A Lebanese Druze politician with close ties to the Hezbollah terror group has said the new maritime border agreement with Israel is a move toward “sustainable peace.”
Speaking to Al-Jadeed TV, Wiam Wahhab, head of the Arab Unification Party, which is not in parliament, said that Israel now “cannot wage war” against Lebanon due to the “balance of power” created by Hezbollah and the fighting of “Palestinians from within.”
He argued that “the [Palestinian] campaign from within it is better than a campaign from without,” apparently meaning Palestinian affairs should be left to the Palestinians, rather than Hezbollah inserting itself into the conflict.
To the host’s shock, Wahhab said: “In my opinion [by signing the deal] we went for sustainable peace. Let’s not kid around.”
The interviewer responded: “Oof. Sustainable peace? Then you’ve gone for normalization,” to which Wahhab answered once again, “sustainable peace.”
Israel and Lebanon’s landmark maritime deal went into effect Thursday evening after a ceremony at a UN base near the border, ending years of conflict over the matter and repeated saber-rattling by the Hezbollah terror group.
Israel and Lebanon are technically still at war and the deal does not touch on the land border.
After the agreement was sealed on Thursday, Hezbollah said it would end its special mobilization against Israel, having threatened to attack if Jerusalem began extracting natural gas at the Karish drilling site before a deal was finalized. Gas extraction began at Karish on Wednesday.
Kan news reported Friday that the Israeli military had lowered its alert level on the northern border.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid said the agreement represented de facto recognition of Israel by Lebanon.
While Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun rejected this claim, the chief Lebanese negotiator spoke of “a new era” and invoked the Abraham Accords treaties between Israel and other regional states.
The deal came as Lebanon hopes to extract itself from what the World Bank calls one of the worst economic crises in modern world history, and as Lapid sought to lock in a major achievement, days ahead of a general election on November 1.
The agreement ends a long-running dispute over some 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea, covering Israel’s Karish and Lebanon’s Qana gas fields.
Under the deal, Israel receives recognition for a buoy-marked boundary it established in 2000, five kilometers (3.1 miles) off the coast of the northern town of Rosh Hanikra.
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 field, while Israel moves ahead with gas production at the Karish field and will receive revenues from Qana if and when it begins operations.
AFP contributed to this report.