Israel-Lebanon Negotiations over Offshore Gas Fields Are Bound to Fail

Last week, the U.S. envoy for energy affairs Amos Hochstein traveled to Beirut to negotiate the delineation of the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon. A successful agreement would, in principle, allow both nations to exploit their respective offshore natural-gas reserves. Eran Lerman explains why these efforts are unlikely to succeed, especially given Lebanon’s habit of increasing its demands whenever a compromise is in sight:

Despite its recent electoral setback, Hizballah and its allies still have a firm grip on most of the levers of power in the country.

Negotiations went nowhere last year after Lebanon inexplicably abandoned its previous claim based on “Line 23” . . . and demanded to expand its claim southwards to “Line 29.” The recurrent pattern of asking for more and more has made a mockery of the ongoing attempt to resolve the problem diplomatically. . . . Israel [was willing to accept Line 23 in 2011, and] thus consented to a division of the disputed area, most of which was offered to Lebanon.

In October 2020, . . . a Lebanese team led by a military officer met with an Israeli delegation led by the director of the Ministry of Energy. A U.S. representative attended the meeting. As it turned out, the Lebanese delegation did not talk about the resolution of the previous dispute but staked out a series of new unsubstantiated claims, unrelated to anything but the apparent expectation that they could once again blackmail Israel and the United States into further concessions.

Choosing conflict will not deter the corporations that already have an established presence in Israel. It will, however, frighten away all who may still consider the prospect of investing in Lebanon’s gas fields.

As for Hizballah, its leader Hassan Nasrallah declared in May that he is suspicious of any negotiations with the U.S., and strongly opposes any dealings “with Hochstein, Frankenstein, or any other Stein.” His meaning is not hard to discern.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Hizballah, Israeli gas, Lebanon, Natural Gas, U.S. Foreign policy

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security