Lebanon on Monday denied a US-brokered maritime deal with Israel would see Beirut pay royalties to the Jewish state in exchange for access to disputed gas fields.
Deputy Parliament Speaker Elias Bou Saab, who has been involved in the maritime talks, told the interview the Al-Mayadeen TV station on Monday that Israel has made more significant concessions than its northern neighbor, which he claimed the Israeli government has also acknowledged.
Saab pledged that “Lebanon would not pay royalties to the Israeli enemy.”
Lebanon’s president Michel Aoun made similar claims to Saab, telling Lebanese citizens that “there will be no partnership with the Israeli side.”
Speaking earlier Monday, Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Lebanon would pay royalties to the Jewish state.
“Israel gets 100 percent of its security needs, 100% of Karish and even some of the profits from the Lebanese reserve,” the premier said.
The draft agreement floated by US envoy Amos Hochstein aims to settle competing claims over offshore gas fields and was delivered to Lebanese and Israeli officials at the weekend, following years of indirect negotiations.
“We have amendments to make to the document presented to us, [but] the atmosphere is very positive — Lebanon will not give up on any of its rights,” Saab said, adding that he expects Lebanon to send its “remarks” on the proposed deal in the next 48 hours.
Saab also commented on the proposed deal during a press conference, which was briefly interrupted after a power outage struck the Lebanese parliament.
The Lebanese economy has been in crisis in recent years, leading to a 24-hour nationwide blackout in 2021 after Lebanese power plants ran out of diesel fuel needed for their operation.
The economic crisis is seen as a major factor in forcing the Lebanese back to the negotiating table.
קלאסיקה לבנונית: הפסקת חשמל בארמון הנשיאות באמצע מסיבת העיתונאים של סגן יו"ר הפרלמנט, אליאס בו סעב, אחרי ההתייעצויות בעניין הצעת המתווך האמריקני לסימון הגבול הימי עם ישראל pic.twitter.com/TWhw7IZoLp
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Although details of its contents remain scarce, a fierce debate over the deal has begun inside Israel, with some in the opposition, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, slamming Lapid for giving up Israeli territory, and claiming that an interim prime minister should not be making such significant agreements so close to an election.
A senior Israeli official told reporters Sunday that “the security interests of Israel are anchored in the agreement.” The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that under the agreement, Lebanese recognition of a line of buoys “will allow Israel to treat it as its northern territorial border.”
Israel deployed the floats after its May 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon. The boundary marked the limits of where Israel unilaterally operates with full freedom of action.
“The line of buoys is an important Israeli security line that was never approved by any outside actor,” the official said.
Israel and Lebanon are officially at war and their land border is patrolled by the United Nations.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report