Photo Credit: Amos Ben-Gershom (GPO)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, October 2, 2022.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday morning told his cabinet: “Over the weekend, Israel and Lebanon received the American mediator’s proposal for an agreement on a maritime line between the two countries. We are discussing the final details, so it is not yet possible to praise a done deal; however, as we have demanded from the start, the proposal safeguards Israel’s full security-diplomatic interests, as well as our economic interests.”

Lapid noted that “for over a decade, Israel has been trying to reach this deal. The security of the north will be strengthened. The Karish gas field will operate and produce natural gas. Money will flow into the state’s coffers and our energy independence will be secured. This deal strengthens Israel’s security and Israel’s economy.”

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Opposition leader and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu reacted swiftly to the announcement, saying, “Yair Lapid shamefully capitulated to Nasrallah’s threats. He gives Hezbollah a sovereign territory of the State of Israel with a huge gas reservoir that belongs to you, the citizens of Israel. He does it without a debate in the Knesset and without a referendum.”

Israeli law requires a national referendum whenever the government proposes to give away parts of Eretz Israel. It remains to be seen whether the proposed giveaway concerns an area within Israel’s territorial waters, which according to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea starts 12 nautical miles from shore, or economic waters, which starts where the territorial boundary ends and stretches 200 additional nautical miles, where Israel is not the owner outright but enjoys certain priorities in exploiting resources such as fish and energy.

The Karish rig, which is next door to the Lebanese proposed rig, is located 49 nautical miles away from Israel’s outer territorial waters.

“Lapid has no mandate to hand over to an enemy state sovereign territories and sovereign assets that belong to all of us,” Netanyahu said in a Facebook post. “If this illegal grab goes through, we will not be bound by it. On November 1, we will bring back to Israel a strong leadership, an experienced leadership, that will maintain security for all of us.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Energy Yuval Steinitz visit the Leviathan gas field off the shore of Caesarea, January 31, 2019. / Marc Israel Sellem/POOL

Lapid for his part called Netanyahu’s statement “irresponsible,” adding that Netanyahu “after failing for 10 years in reaching the agreement, he is helping Hezbollah.”

But Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah sounded as happy as blood-thirsty terrorists can manage with Lapid’s concession, telling his audience from the bunker on Sunday that “this is a very important step,” and, “We are approaching decisive days on this issue, and we hope that things will go in a positive direction in favor of Lebanon. If, with Allah’s help, things go in a good direction, it will open up great opportunities for Lebanon and the Lebanese people.”

Professor Eugene Kontorovich, Director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, said on Sunday that “the proposed natural gas agreement between Israel and Lebanon represents a total capitulation to Hezbollah and a transfer of sovereign Israeli territory to an Iranian puppet state. As the people of Iran fight for their freedom, Israel is surrendering to Tehran via Beirut without even getting an acknowledgment of its existence in return, let alone peace. After being proposed and rejected a decade ago, the deal is being rammed through, just weeks before the Israeli elections – in violation of Israeli constitutional rules – because the Biden Administration and Hezbollah understand the desperation and weakness of the Lapid-Bennett government.”

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.