Lapid, Gantz Accept U.S. Proposal for Lebanon Maritime Border, Israeli Official Says

The official said the deal would deliver a significant win for Israel by making part of the border that Israel defined unilaterally a provision in the agreement, with U.S. approval and guarantees

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Lapid and Gantz, earlier this year.
Lapid and Gantz, earlier this year.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

A senior diplomatic official said Sunday that the U.S. proposal for setting Israel’s maritime border between Israel and Lebanon is acceptable to Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and is expected to be submitted to the inner cabinet for a vote Thursday.

If both countries approve the agreement, it will be passed to the United Nations in order to be validated according to international law. According to the source, “the proposal is the result of intensive work by the mediator with us and with the Lebanese. We have done everything so far to make sure the proposal will be acceptable to both sides."

Although Israel has made steps towards compromising with Lebanon in setting Line 23 as the future maritime border, the official rejected the criticism that Israel has given in to Lebanon’s demands. According to him, the agreement will give Israel a significant achievement: the buoy line – a 5-kilometer (3-mile) section from the shore into the Mediterranean Sea that Israel unilaterally marked for security purposes – will be officially recognized and backed up by American guarantees. “The buoy line is the line up to which Israel took the liberty to act for security reasons,” he said. According to him, “Israel is acting unilaterally in it. This is the sensitive area from a security point of view. Anchoring it [in the agreement] will allow us to treat it as a section of the northern territorial border.”

In addition, contrary to the original Lebanese demand, not all of the Kana offshore reservoir will be assigned to the territory of Lebanon. The official said the emerging agreement bisects Kana, leaving a small part of it in Israeli territory. According to him, the agreement will give Israel financial compensation for the natural gas that will be produced from the reservoir areas in Israeli territory. “The field in Kana isn’t bigger than Karish, and there’s a chance that there’s nothing in it,” the official said.

The agreement that will be submitted to the cabinet does not specify the compensation that will be awarded to Israel, but rather principles for a compensation mechanism. “The mechanism will be clear. It will be based on principles of compensation. Since the size of the reservoir is not clear, the amount of compensation cannot be clear to the cabinet ministers before the approval,” the official explained.

The official noted that while Hezbollah was not an active partner in the talks, it is clear to Israel that the Lebanese side took the organization into account in the discussions on the agreement. According to him, the U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein met in Lebanon with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

London-based Energean's drill ship begins drilling at the Karish natural gas field offshore Israel.Credit: ARI RABINOVITCH / REUTERS

“Hezbollah influences all three of them. They are, of course, taking into account [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah’s position, but he is not a direct negotiator,” he clarified. It is not yet clear whether there will be an official signing ceremony. “The document contains a reference to a joint event,” the official said and added: “We are interested in that And they think it’s important.”

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