Netanyahu criticises deal on maritime border between Israel and Lebanon

Agreement on gas fields is close, but Israel’s opposition leader says he will not be bound by it if he wins the election

With Israel and Lebanon close to reaching agreement on a maritime border after more than a decade of negotiations, Israeli opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu says he will not be bound by any deal if he wins the election on November 1st.

The US mediator Amos Hochstein presented the sides with a final draft over the weekend and both countries have indicated they will accept the proposals in the coming days.

At stake is control over lucrative Mediterranean gas fields that straddle the maritime borders of enemy states Israel and Lebanon.

The disputed area contains part of the Karish gas field and part of Qana, a prospective gas field.


Israel maintains that Karish lies fully within its internationally recognised economic waters. Israel is only weeks away from beginning to pump gas from Karish but the Iranian-backed Hizbullah, the dominant force in Lebanon, has warned that such a move, in the absence of an agreement with Lebanon, will prompt a military response.

Israel has said the drilling will go ahead on schedule despite the Hizbullah threats.

Under the emerging deal, Israel will concede the entire triangle of economic waters that had been in dispute with Lebanon from 2012-2021, but not the extended triangle that Lebanon demanded in early 2021. It will also allow Lebanon to develop the entire Qana field, which extends south into what would be Israeli waters. If Total Energy, which has the Lebanese licence to develop Qana, finds and extracts gas from the reservoir, it will have to pay Israel royalties for the percentage of the gas in its economic waters.

Mr Netanyahu criticised the government for what he called a “humiliating capitulation” to Hizbullah.

“Prime minister Yair Lapid is giving Hizbullah parts of Israel’s sovereign territory, together with a massive pool of natural gas that belongs to the citizens of Israel. Furthermore, he’s doing it without any discussion in the Knesset and without a national referendum. Lapid has no mandate to give parts of our sovereign territory and sovereign assets that belong to all of us to an enemy state,” he said, vowing that he would not be bound by any agreement.

Lebanese leaders have expressed optimism that a deal can be clinched and are expected to respond formally this week.

Mr Lapid and defence minister Benny Gantz have agreed to the US draft and will convene the cabinet after hearing the Lebanese response.

Mr Lapid accused Mr Netanyahu of aiding Hizbullah propaganda efforts with his criticism. Noting that Mr Netanyahu “hasn’t seen the agreement,” he wrote that it grants Israel “100 per cent of its security needs, 100 per cent of the Karish reserve, and even some of the profits from the Lebanon reserve.”

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem