Israel on Sunday praised a US proposal to resolve the country’s maritime border dispute with Lebanon.building further momentum toward a deal between two nations that are technically still at war.
The draft agreement presented by the American envoy Amos Hochstein aims to solve conflicting claims over offshore gas fields and was handed over to Lebanese and Israeli officials over the weekend.
The Lebanese authorities, who confirmed receipt of the terms on Saturday, promised to deliver a answer “as fast as possible”following a flurry of recent announcements from Beirut that a deal with Israel was close.
The Israeli Prime Minister, Yair Lapidtold his cabinet on Sunday that the US proposal “strengthens Israel’s security and economy.”
His government was “discussing the final detailsso still it is not possible to praise a closed deal”Lapid said.
“However, as we have demanded from the beginning, the proposal safeguards all of Israel’s diplomatic and security interests, as well as our economic interests”.
Lebanon and Israel do not have diplomatic relations and their land border is patrolled by the United Nations.
They reopened negotiations on their maritime border in 2020but the process stalled due to Lebanon’s demand that the map used by the United Nations in the talks be modified.
Progress resumed after the Lebanon seemed to change its positionspecifically with regard to karish fieldwhich Israel claims as its territory and is not open to negotiation.
The head of the powerful Lebanese Shia movement HezbollahHasan Nasrallah had threatened Israel with attacks if it started production from Karish.
But Nasrallah on Saturday called the US proposal “a very important step”.
Lapid said that Israel had been seeking a deal with Lebanon. “for more than a decade.”
He added that his government “is not opposed to the development of an additional Lebanese gas field, of which of course we will receive the share we deserve”, in an apparent reference to the Qana field, which could be subject to a revenue-sharing mechanism under the US proposal.
Lapid said Hochstein’s proposal will be submitted for final approval after legal review.
Progress towards agreement occurs ahead of the November 1 elections in Israelhis fifth vote in less than four years.
former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahua foreign policy hawk seeking a return to power, took to social media moments after Lapid’s statement emerged, warning that the right-wing government he intends to form after the vote could undo any pact.
“If this illegal tactic passes, it will not force us”Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu accused Lapid of “give Hezbollah a sovereign Israeli territory with a huge gas field that belongs” to the Jewish statewithout specifying which Israeli waters he thinks are being delivered.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a 34-day war in 2006. Netanyahu said Lapid had “shamefully capitulated to Nasrallah’s threats.”
Lapid responded, accusing Netanyahu of doing “irresponsible ads” that undermine the “security interests” of Israel.
Defense Minister, Benny Gantzwho also aspires to be elected prime minister in less than a month, said that Netanyahu’s criticism was uninformed and dangerous.
“I would suggest that Netanyahu request an orderly update on the issue before adding fuel to Nasrallah’s propaganda, which has jeopardized and still jeopardizes the deal,” Gantz said in a statement.
Gantz also said that the deal, if finalized, will be presented to parliament and broadcast to the Israeli public.
Even it was unclear whether such a deal would need parliament’s approvalwhere Lapid does not have a majority.
The Justice Ministry said late Sunday that it was still examining the deal and the legal issues that go with it.
(With information from AFP)
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