A sea-based Iron Dome air defense system is seen guarding the Energean floating production, storage and offloading vessel at the Karish gas field, on 2 July, 2022. (Photo credit: Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid will present the US-proposed maritime agreement between Lebanon and Israel for cabinet approval on 6 October.
Lapid intends to ratify the deal at the Israeli political-military council of ministers and consult about the legitimacy of the threat posed by Hezbollah if the deal fails.
US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea met the heads of authority in Lebanon on 1 October and handed them the final draft based on the efforts of US mediator, Amos Hochstein.
An identical draft was handed to the Israeli authorities.
However, despite the confidence of both Beirut and Tel Aviv that a deal is highly likely before the elections in November, both legal hurdles in Israel, as well as fear of economic normalization in Lebanon, may derail the entire process.
Online newspaper Israel Today reports that Lapid intends to approve the agreement through a special article in the government regulations that gives him the legal right to hide its details from the public.
Lapid fears that if the agreement goes public, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu will leverage it to his benefit in the upcoming election by accusing Lapid of treason.
Despite the high stakes, the prime minister’s spokeswoman refused to declare the voting process, alleging that it will be “done according to the attorney general’s instructions.”
Netanyahu and his far-right Likud party have been trying to mobilize Israel against signing an agreement to end the maritime border dispute with Lebanon.
According to Haaretz, the Israeli opposition has begun to call for demonstrations outside of Lapid’s residence to protest the deal.
“Yair Lapid shamefully surrendered to [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah’s threats,” Netanyahu stated on 2 October in a video released on Twitter.
יאיר לפיד נכנע באופן מביש לאיומים של נסראללה. הוא נותן לחיזבאללה שטח ריבוני של מדינת ישראל עם מאגר גז ענק ששייך לכם, אזרחי ישראל.
הוא עושה את זה ללא דיון בכנסת ובלי משאל עם. ללפיד אין מנדט למסור למדינת אויב שטחים ריבוניים ונכסים ריבוניים ששייכים לכולנו. pic.twitter.com/2MGGoIiXx9
— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) October 2, 2022
Netanyahu added that Lapid “is giving Hezbollah sovereign territory of the State of Israel with a huge gas reservoir that belongs to you, the citizens of Israel.”
If the current government certifies the agreement, it will be considered an unorthodox process that is unprecedented in Israeli policy and practices, especially when it comes to territorial concessions.
Former Head of Military Intelligence in the Israeli occupation army, Amos Yadlin, was quoted by Lebanon-based Al-Manar TV as saying that “Nasrallah has achieved everything he wanted, so he feels satisfied.”
Yadlin added that the Israeli public is not that interested in the details, and will prefer a resolution to this energy crisis over a war in the north with Hezbollah.
In light of this debate, two Israeli legal associations met and communicated with Lapid’s office on the evening of 1 October, warning that the secret approval of the agreement is legally void and will not stand before the Supreme Court.
Lapid was warned that the government’s legal advisor was misleading him and that Lapid’s reasoning to compare this situation to annexing the Golan Heights does not stand when conceding Israeli territory.
Additionally, the prime minister was informed that an agreement with Lebanon requires a public referendum.
On the other hand, Lebanon is wary of the implications of Israel’s announcement that it would benefit from the royalties of the gas that Lebanon extracts from Qana.
If Lebanon accepts this condition – even if the royalties are indirectly paid by the international company that will operate on behalf of Lebanon – Beirut would be normalizing ties with Tel Aviv.