The government on Sunday approved the demarcation of its northern maritime
border with Lebanon, in an effort to protect economic rights in offshore
territories that Lebanon is claiming as its own.
In response, Lebanon
said on Sunday that it would protect its borders and natural resources on
“Lebanon has warned that it insists on protecting its borders and
resources,” Ali Hamdan, spokesman for Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri,
told Bloomberg in a telephone interview from Beirut.
The maritime border
line, according to the statement put out by the Prime Minister’s Office,
demarcates economic rights in offshore territories that – with the discovery of
vast natural gas reserves – have become extremely lucrative.
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the maritime border marks the area of the
state’s exclusive economic rights, including the right to exploit natural
resources in the sea.
“The area we are discussing borders with Lebanon
and Cyprus in the north. The [maritime] line that Lebanon submitted to the UN is
significantly south of the Israeli line,” he said. “It contradicts the line
Israel has agreed upon with Cyprus, and what is more significant to me is that
it contradicts the line that Lebanon itself concluded with Cyprus in 2007. Our
goal is to establish the position of Israel regarding its maritime boundary,
according to international maritime law.”
Israel is now expected to
submit this map to the UN.
Lebanon submitted its map last
According to government officials, Israel is moving on the issue
now because under international maritime law, if one country makes a claim and
another country does not counter it, the silence of the second country is seen
Cyprus and Israel reached an agreement in December
demarcating maritime borders to enable the search for more natural gas reserves
in the area, with Israel interested in clarifying precisely where its maritime
Cyprus came to a similar agreement with Lebanon in 2007,
but it has not yet been ratified by the Lebanese parliament.
Lebanon submitted to the UN runs south of the line it agreed to with Cyprus in
According to Israeli officials, what the government did Sunday in
drawing up the boundary was simply draw a straight line from Israel’s border
with Lebanon at Rosh Hanikra to the southern point of the Cyprus-Lebanese
agreement in the Mediterranean.
National Infrastructures Minister Uzi
Landau said the Israeli demarcation was drawn up “in cooperation with
international legal experts.”
He said the agreement drawn up with Cyprus
also demarcated the maritime border with Lebanon. The Lebanese claim to offshore
territories inside areas that Israel claims as its own stemmed from an effort to
“undermine everything we do,” he said.
Landau said that if the Lebanese
had complaints about the line, they should do what all civilized countries do
and seek “clarification and negotiation with Israel.”
officials said there were two reasons why Lebanon was changing the line that it
agreed upon with Cyprus in 2007.
The first had to do with economic
reasons, and an interest in enlarging its zone because of recent natural gas
findings in the area.
And the second, according to the officials, had to
do with Hezbollah’s increasing influence in Lebanon, and its interest in having
an “underwater Shaba Farms” issue over which they could justify continued
conflict and dispute with Israel.
The Shaba Farms, or Mount Dov, is an
area Israel holds on the northern border that Lebanon claims as its own, but
which Israel says is actually part of the Golan Heights.
and wants to find areas of conflict and disputes with Israel to justify its
existence in Lebanon, one official said.
Both Netanyahu and Foreign
Minister Avigdor Lieberman denied reports the US was backing Lebanon’s claims,
with Lieberman saying in an Israel Radio interview Sunday that this claim was
Lieberman said the Lebanese claim was a transparent attempt
by Hezbollah to confront and show defiance toward Israel.
Minister Danny Ayalon, meanwhile, told Army Radio that he was confident the UN
would accept Israel’s position on its marine border with Lebanon.
said, “The dispute over the border with Lebanon was created by the Lebanese. It
is incorrect that the Americans sided with Lebanon in this
Ayalon said he did not think Israel would have any problem
proving its ownership of the maritime areas that are “ostensibly in
Ayalon added, “We’ve been in contact with Lebanon for a very
long time. We have an interest in demarcating and setting all the borders, but
they refuse. Even the current land border, which is recognized by the UN, is
without Lebanese involvement or recognition. After the huge gas reserves were
discovered, they suddenly woke up.
“Our position was that if the maritime
borders are demarcated, the land border should be jointly demarcated as well.
Now that they’ve suddenly sent maps, we have no choice but to set the borders
Jerusalem Post staff and Bloomberg contributed to this