Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid at Nevatim airbase, 6 September, 2022. (Photo credit: Video screenshot/GPO)
Interim Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on 6 October rejected Lebanon’s comments on the US-drafted agreement to resolve a maritime border dispute over two offshore natural gas fields.
According to a senior diplomatic source that spoke with Israeli media, Lapid “made it clear that he will not compromise on Israel’s security and economic interests even if it means there will not be an agreement soon.”
The source went on to claim “Israel will extract gas from the Karish rig at the moment that it will be possible,” and added that “If Hezbollah or someone else tries to harm Karish or threaten us, the negotiations on the maritime line will stop immediately.”
Similarly, Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned during a speech on Thursday that “we are ready to defend our infrastructure … if Hezbollah attacks us, Lebanon will pay a heavy military price.”
Lebanon and Israel restarted US-mediated negotiations to demarcate their maritime border and determine control over two offshore gas fields since June.
Lapid chaired a cabinet meeting on Thursday to discuss the changes proposed by Lebanon to the deal. According to Arabic media, Beirut’s observations included demands for a unified line to demarcate the maritime border and the removal of a line of buoys Israel deployed in an attempt to establish a “buffer zone.”
Other demands included renaming the “possible southern Sidon reservoir” as the “Sidon-Qana field,” and clarifying that this field will be “developed by Lebanon and for the benefit of Lebanon”.
Moreover, Lebanon asked that the wording of the draft specify that companies operating in offshore field will not be “subject to international sanctions” – not merely US sanctions, as initially drafted –and that these “are not Israeli or Lebanese.”
Concerning the alleged payment of royalties by Lebanon to Israel for the extraction of gas from the Qana field, Beirut objected to the phrase “financial compensation,” and said that if there is a financial settlement between the operating company and Israel, then “Lebanon is not interested.”
Another demand from Lebanon called on the US to facilitate the work of gas-extracting companies “directly and quickly” once an agreement with Israel is reached.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said earlier this week that the US proposal was “on the right track to assert Lebanon’s rights over all its waters.”