Sea Border Talks between “Israeli” Entity, Lebanon on Verge of Imminent Collapse
Source: Responsible Statecraft | Edited by Al-Ahed News
The “Responsible Statecraft” website revealed that the indirect sea border talks between the ‘Israeli’ occupation entity and Lebanon “are on verge of imminent collapse.”
Quoting several senior Lebanese officials involved in the negotiations, the well-informed site underscored that “The deal that energy coordinator Amos Hochstein unveiled a few weeks ago in Beirut, one which apparently has ‘Israel’s’ blessing, falls far short of Lebanon’s minimum acceptable position.”
“Hochstein was assumed to be trusted by the ‘Israelis’ [he was born in ‘Israel’ and served in the ‘IDF’ in the early 1990s]. He was perceived positively by some of the main Lebanese actors as a foe of a former US envoy, Ambassador Frederic Hof, who had tabled a deal ten years before known as the “Hof Line” boundary that was widely seen in Lebanon as exceptionally unfair. And he came with a deep background in the complexities of the energy sector,” it mentioned.
The site went on to wonder: “Was he [Hochstein] lulled into thinking that Hezbollah’s uncharacteristic quiet on the maritime issue over many years offered a rare opportunity for initiating material cooperation between Lebanon and ‘Israel’? If this was his assumption, he burned a golden opportunity consecrated when Hezbollah delegated the indirect negotiations to its two allies, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and President Michel Aoun.”
“Indeed, instead of using Hezbollah’s self-removal to box it into accepting a deal seen as reasonable by the vast majority of Lebanese on legal, commercial and nationalistic grounds, rather than on imperatives related to an enduring struggle against ‘Israel’, Hochstein’s field-sharing proposal played right into Hezbollah’s hands. In fact, Hezbollah MP Mohammad Raad felt confident enough a few weeks ago, despite the country’s mounting economic problems, to deliver the party’s first fiery “redline” speech on the issue: “They tell us…it may turn out that you will need to share the gas field with the ‘Israelis’…We’d rather leave the gas buried underwater until the day comes when we can prevent the ‘Israelis’ from touching a single drop of our waters.”
Hochstein’s “poison pill” deal, according to the writer Nicholas Noe, also squandered a second opening the Lebanese side has offered since the fall of 2020 when the Trump administration resumed Washington’s mediation efforts.
“Although it is the source of much political intrigue and enmity in Beirut, for the first time in modern maritime negotiations, the Lebanese team came to the table with a well-grounded ‘maximalist’ position [Line 29] but without having actually deposited it de jure at the United Nations,” he said, noting that “Lebanon’s restraint in not officializing its new ‘maximalist’ Line 29 also gave Lebanese politicians a convenient way to accept a deal far less than what their own experts and lawyers have been saying for years should be granted to Beirut.”
“Hochstein’s proposal,” however, that “‘Israel’ and Lebanon go into business together by sharing the Qana Prospect, decisively quashed any such maneuverability.”
In parallel, the website predicted: “Should talks break down in the coming period, as now seems likely, at least two negative outcomes are almost certain. First, with the talks dead and the country sinking ever deeper into a “Deliberate Depression,” Lebanese leaders will have little to lose from officializing the “maximalist” boundary claim they are legally entitled to assert and then taking punitive action in multiple fora. This will put significant pressure on companies operating in the [soon to be] “disputed” Karish field as well as the Qana Prospect.”
“Second, and perhaps most important, by offering an unworkable deal that leads to a negotiation breakdown, the US and ‘Israel’ will be handing Hezbollah a “Maritime Shebaa.” In short, a “Maritime Shebaa” will be far more evocative and unifying for more Lebanese — to Hezbollah’s distinct political benefit — than the issue of “Land Shebaa” since Lebanon’s case is much stronger in the water, just as the loss of potentially tens of billions of much-needed dollars to ‘Israel’ will be daily more evident to everyone. This will likely lead to periodic military engagements in the area that negatively impact drilling and perhaps lead to deaths. At worst, this part of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea could become the spark for a devastating new regional war.”
According to “Responsible Statecraft” “At a time when Europe’s current and future gas needs have suddenly been destabilized following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, any further disruption of international supplies will only create more negative fallout. Just a few weeks ago, ‘Israel’ and Energen announced that Karish had been hooked up to the national grid, with gas expected to flow in the coming months. Crucially, this extra capacity is now being seriously considered for export to the European Union via Egypt as early as September. A combination of Lebanese legal actions and Hezbollah threats could substantially disrupt this schedule.”