(Photo credit: AFP)
Israeli media has revealed that US mediator in the maritime border dispute between Lebanon and Israel, Amos Hochstein, made a secret trip to Tel Aviv on 1 August after meeting with Lebanese authorities earlier in the day.
On 2 August, Haaretz published information about Hochstein’s secret meeting with Israeli interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid, suggesting that “important progress” was made during his visit to Lebanon.
Israel’s Wallah news site also claimed to have received similar information, saying officials expect an agreement to be reached “in the coming weeks.”
A dual US-Israeli citizen, Hochstein was born and raised in Israel and served in the Israeli army from 1992–1995, during the country’s occupation of Lebanon.
The diplomat’s background has brought into question his impartiality to serve as a mediator in the ongoing dispute for control of an off-shore natural gas field coveted by both nations.
The Karish gas field is located under line 29, which Lebanon claims as its maritime border. Meanwhile, the UN claims line 23 is the maritime border, while Israel has previously claimed line 1.
US-mediated talks to demarcate the maritime border between Lebanon and Israel restarted back in June, after Tel Aviv began preparations to drill for gas in Karish.
In the days following the restart of negotiations, Hochstein told Lebanese media that citizens should consider accepting “creative” compromises to resolve the dispute over the Karish gas field.
He also suggested Lebanese should “stop thinking about ‘do I have the most legal case?’” over the gas field, saying: “Sometimes when you are the most right, you also have nothing to show for it.”
The ongoing situation has increased tensions between the Israeli army and Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah, which has vowed to protect Lebanon’s natural resources.
“There is a historic and golden opportunity to save the country, and we need to act. Therefore, let us take the risk. We are ready to offer ourselves and our loved ones to protect our country and our people,” Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said during a televised speech on 31 July.