Defense Minister Benny Gantz has invited opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu to a security briefing on the emerging maritime border deal between Israel and Lebanon.
The briefing was to take place at the IDF Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv — but Netanyahu rejected the invitation, and said such an offer from Gantz is “irrelevant.”
An official from Netanyahu’s Likud party provided further clarification in a statement reported by Israeli Channel 12 diplomatic correspondent Amit Segal.
“According to the law, the security briefing takes place exclusively between the leader of the opposition and the prime minister — and Lapid, who surrendered to Hezbollah, has not yet seen fit to invite Netanyahu to a briefing on the issue,” he said.
Last Thursday, Gantz ordered the Israel Defense Forces in northern Israel to move to high alert in response to setbacks in reaching the maritime border agreement prompted by the new Lebanese demands.
The defense minister held a situation assessment with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and other defense officials after Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid rejected Lebanon’s new demands.
“The defense minister directed the IDF to prepare for a scenario of escalation in the north, both offensively and defensively, given the developments in the negotiations on the maritime border,” the defense minister’s office said in a statement.
Although the deal appeared close to conclusion last week, Lebanon’s new demands submitted by Lebanon created another delay and raised the possibility the agreement could be torpedoed altogether, leading to the likelihood of more threats from Hezbollah.
Netanyahu charged last Monday that the impending agreement cedes sovereign Israeli territory to Lebanon and is a capitulation to Lebanon’s Iranian proxy, Hezbollah.
Former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman concurred, saying last week that the financial benefits from the deal under discussion would go 100 percent to Lebanon and 0 percent to Israel.
US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides pushed back Friday against that claim, however.
“That is ridiculous,” Nides said. “I have enormous respect for David and I’m not in any way criticizing him,” he told JTA. “However, it’s wrong.”
Nides told the news outlet that Netanyahu had also supported a similar deal several years ago, with similar benefits to Israel.