Israel's cabinet is expected to discuss on Wednesday indirect negotiations with Lebanon to resolve an ongoing maritime border dispute, two days after Prime Minister Yair Lapid held met with the American mediator, Amos Hochstein, who was also in Beirut this week.
Israeli officials expressed optimism on Sunday over the prospects of reaching an agreement between the two neighboring countries, who have no formal ties, on delineating the maritime border between them.
The arrival of a drilling ship to the Karish natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea in June stirred tensions. Both Israel and Lebanon claimed the area belongs to them, and Lebanese group Hezbollah has threatened to attack Israeli operations there.
LISTEN: Director Rama Burshtein opens up on romance and religion
According to the agreement that is taking shape, the maritime border will run north of the Karish field, but Lebanon will be permitted to carry out offshore drilling there.
“In the apparent compromise, neither side will obtain its full desires,” an official said.
In Israel, officials assessed that recent threats by the Shi’ite Lebanese Hezbollah militia movement are an indication that the group is beginning to understand that agreement is near on the maritime border. On Sunday, Hezbollah released a video, purportedly from Saturday, showing Israel’s Karish drilling rig in the crosshairs.
- Lebanon-Israel border dispute: 'Hezbollah is calling the shots'
- Israel watches Hezbollah's calculated gamble with wary eyes
- In fight over Lebanon's future, bishop's detention after Israel visit crosses a red line
The U.S. and Israel are aiming to reach an agreement as soon as possible as they fear Hezbollah will try to attack the rig before it starts operating in September.
Senior U.S. officials told their Israeli counterparts that in case it does, the Israeli army should respond with restraint, but Israel has refused to commit to that, saying instead that the intensity of its response will depend on the scope of Hezbollah's attack and its consequences.