Israel and Lebanon closer to maritime border agreement

The Israeli prime minister highlighted the advantages of the pact with the Lebanese nation to delimit maritime zones

REUTERS/AZIZ TAHER  -   A UN ship near the Lebanese-Israeli border

Israel and Lebanon are close to reaching an agreement on the delimitation of the maritime border between the two countries after several years of disagreement over the two nations' maritime environment in the Mediterranean enclave that has significant gas resources. 

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday detailed the advantages for his country in the latest US-brokered proposal for a US-mediated agreement to demarcate the border between the two countries.

Lapid said the preliminary proposals by US mediator Amos Hochstein would fully guarantee Israel's security and economic interests, although he did not yet confirm the final deal. The Israeli prime minister also made it clear that Lebanon could extract gas from the Karish field, if the Hebrew state receives financial compensation in the form of tariffs. 


Israel and Lebanon received the latest offer from the US mediator this weekend to agree on a clear maritime line between the two nations, and Lapid was keen to detail the benefits of the deal for his country: "We are discussing the final details, so it is not yet possible to confirm a finalised agreement; however, as we have demanded from the beginning, the proposal protects Israel's full diplomatic security interests, as well as our economic interests," as reported by Al-Ain News. 

"For more than a decade, Israel has been trying to reach this agreement. It will strengthen the security of the north. The Karish field will operate and produce natural gas, money will flow into the state coffers and our energy independence will be guaranteed. This agreement enhances Israel's security and economy," Lapid told the media in an appearance after the Israeli cabinet meeting. 

Israel already has the Karish field near the maritime border with Lebanon, and considers that its exploitation has nothing to do with these talks, since the line drawn by the UN a decade ago leaves the area of the platform in Israeli waters, and the disputed area would be a long strip further north, as reported by the EFE news agency. 

AFP/AFP - Lebanon and Israel's maritime zones in dispute

Lapid also highlighted the benefit to his country of the development of an additional Lebanese gas field, of which Israel would get its fair share, according to the Hebrew prime minister. 

The new overall situation would reduce Lebanese energy dependence on Iran. This is very important for Israel in order to further isolate its declared enemy, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The regime of the Ayatollahs is seen by many international analysts as a destabilising element in the Middle East due to its interference in the affairs of other neighbouring states through the activity of pro-Iranian Shiite groups that collaborate with the Persian country, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon itself. Hezbollah launched drones against the Karish field in June and threatened to escalate the conflict if the Jewish state extracted gas from the area.

"The mediator's proposal is currently under legal review. Once it is complete, we will present the decision, with Defence Minister Benny Gantz, Deputy Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, and in coordination with the attorney general, for discussion and approval," Yair Lapid said. "We are discussing the final details, so it is not yet possible to announce a finalised agreement," the Israeli prime minister said. 

Lebanon is also welcoming the latest US offer of mediation. Nabih Berri, speaker of the Lebanese parliament, described the latest proposal on the demarcation of the Israeli-Lebanese maritime border as "positive". The media outlet Asharq al-Awsat reported that Nabih Berri described the proposal by US mediator Amos Hochstein as a "draft agreement". Berri said the US offer meets "in principle" Lebanese demands, "which refuse to give any effect to the maritime agreement on the land borders". The speaker of the Lebanese parliament indicated that he and the still Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, and the head of the interim government, Najib Mikati, are studying the US offer before the final response. 

Americas Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.