Israeli PM Commended By Biden For Agreeing To Maritime Border Deal
The President of the United States, Joe Biden, said on Tuesday, that Israeli Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, was “making history” by agreeing to a maritime border deal with Lebanon to end a decade-long-plus dispute over gas-rich waters in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Over a phone call, Biden told Lapid, “You are making history,” and expressed his appreciation for the trust and confidence of all Israelis who participated in the U.S.-mediated process, according to a statement by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office. Biden also emphasized his commitment to upholding the Jewish state’s security and overall regional stability, and noted that his ability to work closely with Lapid was a testament to the “strong and unbreakable” bond between the United States and Israel. In response, Lapid thanked Biden for his leadership and the involvement of U.S. officials in the indirect talks with Beirut, and in particular, lead American negotiator, Amos Hochstein.
The phone call came after the Israeli and Lebanese governments gave preliminary approval to the deal earlier on Tuesday. “This is a historic achievement that will strengthen Israel’s security, inject billions into Israel’s economy, and ensure the stability of our northern border,” Lapid said in a statement. Last week, the Israeli leader rejected “amendments” demanded by Beirut to what was meant to be a final draft of the agreement. The latest proposal will reportedly draw a border between the two countries’ exclusive economic zones (EEZs) based on a boundary known as Line 23, and award a disputed area of around 840 square kilometers (324 square miles) to Lebanon, while recognizing Israel’s claim to the Karish gas field and to royalties from the section of the Qana field that extends into the Jewish state’s EEZ.
Israeli opposition leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, has accused Lapid of caving in to Hezbollah. “Yair Lapid shamefully surrendered to [Hezbollah chief Hassan] Nasrallah’s threats,” Netanyahu said, adding: “He is giving Hezbollah sovereign territory of the State of Israel with a huge gas reservoir that belongs to you, the citizens of Israel.” Israel recently set up a rig at Karish, where gas was set to begin flowing in September but was delayed in order to give the talks more time, and amid repeated threats of war by Nasrallah. The Israel Defense Forces have been on high alert amid concerns that Hezbollah will attack Karish, after the Iranian terror proxy threatened to fire missiles at the installation if Israel extracts gas before an agreement is reached.
Two senior Lebanese officials were quoted by Reuters on Tuesday, saying that Nasrallah had “agreed” to the terms of the maritime border deal and considered related negotiations “over.” Israeli Minister of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources, Karine Elharrar, told Army Radio on Tuesday that a signing date for the prospective accord has not yet been set. Israel is holding a national election on November 1st, and it remains unclear whether the deal will require parliamentary approval.
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