Israel’s security-diplomatic cabinet convenes Thursday to discuss the proposed maritime boundary agreement with Lebanon, but no final vote is planned, a senior Israeli official told Ynet. Lebanon sent a list of objections and amendments to the agreement in its reply on Tuesday to Washington.
Israel is considering those proposed changes; but “There are still caveats,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll. “The deal will be brought to the security cabinet, then to the full cabinet, and only then it will be submitted to the Knesset,” he explained.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid last week made it clear that “Israel will not compromise its security and economic interests in any way, even if it means that there will be no agreement soon.”
Israel will produce gas from the Karish rig “as soon as this is possible,” he said, adding, “If Hezbollah or anyone else tries to damage the Karish rig or threaten us – the negotiations on the maritime line will stop immediately and [Hezbollah commander] Hassan Nasrallah will have to explain to the citizens of Lebanon why they do not have a gas rig and an economic future,” he warned.
Current Proposed Agreement
The current agreement, submitted in writing by US energy envoy Amos Hochstein, gives Israel full control over the Karish natural gas field, and Lebanon full control over the Qana natural gas field, a bit farther north but overlapping into Israeli territory.
The Energean company has already installed its gas rig in the Karish gas field and is preparing to begin extraction this month.
Lebanon’s Iranian proxy terror group Hezbollah has warned repeatedly it will launch an attack if gas extraction begins at Karish without a final deal on the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon that allows Beirut to extract gas as well.
Lebanon’s crashing economy would be relieved by an agreement that allows Beirut to extract gas from Qana.
Lebanon: ‘Not So Fast’
Lebanon submitted a list of “amendments” on Tuesday to the final agreement submitted by Hochstein in its reply to Washington.
A Lebanese official involved in the negotiations told Naharnet the modifications include “amendments of specific sentences so that there is no room for misunderstanding.”
Hochstein has been shuttling back and forth between Israel and Lebanon since 2000 to negotiate the agreement.
According to a report by the Hezbollah-linked Al Akhbar daily, the list of Lebanese “amendments” include the following objections:
1. Recognition of the buoy-marked Israeli boundary placed in 2000 five kilometers off the coast of Rosh Hanikra as an international border.
2. Demarcation of a land border as part of the agreement, insisting the matter be deferred to future talks with the United Nations. (The current proposal reportedly recognizes the buoy-marked border and would then proceed along the southern edge of Line 23 which marks the edge of the Qana gas field. Israel would remain in control of the Karish gas field which falls within its maritime territory.)
3. The plan to pay compensation to Israel for profits gleaned from the part of the Qana offshore gas field that falls within Israeli territory. Beirut allegedly said it wants the French Total Energy company to separate its work with Lebanon from its work with Israel.
4. Signing the agreement together with Israel in the same room in a signing ceremony to be held in the Lebanese city of Naqura. Instead, Lebanon demands the two sides should sign the document in separate rooms since Lebanon and Israel are still technically at war.