In a show of reluctance to resolve the maritime conflict with Lebanon, Israel refused this Thursday to accept a related proposal.
On this Thursday evening, Israeli authorities announced that they can’t agree with revisions requested by Lebanon to a US-brokered border demarcation proposal, killing hopes for a diplomatic solution to the dispute. It was indeed hoped that the proposal could finally put an end to the conflict and enable the two sides to extract gas in a disputed part of the Mediterranean Sea.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun who first welcomed the proposal said the revised deal with Israel is the best way that guarantees Lebanon’s rights to explore oil and gas in the fields specified in the exclusive economic zone.
He also noted that Lebanon’s revisions can very effectively prevent any interpretations that do not apply to the framework that Lebanon specified for the demarcation process during the indirect talks between Lebanon and Israel that have been ongoing for months with the help of the US mediator, Amos Hochstein.
Israel rejected the Lebanese revisions
An Israeli official told Reuters in this regard that Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid “was updated on the details of the substantial changes Lebanon is seeking to make in the agreement and instructed the negotiating team to reject them,” adding that Israel will not give up its security and economic interests, even if that means that there will be no agreement with Lebanon in a near future.
Reuters also reported from the Israeli official that “Israel will produce gas from the Karish rig as soon as it is possible to do so. If Hezbollah or anyone else tries to damage the Karish rig or threaten us, the negotiations on the maritime line will stop immediately,”
He also accused Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah of the economic degradation in Lebanon and said that he “will have to explain to the Lebanese why they do not have a gas field and an economic future.”
During the past months, Nasrallah has, on several occasions, threatened Israel over any unilateral move to extract gas and oil from the disputed field in the Mediterranean Sea. In one of his latest threats last month in September, he warned Israel against beginning extraction amid maritime border talks between Jerusalem and Beirut.
In a televised speech for the Shiite commemoration of Arbaeen, Nasrallah noted upcoming tests at Karish, with the platform slated to be connected to Israel’s national gas grid in the coming days. According to Nasrallah, Hezbollah “sent a very strong message” concerning the tests but Israel clarified they would not involve extracting gas from Karish.
“The red line to us is that there should not be extraction from Karish,” he said, according to the Naharnet news site.
He also said Hezbollah was “giving a real chance” to the US-brokered negotiations, which are aimed at demarcating a maritime border between the countries to allow for offshore drilling in disputed areas.
Warning against Nasrollah’s threats, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said back then that “the state of Lebanon will bear a heavy military price if Hezbollah attacks and the maritime border demarcation agreement with Lebanon will harm Iran’s interests.”
What is the main conflict about?
The US proposal was initially welcomed by both Israel and Lebanon. However, the latter suggested some revisions later on this past Monday and handed them over to the US Ambassador to Beirut Dorothy Shea.
One of the main differences between the two is reportedly over recognition of a line of demarcation buoys that Israel has strung out to sea from its coast. Lebanon reiterated that the so-called line of buoys is meaningless and does not exist.