Former intel chief: Israel made major concessions in Lebanese border talks

Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin dismissed the importance of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah crowing about the incipient deal in his latest speech.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A former Israeli intelligence chief said Sunday that Israel may have made major concessions in efforts to secure a maritime border agreement with Lebanon, but it can still be a win for the country even though its hardline Hezbollah foe also praised the incipient deal.

In an interview on Radio 103FM Sunday, Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin said that despite the support for the deal expressed by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, the emerging agreement is not necessarily a bad deal for Israel.

The interviewer asked Yadlin, who headed the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate in the mid-2000s, if the agreement indicates that threats Nasrallah’s threats against Israel succeeded.

“That would be true if this was a zero-sum game,” he responded, which is a case where if one side wins, the other side loses. In this case, however, each side has different points it considers vital, and each is willing to give up on issues it considers less important.

“Lebanon needs natural gas production from the Mediterranean Sea like it needs air to breathe, the country is collapsing economically and this is almost its only chance,” Yadlin said. “Israel needs quiet…and that maybe this will decrease Iran’s influence, because the alternative is [Lebanon being dependent on] Iranian oil.”

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“I think that we can reach an agreement that is a win-win for both sides…that each one can present as something that very much serves its interests,” he said.

While cautioning that “no one” knows yet the exact parameters of the latest draft agreement that has been delivered to Beirut by the American mediators, Yadlin noted that according to what he has been told, “on the issue of the water line” that would be drawn between the countries, “Israel yielded. It started at a line that is far north…and has seemingly closed on Line 23…which was Lebanon’s starting position [in the negotiations].”

In addition, while Line 23 cuts across a huge potential gas field called Kana, “I think the Lebanese also got all of Kana, in exchange for transferring part of the profits to Israel.”

While Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu has harshly criticized the idea of giving up “billions of dollars” this way, Yadlin said, “When Lebanon produces [gas] it doesn’t come at our expense.”

When asked if he thought the deal – which could be signed as early as next week – would become a hot potato in the current Israeli election campaign, he demurred.

The public “doesn’t care about the details of the deal,” he stated. “When [Prime Minister Yair] Lapid and [Defense Minister Benny] Gantz will explain that the Karish field is starting to produce [gas], and Israel, in contrast to Europe, has energy security, I think the public will prefer this over a situation where there is war…with Hezbollah, which all of us know would happen.”

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Yadlin then mentioned the go-to option that almost all political parties have used when votes in the Knesset have not gone their way in recent times.

“This issue…will in all likelihood end up in the Supreme Court,” he said.

The pipeline from Karish is supposed to come online in the next few weeks. Yadlin did note that Jerusalem had stood firm when faced with a “completely baseless” Lebanese demand several months ago to draw the border instead at Line 29, a great deal further south, which cuts across the Karish field.