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

Israel’s Retaliation against the Houthis Sends a Message to the U.S., and to Its Arab Allies

The drone that struck a Tel Aviv high-rise on Thursday night is believed to have traveled over 2,000 kilometers, flying from Yemen over Egypt and then above the Mediterranean before veering eastward toward the Israeli coast. Since October, the Houthis have launched over 200 drones at Israel. Nor is this the first attempt to strike Tel Aviv, only the first successful one. Noah Rothman observes that the Houthis’ persistent attacks on Israel and on international shipping are largely the result of the U.S.-led coalition’s anemic response:

Had the Biden administration taken a more proactive and vigorous approach to neutralizing the Houthis’ capabilities, Israel would not be obliged to expand to Yemen the theater of operations in the war Hamas inaugurated on October 7. The prospects of a regional war grow larger by the day, not because Israel cannot “take the win,” as President Biden reportedly told Benjamin Netanyahu following a full-scale direct Iranian attack on the Jewish state, but because hostile foreign actors are killing its citizens. Jerusalem is obliged to defend them and the sovereignty of Israel’s borders.

Biden’s hesitancy was fueled by his apprehension over the prospect of a “wider war” in the Middle East. But his hesitancy is what is going to give him the war he so cravenly sought to avoid.

In this context, the nature of the Israeli response is significant: rather than follow the American strategy of striking isolated weapons depots and the like, IDF jets struck the port city of Hodeida—the sort of major target the U.S. has shied away from. The mission was likely the furthest-ever carried out by the Israel Air Force, hitting a site 200 kilometers further from Israel than Tehran. Yoel Guzansky and Ilan Zalayat comment:

The message that Israel sent was intended to reach the moderate Arab countries, the West, and especially the United States. . . . The message to the coalition countries is that “the containment” had failed and the Houthis must be hit harder. The Hodeida port is the lifeline of the Houthi economy and continued damage to it will make it extremely difficult for this economy, which is also facing significant American sanctions.

Read more at National Review

More about: Houthis, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy