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High Court justices express doubts about arguments against Lebanon maritime deal

A High Court of Justice hearing on a petition demanding that the maritime border deal with Lebanon be brought for a Knesset vote, at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, October 20, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
A High Court of Justice hearing on a petition demanding that the maritime border deal with Lebanon be brought for a Knesset vote, at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, October 20, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Chief Justice Esther Hayut and Justice Uzi Vogelman express reservations about the arguments of the petitioners against the Israel-Lebanon maritime border agreement, during a High Court of Justice hearing on the matter.

An attorney for the Kohelet Forum argues that Israel’s Basic Law: Referendum requires a referendum to approve the agreement since it involves giving up a small part of Israel’s territorial waters.

Hayut points out, though, that even though the deal gives Lebanon gas exploration rights in what might be considered Israel’s territorial waters, the agreement states that the legal status quo regarding the approximately five square kilometers (1.9 square miles) of water in question will be upheld until a subsequent agreement between the two countries is reached on the final maritime border, and therefore it does not constitute a territorial concession requiring a referendum.

Vogelman takes issue with the arguments of the Lavi organization, whose lawyer claims that a caretaker government is obligated to bring such a treaty to the Knesset for approval, based on the precedent of previous international agreements which were brought to a vote in the Knesset.

Vogelman questions whether previous custom obligates future governments and points out that the government is arguing that there are urgent security, diplomatic and economic reasons for expediting the deal’s approval.

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