Israel and Lebanon Officially Sign Maritime Border Deal - Politics | PoFo

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Ha'aretz wrote:Israel and Lebanon Officially Sign Maritime Border Deal

'There is a rare consensus among all security organizations on the importance of the agreement,' Israel's Lapid says ■ former PM Netanyahu's Likud decided not to dispute the agreement for fear that it would help Lapid ahead of Tuesday's election, party sources say.

Israel and Lebanon on Thursday signed a historical maritime agreement demarcating the previously contested sea border and handed it over to a UN representative at the organization's peacekeeping base between the two countries.

Ahead of the meeting, Prime Minister Yair Lapid said the U.S.-brokered deal "strengthens and fortifies Israel's security and freedom of action against Hezbollah and the threats from the north."

"There is a rare consensus among all security organizations on the importance of the agreement. [They] all approve of the deal and its contribution to Israel's security and our operational needs. It is not every day that an enemy state recognizes the State of Israel, in a written agreement, in front of the entire international community," he added.

Lapid also added that production has already begun at the Karish gas field, and that Israel will receive 17 percent of the profits from the Lebanese-controlled the Qana-Sidon reservoir.

U.S. President Joe Biden released a statement congratulating Israel and Lebanon on resolving the border dispute. The agreement, he said, will "secure the interests of both Israel and Lebanon, and it sets the stage for a more stable and prosperous region. The United States will continue to serve as a facilitator as the parties work to uphold their commitments and implement this agreement."

He added, "Energy—particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean—should not be a cause for conflict, but a tool for cooperation, stability, security, and prosperity. This agreement takes us one step closer to realizing a vision for a Middle East that is more secure, integrated, and prosperous, delivering benefits for all the people of the region."

U.S. Secretary of State Blinken also reacted to the deal, congratulating "the Governments of Israel and Lebanon for finalizing their agreement."

Blinken said the agreement "meaningfully demonstrates the U.S. vision for a more secure, integrated, and prosperous Middle East. Equally beneficial to both Israel and Lebanon, it will strengthen the economic and security interests of Israel, while promoting critically needed foreign investment for the Lebanese people as they face a devastating economic crisis. The region and beyond will soon reap the benefit of these energy resources that will advance security, stability, and prosperity."

Lebanon officially signed the maritime border deal earlier on Thursday, according to the Lebanese negotiator in the talks.

The Lebanese president said the deal with longtime foe Israel "has no political dimensions or impacts that contradict Lebanon's foreign policy."

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, said that the deal is a "major victory for everyone in Lebanon, resistance forces, the military and the state of Lebanon." He added, though, that "The claim that the agreement is a step towards normalization is a lie, and an attempt to twist the facts."

He added, "There is no sign of normalization. All that happened was indirect negotiation. The teams did not meet each other, and were not in the same room. The document that Lebanon held will not see an Israeli signature, just a signature from a UN mediator. Israel received no security guarantees."

Lead negotiator Elias Bou Saab says the final version of the maritime deal, which sets the ground for natural gas production and exploration, was signed by Lebanese president Michel Aoun and sent to the United Nations with the new coordinates of Lebanon's maritime border with Israel.

Saab says the signing of the agreement marks a "new era" with the U.S. envoy, saying it can be an "economic turning point for Lebanon," but added that "if one side violates the deal, both sides lose."

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked was the only cabinet member to vote against the deal.

In an interview with Kol Chai radio on Wednesday, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu said he "respects the agreement with Lebanon" and that he never said he would cancel it if his party regains power, retracting his previous statements from a few weeks prior that "if this illegal decision (the gas agreement) goes through, it will not oblige us."

A source within Netanyahu's Likud party said that the former premier considered putting the accord to a vote in the Knesset, which would have given Netanyahu valuable media attention, but chose to avoid it out of concern that it would harm him politically, as the deal has the backing of the majority of the population.

Ahead of the deal's signing, Israel's cabinet authorized the Energy Ministry's director general as well as the deputy accountant general to represent the government in negotiations with French company Total on royalties from future gas production at the Kana reservoir.

According to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office, a small ceremony will be held at the UN base in Naqoura in Lebanon with the participation of the Israeli and Lebanese delegations.

The ceremony will be closed to the media, and it is not clear whether the two parties will shake hands and whether photos from the event will be published. American mediator Amos Hochstein, who drafted the agreement and managed the contacts between the two parties, will also participate in the ceremony.

Israel and Lebanon reached a "historic agreement" on the final draft of the U.S.-mediated maritime border deal two weeks ago, which both countries said satisfies their demands.

Here's a map showing the final deal, both sides' demands and the gas fields:


Very interesting development. There's a clear opportunity for both countries to reap economic benefits, this helps Hezbollah to rely less on Iran, this helps everyone to keep Iranian influence in check, this helps Lapid for Tuesday's elections and Biden for the midterm and this also helps Europe to rely less on Russian gas in the long term.

Good news.

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