Israel Shouldn’t Make Deals with Lebanon So Long as It Is Ruled by Hizballah

On Monday night, Amos Hochstein, the State Department’s senior advisor for energy security, unexpectedly arrived in Israel to further negotiations to fix the maritime boundary between Israel and Lebanon. A clear demarcation between the countries’ exclusive economic zones (EEZs)—that is, the offshore areas whose resources each has rights to—would allow both to make the most of the natural-gas fields off their coasts without spurring conflict. Amir Avivi argues that the time is not ripe for Beirut and Jerusalem to reach a deal:

While Israel has repeatedly expressed that it wants to reach an agreement on the maritime border between the countries, two truths need to be clearly stated: one, as long as a terrorist organization, [Hizballah], is behind the wheel on the Lebanese side, no agreements can be trusted or taken seriously by Israel or the international community; and two, if Israel does intend to enter negotiations in the current state of affairs, a transitional government in Israel cannot by any means make serious long-term decisions or concessions.

Lebanese civilians deserve to enjoy the benefits of their rich coast, just like Israel does. And regardless of the situation with Israel, Lebanon cannot even secure steps to explore natural gas off the undisputed areas of its EEZ. The power struggle between the Lebanese state and Hizballah as well as Lebanon’s inability to provide assurances for potential international investors hinder its capacity to make serious moves on this front. Without Lebanon’s ability to explore for gas, all that is left is for Hizballah to intimidate Israel and the international community over the Karish gas field located in the undisputed waters of the Israeli EEZ.

The Lebanese claim that the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon crosses this field. Experts and satellite photos determine this is not the case. It would be better for Lebanon to focus on exploring its own coast for gas rather than trying to reap the benefits of a successful Israeli exploration in Israeli territory.

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Read more at Times of Israel

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

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship