Away from the internal controversy and political interests, the maritime delimitation file must know an important development. At the invitation of the Lebanese authorities, the American envoy Amos Hochstein is expected to arrive in Beirut early next week to resume his mediation between Lebanon and Israel. According to a source who follows the case closely, since discussing the imminent arrival of the Energean Power vessel to start extracting gas from the Karish field on behalf of Israel, Lebanon has been struggling to push the US envoy to resume its mediation. That ended last fall because at the time, according to the Americans, Mr. Hochstein did not feel that Lebanese officials were determined to take a step in order to make progress in the negotiations. Now that the ship has reached the Karish field, Lebanon can no longer turn a deaf ear and therefore wishes to resume indirect negotiations as soon as possible, through the American mediator. Contrary to rumors about the approaching war, according to the same source, the direction is rather for talks, and for the first time demanded by all parties. An Energean Power ship was added that did not approach Line 29 demanded by Lebanon and reported this to the Lebanese authorities through secret channels. Likewise, the main partner of the ship’s owner company, the large American company Halliburton, made contacts to avoid any possibility of confrontation between Lebanon and Israel. Moreover, the insurance amount paid by the boat owner company is not high. This indicates that there is no intention of escalation from either side. Because if there is a security risk, insurance companies will ask for much higher amounts.
The information received by the Lebanese officials thus shows that there is no will to appeal on the part of the Israelis, but rather they wish to be able to exploit the gas off the Palestinian coast. In this regard, the Israelis have a head start regarding Lebanon, which has not yet begun to excavate yet. But the Israelis also know that if they advance too far into the contested area, they could face a backlash from Lebanon, especially from Hezbollah. The latter made it clear to everyone who approached him, publicly and through more discreet channels, that he stands behind the Lebanese state in this matter. When he draws the borders of the state, the Shiite party will consider it their duty to protect them. But until then, he does not intend to interfere and does not want to participate in the indirect negotiations between Lebanon and Israel.
On the eve of the arrival of Amos Hochstein, the situation was as follows: Lebanon found itself before four lines: the first line, which gives practically everything to Israel; The Hof Line, which gives Lebanon 60% of the 860 square kilometers that a few years ago was considered conflicting. Line 23, which was officially adopted by Lebanon under the Mikati government in 2011 by Decree 6433 which gives it a full 860 square kilometers; And the 29th line, which was recently advanced by the army and gives Lebanon an additional 1,430 square kilometers.
According to the aforementioned source, Lebanon has made progress in this file by now bypassing line 23. But he has not yet officially recognized line 29 by sending an amendment to Decree 6433 to the United Nations, and he has contented himself with sending an official letter to the Security Council in this regard. However, a debate arose in Lebanon about the inadequacy of this message and the necessity of sending an amendment to Decree 6433 to the United Nations to recognize Line 29 instead of Line 23. The various political parties are divided on this issue. Two conflicting positions: the first insists on signing the amended decree by the President of the Republic and sending it to the United Nations to endorse Lebanon’s rights. The second believes that we should not hurry. First, the decree in question is not ready. The presented version has some shortcomings, and in any case, this decree must be adopted by the Council of Ministers, but the previous government resigned when it was discussed and the current one as well since May 21. It will therefore have to be decided whether the resigning government can meet to adopt such a decree. Which is most likely due to the importance of the issue. Then this card should be left to the end and used only as a last resort, after all other possibilities have been exhausted.
Let us recall that when the Lebanese delegation headed by Major General Bassam Yassin mentioned Line 29, the Israelis responded by demanding recognition of Line 1, and negotiations were suspended. Today, it is about revealing the intentions of the Israelis and the Americans. The source clarified that not sending the decree to the United Nations does not mean that Lebanon has abandoned line 29. It simply shows some flexibility by keeping the possibility of sending the amended decree when it sees fit. According to this source, Lebanon has a strong case. This is increasing because this question is back in the news in a particular regional and international context. Middle Eastern gas has become more valuable due to the war in Ukraine, and Europe and the United States want to enjoy it with peace of mind. Therefore, they need stability … and a minimum level of understanding with Russia, which is influential in the region. So the outlook is favorable for the exploitation of quiet gas. It remains to be seen whether Lebanon will be ready.
Away from the internal controversy and political interests, the maritime delimitation file must know an important development. At the invitation of the Lebanese authorities, the American envoy Amos Hochstein is expected to arrive in Beirut early next week to resume his mediation between Lebanon and Israel. According to a source closely following the case…