Israel and Lebanon have received a US proposal for a deal to demarcate a maritime border between the two countries, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid told a cabinet meeting on Sunday.
“We are discussing the final details, so it is not yet possible to say its a done deal,” Lapid said of the plan, received from the US mediator over the weekend.
“However, as we have demanded from the start, the proposal safeguards Israel’s full security-diplomatic interests, as well as our economic interests,” he said. “This is a deal that strengthens Israel’s security and Israel’s economy.”
The agreement should allow Israel to begin pumping gas from the offshore Karish field without threat of attacks by Hezbollah, the Iranian-sponsored Lebanese militant group. It will also allow Lebanon to begin exploration in the area.
Israel Moves Gas Vessel to Karish Field in Move Angering Lebanon
Israel has said gas production from Karish in the eastern Mediterranean will enable it to increase exports. London-listed Energean Plc, set to operate Karish, said in May that gas flows could start this year.
Israel has no objections to the development of an additional Lebanese gas field in the border area and will receive a share in the field, Lapid said at the cabinet meeting.
According to a report on the Haaretz news website, the US proposal would split up the Kana gas field, with the majority going to Lebanon which would pay royalties in exchange for permission to drill in the area that remains in its territory.
Lebanon’s speaker, Nabi Berri, told the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper on Saturday that the proposal “in principle meets the Lebanese demands,” according to the Associated Press.
Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the deal, saying that Lapid has “surrendered to threats” from Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.
The agreement would give Lebanon a giant gas field that Netanyahu said belongs to the citizens of Israel. If the proposal is approved by Israel’s current transitional government, it wouldn’t be legal, Netanyahu said -- and that if he becomes prime minster following the Nov. 1 election, he won’t be bound by it.
Israel has been trying to reach a deal with Lebanon for over a decade on the issue, Lapid said. The proposal is now undergoing legal review and then will be submitted for discussion and approval, he said.
(Updates with details on gas production in 4th paragraph, Netanyahu statement in 5th)
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