Prime Minister Yair Lapid has been briefed on the details of the material changes that Lebanon seeks to introduce into the draft agreement on its maritime border with Israel, and has instructed Israel’s negotiating team to reject them. According to a senior diplomatic source, Lapid made clear that Israel will not compromise in any way on its security and economic interests, even if that means that there will be no agreement in the near future.
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The source added that Israel will produce gas from the Karish field as soon as that becomes possible. “If Hezbollah or anyone else tries to hit the Karish gas platform or to threaten us, the negotiations on the maritime border will cease immediately, and Hassan Nasrallah will have to explain to the citizens of Lebanon why they have no gas rig and no economic future,” the source said.
According to Lebanese reports, the Lebanese government’s objections to the draft agreement concern: unacceptability of the wording that formalizes the “line of buoys” with which Israel marked its border with Lebanon as the international border; the question of financial compensation to Israel for its share of the Qana/Sidon gas field, which straddles the proposed border between the two countries exclusive economic zones – the Lebanese seek to undo the link between agreement on a compensation mechanism and the start of exploratory drilling in the field; refusal of a joint signing ceremony.
The upshot of Israel’s rejection of Lebanon’s latest demands will probably be another trip to the region for US mediator Amos Hochstein. Yesterday, Hochstein spoke to Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati after receiving Lebanon’s amendments to the agreement. Mikati himself said in an interview with Lebanese media that the agreement would prevent otherwise certain war.
The remarks by the diplomatic source should be understood in the context of the internal debate in Israel, and within the coalition itself, over the agreement. Minister of Justice Gideon Sa’ar, apparently with the backing of Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, wants the agreement to be brought before the Knesset, and it is not yet clear whether Bennett will veto it in the government.
Published by Globes, Israel business news – en.globes.co.il – on October 6, 2022.
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