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.