Israel said to tell US it can ink maritime deal with Lebanon as soon as Wednesday

Report in pro-Hezbollah newspaper says American envoy expected in Lebanon next week ahead of potential signing ceremony; delegations expected to ratify agreement in separate rooms

A general view shows a base of the UN peacekeeping force in the southern Lebanese border town of Naqoura, Lebanon on October 14, 2020. (AP/Bilal Hussein)
A general view shows a base of the UN peacekeeping force in the southern Lebanese border town of Naqoura, Lebanon on October 14, 2020. (AP/Bilal Hussein)

The Israeli government has informed the Biden administration that it will be ready to ink the maritime demarcation agreement with Lebanon next week, a Lebanese newspaper reported Saturday.

According to the pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar daily, Israel informed the United States that it will be able to sign the deal as soon as Wednesday, the first day the government can ratify the proposal after a two-week review period in the Knesset.

The High Court of Justice is currently hearing appeals against the agreement, which could potentially hold up its approval, though the justices have expressed skepticism over some of the petitioners’ core claims.

Amos Hochstein, the US State Department’s energy envoy, is reportedly due to arrive in Lebanon next week ahead of the potential signing ceremony.

The newspaper report said the event is set to take place in the Lebanese town of Naqoura, with delegations from Israel and Lebanon signing the deal in separate rooms. Lebanon is not expected to sign the agreement until after Israel first does so.

Once the agreement is inked, Jerusalem and Beirut will send letters to the United Nations laying out the terms of the deal.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun, right, meets with US Envoy for Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein, at the presidential palace, in Beirut, Lebanon, September 9, 2022. (Dalati Nohra, Lebanon’s official government photographer, via AP)

Lebanese President Michel Aoun is still weighing who will lead Lebanon’s delegation to Naqoura, where previous rounds of the maritime negotiations were held. National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata is expected to represent Israel.

The report added that when the deal is finalized, Lebanon will launch talks with Syria to demarcate their maritime border and will also adjust its sea boundary with Cyprus in light of the agreement with Israel.

Aoun announced Lebanon’s official approval of the deal last week, while the Israeli government voted to back the principles of the agreement and send it for Knesset review earlier this month.

Left to right: Prime Minister Yair Lapid, US President Joe Biden and Lebanese President Michel Aoun. (Collage/AP)

Under the agreement, Israel will receive recognition for its buoy-marked boundary five kilometers (3.1 miles) off the coast of the northern town of Rosh Hanikra, which it established in 2000. After that, Israel’s border will follow the southern edge of the disputed area known as Line 23.

Lebanon will enjoy the economic benefits of the area north of Line 23, including the Qana gas field, while Israel will move ahead with its plans to imminently begin gas production at the Karish field.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid said last week that under the agreed terms, Israel “will receive approximately 17% of the revenues from the Lebanese gas field, the Qana-Sidon field, if and when they will open it.”

The prime minister also argued the deal “staves off” a potential war with Hezbollah, and denied claims by opposition figures that it would funnel money to the Lebanese terror group.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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