal links with Israel, and warned its supporters to be vigilant against the Zionist enemy “who can change their mind anytime”

October 13, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Lebanon-Israel maritime dispute
Lebanese President Michel Aoun with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Bou Habib, head of the Lebanese delegation in the talks with Israel over the maritime borders dispute. (Photo: NNA)

Lebanon and Israel are close to announcing a formal deal over their maritime border dispute. On Wednesday, October 12, the Israeli government led by Prime Minister Yair Lapid approved the deal and sent it to the Knesset for review, inching closer to its formalization.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has already expressed that Lebanon is satisfied with the deal negotiated under US mediation. He claimed that Lebanon “got the right over its natural wealth” which will help the country and its people.  

The deal over the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon is the first formal agreement between the two countries that are technically at war as Lebanon officially recognizes Palestine and not Israel. 

US mediation led by Amos Hochstein had been ongoing since June, when the Lebanese government and Hezbollah formally objected to Israel’s attempts to explore gas production at the Karish gas field in the Mediterranean sea claiming it to be part of the Lebanese Exclusive Economic Zone (200 nautical miles from the coast). 

Israel assigned a European ship called Energean to produce gas from Karish in May. Reacting to the move, Hezbollah had sent drones threatening the exploration, calling it a violation of Lebanese sovereignty. Hezbollah and the Lebanese government had demanded that no exploration from Karish should take place before the maritime boundary was finalized. 

Lebanon claimed sovereignty until line 29 of the maritime border between both the countries, which would include Karish in Lebanese territory. However, Israel had claimed that as per the Hof Line, which was submitted to the UN in 2011, Karish falls under Israeli sovereignty.      

As per reports in the media, the deal proposes line 23 as the border of Lebanon, leaving the Karish field in Israeli control, but in exchange, gives Lebanon control over the much bigger Qana gas field. The full text of the deal is also out now.

After receiving the final text from Hochstein, the Lebanese government commissioned French energy company Total to immediately start exploring gas in the areas under its sovereignty. However, the government clarified that the deal does not mean any formal links with Israel and in future, Israel will receive its share of revenues from Qana field through Total.

Lebanon hopes that revenues from the gas field will help revive its economy which has been facing an unprecedented crisis for a few years now.  

The Israeli media reported that following the positive response, the government has immediately restarted the production process at the Karish gas field which was halted due to Lebanese objections. 

Israel has signed a deal with the European Union to supply it gas following the energy crisis brought on by the sanctions imposed on Russia over the Ukraine war. 

However, the fate of the maritime deal is not yet certain as national elections in Israel are upcoming next month. Leader of the opposition Benjamin Netanyahu had objected to the deal, saying that Lapid had “surrendered” to the demands of Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah welcomed the deal following its announcement. However, it also cautioned its supporters to be vigilant until a formal deal is completed. Its chief Hassan Nasrallah claimed that the deal with Israel is temporary and Hezbollah will wait “till Palestine is liberated” to make it final.