Senior Israeli security officials told the high-level security cabinet on Wednesday that failure to reach a maritime border agreement with Lebanon will result in an escalation with Hezbollah, Walla reported.
According to the report, IDF Chief Aviv Kochavi said that if no agreement is reached and Lebanon is unable to produce gas while Israel begins drilling in the Karish gas field, it will be a loss of face for Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who has been making increasing threats against Israel in recent weeks. Nasrallah will be forced to fulfill his threats and attack Israel, which could possibly lead to war.
Israel has warned Nasrallah via the US and France that any action against Israel’s gas rigs will be met with a strong response.
The members of the security cabinet also received a briefing on the progress of the US-mediated negotiations on the maritime border dispute.
US Senior Advisor for Energy Security Amos Hochstein, who is scheduled to hold another round of talks in two weeks, said on Monday that he is optimistic that a deal can be reached by September, although Israeli officials remain skeptical.
Hochstein says that Lebanese officials have agreed to drop demands for part of the Karish gas field and will ‘settle’ for full control of the Qana gas field.
“An agreement to end the dispute is a good thing for Israel,” a senior source told Ynet.
“Natural gas production by Lebanon could stabilize that country’s economy and would be to Israel’s advantage. It’s a win-win situation and would also provide Israel with a target should our gas rigs be attacked.”
Meanwhile, some are concerned that the transitional Lapid government will agree to a deal that will involve Israel conceding some of its economic waters, which will violate Israel’s Basic Laws if it is carried out without a national referendum
According to the Kohelet Policy Forum think tank, Israel’s Basic Laws state that any concession of Israeli territory “requires approval in a national referendum unless approved by 80 members of Knesset.”
Two lawyers from the forum sent a letter to Lapid and the government’s legal adviser, stating “Basic Law: Referendum states, ‘[If] the government decided to sign an agreement by which the law, judiciary and administration of the State of Israel will no longer apply to a territory in which they apply – including an agreement including a future commitment and a conditional commitment… after approval from most of the Knesset – requires approval in a national referendum unless approved by 80 members of Knesset.'”
“There is no dispute that the territory for which the negotiations with Lebanon are taking place is outside the territorial waters of the State of Israel. Nevertheless, it turns out that the ‘law, jurisdiction and administration of the State of Israel’ applies to it. The area is included within the economic waters of Israel due to its being located within the continental shelf of the State of Israel. To the best of our understanding and knowledge, this is the claim of the State of Israel in the framework of the differences of opinion with Lebanon.”
“In light of the above, the Israeli government is constrained from signing an agreement that includes any cession of said territory that is not in accordance with the procedure established in the Basic Law. At the very least, it is obligated to hold a thorough legal inquiry in order to reach a decision on the question of whether the Basic Law applies to the concession of Israel’s economic waters.”
“As long as there is indeed a chance of progress towards agreements with Lebanon that involve a concession of maritime territory that the State of Israel considers to be included within its economic waters, then it must be announced that such a legal inquiry is taking place, and we request that its reasoned conclusions be forwarded to us for our review.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)