BEIRUT — Lebanon has secured “American guarantees” that its maritime border deal with Israel cannot be easily scrapped should Benjamin Netanyahu return to the Israeli premiership, says Beirut’s chief negotiator.
Israel and Lebanon struck a US-brokered sea border agreement last month that opens up lucrative offshore gas fields for the neighbors that remain technically at war.
Netanyahu, who appears on the cusp of returning to power, has staunchly opposed the deal, dismissing it as an “illegal ploy” and warning he would not be bound by its terms.
“We obtained sufficient American guarantees that this deal cannot easily be canceled,” says Lebanon’s negotiator Elias Bou Saab, who is also deputy parliament speaker.
If Netanyahu wants to withdraw from the deal, then “he will withdraw from an agreement with the US,” Bou Saab tells AFP, noting that Israel and Lebanon had signed separate deals with the United States.
He says Washington has warned that “the withdrawal of any party would have great consequences on both countries.”
“When Netanyahu says that he wants to withdraw, this means that he will be facing the international community,” Bou Saab adds.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price stops short of confirming guarantees, but says the deal is “in the interests of Israel and Lebanon.”
“Because it was in the interest of both countries it was in the profound interest of the United States. We seek to see a more stable, a more integrated region,” he tells reporters.
“Scarce resources, we know from history, have the potential to create tensions and potentially to escalate tensions into, in some cases, the brink of conflict.”