Photo Credit: Lebanon MTV / Israel Channel 11 / Twitter
Elias Bou Saab, Deputy Speaker of Lebanon’s parliament explains how Lebanon out-negotiated Amos Hochstein and Israel.

Lebanon could give Chris Voss a masterclass on how to say “no,” never split the difference, and get everything you want in international negotiations.

Roi Kais, the Arab Affairs Correspondent Kan for Israel’s Channel 11 translated and presented the presentation of Elias Bou Saab, the Deputy Speaker of Lebanon’s parliament, as to how Lebanon out-negotiated Israel and the Americans on the shared maritime border and offshore gas fields, compromising on nothing, while getting the Israeli-US side to compromise on every single point.


Saab explained in detail on Lebanon’s MTV, how Lebanon got Israel and the US negotiator Amos Hochstein to negotiate with themselves, resulting in repeated one-sided Israeli concessions and ultimately, Israel’s complete capitulation to Hezbollah’s demands, while Lebanon conceded nothing.

Saab describes Hochstein’s first failures in September, when Hochstein approached them with his newest offer and map and told the Lebanese that Israel can’t accept that Lebanon would get 100% of the maritime territory and gas field blocs in dispute. Hochstein told Lebanon that Israel needed to get something in return.

Lebanon outright rejected Hochstein’s assertion and offer.

Saab describes Hochstein’s initial Israeli concession on September 1, where Hochstein presented a new offer and a new map. Lebanon could compromise on Bloc 8 (at the westernmost end of the disputed area), or Lebanon could get all of Bloc 8 (up to Line 23) in exchange for a compromise on the shoreline maritime buoy line border.

Hochstein said at the time this was the last offer.

Take it or leave it,” Saab claims Hochstein said to the Lebanese.

In response, Lebanon said they would leave it. And with that bullet spent, Hochstein lost his credibility.

Lebanon, Saab said refused to move the line northward, and insisted they would they also have all of Bloc 8.

In addition, Lebanon added that they rejected that offer until Hochstein would clarify what he meant by the shoreline buoy line border.

One should note that the buoy line has been the de facto Lebanon-Israel maritime border for decades and the Lebanese have never dared cross it, so Lebanon wouldn’t actually be ceding anything they actually had – if they had conceded on that point (which as you’ll see soon, they didn’t).

“Take it or leave it” Hochstein came back with new maps of the shoreline buoy line. There was a difference of 35 meters between the Israeli Point 31 (northward) and the Lebanese Point 18 (southward), based on the disagreement of the shoreline rocks used as border markers.

Saab explains that Israel did not want to compromise on that 35 meter section because there is a popular Israeli tourist site at that location (the old Rosh Hanikra train tunnels which Hezbollah demands). Hochstein explained that Israel would see it as a security threat to the tourist site if Lebanon could now enter that 35 meter maritime zone which would allow Lebanese (aka Hezbollah) boats to be directly opposite the Israeli tourist site.

Saab explained that Lebanon has considered this their territory for the past 60 years or more.

Saab explains to the listeners that Lebanon had two goals, to maintain the border point from b1 (the Lebanese southernmost claim on the shore) and ensure that Lebanon can still enter the land area above the train tunnel, which it considers its territory.

Saab says they saw through the Israeli game and they were stubborn and rejected that offer too.

Israel and Hochstein then continued to negotiate with themselves and told Lebanon to simply skip past this point of disagreement (which is still unresolved), and they would began to negotiate from a more distant point from the shoreline, which Israel and Hochstein thought would be much easier to negotiate with the Lebanese.

Saab says Lebanon rejected that offer too.

Saab continues to explain how he remained stubborn and refused to budge from Line 23, and then added that Line 29 (even further south) was still an option that Lebanon could and would demand.

As a threat to further pressure the Americans who showed how desperate they were for a deal Saab added more threats and conditions.

It was obvious to everyone in Israel that Israeli PM Yair Lapid wanted to close the deal before the upcoming elections, and the US needed to close the deal before former PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s possibly returned to office, who would scuttle the fire sale.

Saab adds that not only did he never once used the word “negotiations” but told Hochstein Lebanon’s president wouldn’t end his term before he signs an order unilaterally declaring Line 29 as Lebanese territory, if it comes to that. Kais points out that this unilateral declaration would legitimize any acts of Hezbollah aggression up to Line 29 in the eyes of the Lebanese.

Saab describes this as his last bullet in the chamber that he would use only at the end, and that Line 29 amd that proverbial bullet remained an option on the table until the last moment.

The results we all know.

Lebanon obtained everything they demanded up to Line 23, which was their starting negotiating position. The exact shoreline border point is still unresolved and up for future negotiations, if ever that happens. Lebanon still claims ownership of the train tunnels which they didn’t have access to in the first place. Israel lost access to all the offshore resources in the EEZ region it was previously claiming. Lebanon can send boats into Israeli territory near the Kana gas field, including to physically drill and extract Kana gas from within Israel’s EEZ, and Hezbollah’s terror chieftain Hassan Nasrallah now claims there is an additional 2.5 square miles of marine territory that has not yet been liberated by Lebanon, leaving the conflict still open, as Hezbollah did with UN Blue Line and Sheba Farms, which ultimately resulted in the Second Lebanon War.

And that my friends, is a masterclass on how one should never negotiate in the Middle East, or anywhere else for that matter.


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