Controversial Israel-Lebanon maritime deal faces more objections

Potential Israel-Lebanon maritime deal hits additional snags, as Israeli critics say transitional government doesn’t have authority to make the agreement and Lebanese present last-minute changes.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Despite reports indicating that Israel and Lebanon are on the verge of signing a maritime border agreement, which would see the Jewish State begin extracting oil from the offshore Karish gas field, oppositions from both Lebanese and Israeli officials are threatening to derail the deal.

The longstanding maritime dispute stems from Lebanese claims that the gas fields are located in its territorial waters. Lebanon and Israel are technically at war, having signed a ceasefire agreement in 2006, and do not have an official maritime border.

U.S.-brokered negotiations regarding an agreement which would pave the way for oil extraction in the area have been ongoing for nearly a decade, but major progress towards a deal is believed to have been made recently.

Last week, Prime Minister Yair Lapid reportedly agreed to a revenue-sharing agreement for proceeds from the gas field, which would see Lebanon – which is currently in the midst of an unprecedented economic collapse – gain much needed funds.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Lapid for allegedly caving to extensive Lebanese demands for the deal, with his Likud party tweeting that the premier is “handing a huge Israeli gas reserve to Hezbollah, something Netanyahu never agreed to.”

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Other Israeli critics of the agreement have raised the question as to whether a caretaker government, such as the one Lapid is leading, has the authority to agree to a deal with such long-term implications.

The Lavy NGO filed a petition with the Supreme Court aiming to block the deal, arguing that the transitional government does not have the legal standing to sign the agreement. The Supreme Court has given Lapid’s administration until October 27th to respond.

On Thursday, the Knesset is set to vote on the deal, and it’s unclear that the agreement will gain approval

Globes reported that former prime minister Naftali Bennett, and other high-ranking politicians who are currently serving as ministers in Lapid’s government, have expressed their opposition to the deal.

Although previous media reports suggested that the deal was nearly final, last-minute Lebanese changes to the agreement could also potentially stymie progress.

According to a Reuters report on Tuesday, the Lebanese Deputy Speaker of Parliament Elias Bou Saab presented a series of “amendments” regarding the deal to the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon.

“We are done negotiating,” Bou Saab reportedly said.