Lapid hails signed Lebanon deal as ‘recognition’ by enemy state

“Nothing in this maritime agreement can be said to constitute a Lebanese recognition of Israel,” said Professor Eugene Kontorovich, director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, which petitioned the Supreme Court against the deal.

By Debbie Reiss, World Israel News

Israel on Thursday approved a controversial U.S.-mediated maritime deal with Lebanon, with Prime Minister Yair Lapid saying the move prompted an enemy state to officially recognize the State of Israel in the full glare of the international community.

The cabinet voted unanimously in favor of the deal, hours ahead of its expected signing at the United Nations base in the Lebanese border town of Naqoura, opposite the Israeli coastal town of Rosh Hanikra.

“It is not every day that an enemy state recognizes the State of Israel, in a written agreement, in view of the entire international community,” Lapid said prior to the cabinet vote on the deal.

“It’s not every day that the United States and France stand behind us and provide security and economic guarantees for the agreement,” he added.

“This agreement strengthens and reinforces Israel’s security and our freedom of action against Hezbollah and the threats from the north. There is a rare consensus from the whole defense establishment on the importance of the agreement,” Lapid said.

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“Nothing in this maritime agreement can be said to constitute a Lebanese recognition of Israel,” said Professor Eugene Kontorovich, director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, which petitioned the Supreme Court against the deal.

“It was carefully written to reflect the Lebanese demand that no recognition occur. In theory, if Lebanon shoots missiles at Israel -which it periodically does – it is in some practical respect recognizing that Israel exists – as a target, but that’s not a recognition as defined by international law.”

Lapid attended a signing ceremony at Naqoura in southern Lebanon with the Israeli negotiating team later in the day. A Lebanese delegation, the Biden administration’s energy envoy Amos Hochstein, and several UN officials will also attend the ceremony.

However, Beirut has said that representatives from the two enemy states “would not meet” face to face.

Also on Thursday morning, Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun signed a document approving the deal.

“This agreement was written with the idea in mind that it was between two countries that don’t have diplomatic relations,” Hochstein said from Beirut. “I think the good will and good faith efforts by all parties is what’s going to make this move forward.”

“I truly believe and hope this can be an economic turning point in Lebanon for a new era of investment and continued support to lift up the economy,” Hochstein added.

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A day earlier, British-Greek gas company Energean began extracting gas at the offshore Karish natural gas field, which is at the crux of the decades-long maritime dispute that the deal hopes to resolve.

Israel has stated that Karish is entirely within Israeli waters, but Lebanon — which is currently suffering from an unprecedented economic crisis — claims that the gas field is partially located within its territorial waters.

Critics of the deal, including opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, have slammed it as constituting a surrender to Hezbollah. The IDF has shot down Hezbollah drones approaching the gas field on more than one occasion.

The Israeli High Court of Justice last week unanimously rejected four petitions filed against the deal, arguing that the Lapid-led government was correct in its assumption that “urgent security, diplomatic and economic reasons” was enough of an impetus to sign the deal before the country heads to elections on November 1.

On Wednesday, a senior member of Hamas expressed support for the deal, saying it could eventually lead to the Gaza-ruling terror group accessing gas fields off the coastal strip.

“Lebanon, at the end of this deal, will get its economic rights, and the Lebanese resistance will succeed in imposing its conditions on Israel,” Suhail al-Hindi said.

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“It’s Lebanon’s right to possess the entirety of its rights,” said al-Hindi. “The Lebanese resistance is speaking from the position of what’s good for the Lebanese people and the preservation of their rights.”

“That gas belongs to the Palestinian people. It is not right for Israel to possess it. We’re keeping our eyes on the riches of Palestine and will not let Israel steal them.”