Israel Buoyant as Lapid Signs Historic Maritime Border Deal With Lebanon
Israel and Lebanon on Thursday signed a landmark agreement to define their maritime border in the gas-rich Eastern Mediterranean, bringing years of delicate American diplomacy to a successful conclusion. The deal allows cash-strapped Lebanon to explore the Qana gas field, which straddles the new border, and Israel to develop the nearby Karish field unimpeded.
While the agreement marks a significant step between the two warring nations, the ongoing hostilities meant there would be no handshake photo op by their respective leaders. In Lebanon, President Michel Aoun signed a letter approving the agreement from his presidential palace in Baabda. Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, meanwhile, signed in his Jerusalem office.
A handover ceremony involving lower-level officials was to take place at the base of the United Nations peacekeeping force stationed on the two countries’ shared land border, with the Israeli side represented by Energy Ministry Director-General Lior Schillat.
Prime Minister Lapid said earlier Thursday that the deal was tantamount to Lebanese recognition of Israel.
“It is not every day that an enemy state recognizes the State of Israel, in a written agreement, in front of the entire international community,” the prime minister said.
This claim was swiftly rejected by President Aoun, who argued that “demarcating the southern maritime border is technical work that has no political implications.”