On its face, the new Israel-Lebanon maritime borders and underwater drilling arrangement brokered by the United States would seem to represent a boon to both countries: it ostensibly accords a narrow modus vivendi for them to safely drill in two underwater gas fields – the Karish site for Israel and the Qana site for Lebanon, respectively – at great profit.
But appearances are deceiving here.
A report by the Jewish Press News Desk describes how the Lapid government and the Biden governments, each desperate for a splashy news story in the run up to November elections in Israel and the United States, caved to Lebanon on virtually every issue. As a result, Israel unilaterally conceded drilling areas and other maritime space it already controlled which at worst were negotiable, all with no quid pro quo.
Moreover, notwithstanding PM Lapid’s contention to the contrary, the agreement decidedly did not represent a breakthrough in relations between the two countries. It did not even address the overall issues dividing them; and Israel, as the more powerful player, effectively squandered an opportunity to leverage its power.
Additionally, after Hezbollah vowed to disrupt any Israeli efforts to drill at Karish if there was no deal for Lebanon to drill at Qanon, Hezbollah was a winner here in a real sense, claiming it intimidated both Israel and the United States. Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah proclaimed in a televised address that his group was “standing down” over the gas issue now that the maritime deal had been finalized. “The resistance’s mission is accomplished and all exceptional measures taken by Hezbollah are now over,” he crowed.
To sum it up, in reality Israel ended up a distinct loser in this deal. Its mortal enemy Hezbollah was strengthened, it unilaterally gave away valuable assets, and it showed that it could be snookered in negotiations.