Lebanon: New Israeli gov’t can’t stop gas deal, thanks to the US

Lebanon’s chief negotiator of offshore oil deal says Netanyahu can’t withdraw from agreement without souring ties with the U.S.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Election winner and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is going to face major challenges when it comes to fulfilling his campaign promise to “neutralize” a recently signed agreement between Israel and Lebanon regarding offshore oil drilling, with an official in Beirut saying U.S. guarantees around the agreement prevent Israel from reneging on the deal.

“We obtained sufficient American guarantees that this deal cannot easily be canceled,” said the agreement’s chief Lebanese negotiator Elias Bou Saab, who is the deputy speaker of Lebanese parliament, according to an AFP report.

Bou Saab said that both Lebanon and Israel had signed individual agreements with the U.S., so a withdrawal led by Netanyahu would be the equivalent of him withdrawing from a deal with Washington.

He added that the Biden administration had specifically warned both Jerusalem and Beirut that “the withdrawal of any party would have great consequences on both countries.”

“When Netanyahu says that he wants to withdraw, this means that he will be facing the international community,” Bou Saab said.

Last week, Israel’s Cabinet approved a U.S.-brokered agreement which would see oil extraction begin from the Karish gas field, which is located in the Mediterranean Sea and had previously been the subject of a dispute over whether the territory belonged to Israel or Lebanon.

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According to Hebrew language media reports, the agreement will streamline the process for oil drilling in the offshore field, allowing Israel to become a major energy supplier to Europe.

However, critics of the deal say that Israel agreed to a number of extravagant concessions to Lebanon, including paying royalties for part of the gas field and the profits to Lebanon. That could potentially put billions of dollars into the hands of the Hezbollah terror group.

Others questioned whether caretaker prime minister Yair Lapid’s interim government had the authority to sign an agreement with such long-term implications, and whether that deal could be approved without a Knesset vote.

A Supreme Court petition aiming to block the deal was struck down by the institution several days before the agreement was signed.