Friday, September 30, 2022

  • Friday, September 30, 2022
  • Elder of Ziyon
From the perspective of negotiations, Hezbollah has effectively won the dispute with Israel over ownership of disputed areas of the Mediterranean.

This map (my additions to a map from Alma) shows the four major positions:

Line 1 has been Israel's position as to the maritime border with Lebanon. Line 23 has been Lebanon's traditional position. The "Hof Line" was the compromise suggested by US Special Envoy to Syria and Lebanon, Frederic Hof, during the Obama administration, rejected by Lebanon. 

In 2021, Lebanon suddenly claimed that Line 29 was really the proper border. This new area includes part of the Karish field which no one ever disputed before was part of Israel. 

This allowed Hassan Nasrallah to threaten that Hezbollah would attack the Karish field if Israel starts extracting gas from there, and he sent drones there this past summer that were shot down by Israel.

From all indications, the Lebanese claim to Line 29 was a bazaar bargaining tactic. It was never formally approved by the government nor formally claimed in international forums. 

Yet it has worked. The Hof line is no longer even being considered, and reports indicate that in current negotiations with US envoy Amos Hochstein,  Lebanon will get virtually everything up to Line 23, their original maximalist position. 

Hezbollah's threats seem to have paid off. Yesterday,  Arab Tawhid Party leader Wiam Wahhab tweeted after a meeting with Nasrallah that “Lebanon is on the verge of obtaining its full rights” in the dispute, meaning that even Hezbollah never seriously claimed that Line 29 was the Lebanese maritime border.

The latest news is that Israel would agree to leave the specific position of the seashore border unresolved, which would allow Hezbollah to continue to provoke Israel the same way it does in the (supposedly) disputed Shebaa Farms land border.

So why is Israel apparently conceding the border issue and leaving this uncertainty? 

It appears to be a gamble: Lebanon needs the revenues from offshore gas extraction very badly, and Israel wants Lebanon to be a stable state. Israel also wants to show that negotiations with Lebanon can bring results, and not war.

Part of the calculation is an illusion of mutual deterrence: if Hezbollah attacks Israeli gas fields, Israel could destroy any Lebanese gas infrastructure in response. But this isn't true: Lebanon can claim that Hezbollah was a rogue actor and Israel's response would be regarded as aggression by the international community, as it usually is. 

Lebanese economic stability and a calm between Israel and Lebanon would be of great value to Israel. But this agreement seems to be conceding Israeli claims without any real guarantees that Hezbollah will ever stop its own claims - or threats.

And as long as Hezbollah effectively controls the southern Lebanese border with Israel and has the ability to attack Israel's own gas platforms, I don't see a way that Israel's security interests are being taken into account with the current reported outlines of the deal.

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 18 years and 38,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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