Nasrallah Says Lebanon Will Decide Fate of Maritime Deal With Israel Amid U.S. Draft

Lebanese president says he received a letter from U.S. negotiator Amos Hochstein regarding proposals for the demarcation of the maritime border with Israel after Lebanon's deputy speaker of parliament met with Hochstein last week during a visit to New York

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A tugboat and a gas pumping facility in the Suez Canal on the way to the Karish oil field in May.
A tugboat and a gas pumping facility in the Suez Canal on the way to the Karish oil field in May.Credit: various sources / AFP

The Lebanese government is the party that will make the ultimate decision on the dispute over a maritime border with Israel, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said Saturday.

Nasrallah stated that Hezbollah was waiting to see what the government’s position would be and that it hoped the results of talks would be positive.

Also Saturday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun received a letter from U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein regarding proposals for the demarcation of a maritime border with Israel, the presidency said on Twitter.

A deal could defuse a potential source of conflict between Israel and the heavily armed, Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah, which has warned against any Israeli exploration and extraction in the disputed waters.

Israel’s security cabinet is scheduled to meet next Thursday for a first discussion of the content of the proposed compromise. Currently, an atmosphere of cautious optimism prevails, in contrast to the open concern that was voiced at the height of the summer, when Israel toppled four drones which Hezbollah fired at the Karish platform.

Nasrallah, the secretary general of the Shi’ite organization, continues to threaten, but less. There are those who find encouraging signs that he is willing to accept the compromise, if it’s finalized, albeit while trying to appropriate to himself Lebanon’s achievements in the talks.

As already reported, the American proposal will be based on Line 23, which is located north of the maximal version that the Lebanese put forward some years ago. Karish is located southwest of the line, meaning that it will remain under complete Israeli control. The northeastern field, Kana, will go to the Lebanese. Israel might receive compensation in return for Lebanon’s use of a small part of the gas field in its territory.

Recently the Americans put forward an additional proposal, which is acceptable to Israel. Because a major stumbling block has to do with the precise marking of the border on the shoreline itself, the agreement will not determine this issue but leave it open.

Demarcation of the line will start a few dozen meters west of the shore. Israel will make a calculated tactical compromise here, in expectation of making a strategic gain. The division will enable Lebanon to finally start to exploit its gas potential. The Lebanese economy is in dire needs of this injection of encouragement, and the hope in Jerusalem is that the positioning of two platforms opposite each other will bring about long-term restraint in the northern arena.

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