Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid confirmed on Sunday that Israel had received a long-negotiated US proposal to resolve its maritime border dispute with Lebanon, and said the plan would preserve Israel’s regional interests.
The United States handed the written plan to Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Saturday.
Addressing the ministers at the beginning of the weekly cabinet session, Lapid said that the emerging agreement secures Israel’s interests, according to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.
“We are discussing the final details,” Lapid said, warning that it was still too early to see the agreement completed.
“We do not oppose the development of an additional Lebanese gas field, from which we will, of course, get the share we deserve,” Lapid said.
“Such an area will weaken Lebanon’s dependence on Iran, constrain Hezbollah, and enhance regional stability,” he said.
But he insisted, “As we requested from day one, the proposal fully preserves Israel’s diplomatic and security interests, as well as our economic interests.”
“Israel has tried for more than 10 years to reach this deal, which strengthens Israeli security and the Israeli economy,” Lapid said.
Today, Saturday, Aoun met with the US ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea Written proposal received From the American mediator Amos Hochstein to demarcate the maritime border with Israel.
Lebanese state media said the government was working quickly to formulate a response to the plan.
The text of the proposal has not been published for publication.
The maritime dispute concerns about 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea which includes the lucrative offshore gas fields.
US-brokered talks on rights in the region, the subject of long-running but indirect negotiations between Jerusalem and Beirut and repeated threats from the Hezbollah terrorist organization, have made progress in recent weeks.
The discussions began under the auspices of the previous government led by then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu said on Sunday that “Lapid does not have a mandate to hand over sovereign territory to an enemy state and sovereign assets that belong to all of us.”
Netanyahu also said that Lapid had “capitulated to Hezbollah’s threats” and that if he formed a government after the November 1 elections, he would not be bound by the agreement.
Lapid responded in a tweet addressing Netanyahu directly, saying: “For 10 years I have failed to try to achieve this agreement, at least not harming Israel’s security interests and helping Hezbollah with irresponsible messages.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz also weighed in on Netanyahu’s comments, accusing the opposition leader of being guided by “irresponsible political considerations.”
“We will continue to take care of the political, security and economic interests of the State of Israel with responsibility and statecraft,” he wrote on Twitter.
Tensions escalated after Israel earlier this year transferred a gas exploration vessel to the disputed Karish gas field and recently said it would start extracting from the site. Last month, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened that his Iran-backed terrorist organization’s missiles were “chained” on Karish.
after in Saturday televised statementsNasrallah said that the US draft agreement opens “new and promising horizons for the people of Lebanon by rescuing the country from the crisis in which it has fallen.”
According to a Channel 12 report, under the emerging deal, the location of the proposed border will be a compromise between the two sides. The report stated that Lebanon would be able to explore for gas five kilometers north of the Israeli Karish gas platform.
An unnamed security official told the network that the draft proposal guarantees Israel’s security interests.
Saturday’s TV report came on the heels of Lapid’s talks about preparations for gas production from the Karish field, amid threats by Hezbollah to attack Israel if it begins drilling there before an agreement is reached on the maritime border.
Lebanon claims the Karish gas field is located in a disputed area, while Israel says it is within its internationally recognized economic waters.
Last month, Lapid’s office pledged that Israel would press ahead with gas extraction from Karish, with or without a maritime border agreement with Lebanon.
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