Why is Lebanon threatening Israel now? - analysis

Is Hezbollah trying to create a casus belli to attack Israel or Israeli gas platforms?

 Lebanese President Michel Aoun heads a cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon April 26, 2022. (photo credit: DALATI NOHRA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Lebanese President Michel Aoun heads a cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon April 26, 2022.
(photo credit: DALATI NOHRA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Lebanon’s political leadership is threatening Israel, claiming that any Israeli activity in disputed areas offshore could lead to some kind of “action.” Lebanon has no conceivable way to really confront Israel, so the threats appear to be giving cover for Hezbollah to potentially attack Israel or attack an Israeli gas platform off the coast.  

Lebanon’s political leadership is threatening Israel, claiming that any Israeli activity in disputed areas offshore could lead to some kind of “action.”

Lebanon has no conceivable way to really confront Israel, so the threats appear to be giving cover for Hezbollah to potentially attack Israel or attack an Israeli gas platform off the coast.

The reports coincide with Al-Mayadeen News claiming that Israel fears the “possibility” of Hezbollah targeting gas operations linked to the Karish project. Mayadeen is sympathetic to Iran and Hezbollah, claiming that Israel is preparing to secure the waters off the coast near Lebanon using ships and underwater defenses, as well as the naval version of Iron Dome. KAN News also reported on the issue.

Meanwhile, according to a story from Alliance News published at London South East, “Energean PLC on Monday confirmed its floating production storage and offloading unit has arrived on location in Israel for its Karish project.”

The report said the London-based oil and gas company “said its FPSO unit was transported by two tugs from the Sembcorp Marine’s Admiralty Yard in Singapore in a 35-day long journey.”

Floating gas production rig, Energean Power (credit: ENERGEAN)Floating gas production rig, Energean Power (credit: ENERGEAN)

The company will “immediately” begin hook up and commissioning operations, the report said. “This will include installing risers and jumpers and commissioning the sales gas pipeline. Three to four months of commissioning is expected before the first gas, the firm said.”

“This marks a major step forward in delivering first gas from Karish, which remains on track for the third quarter of 2022,” Energean CEO Mathios Rigas said. “We look forward to continuing our progress through Karish first gas, the commercialization of the newly defined Olympus Area and contributing to energy security and competition of supply for the region,” the report said.

This follows a report in May, also from Off Shore Energy, which said: “Hydrocarbon exploration and production company Energean has made a commercial gas discovery in Block 12 offshore Israel, bolstering its beliefs in the potential of the newly defined Olympus Area.”

“Back in June 2021, Energean contracted a rig from Stena Drilling for its 2022-2023 growth drilling program offshore Israel,” the report said. “The firm also booked Halliburton in September 2021 under an integrated services contract to execute the well drilling and completions.” The Karish project was said to be almost complete in late May.

Threats

Hezbollah increased threats in May against US mediation of the Israel-Lebanon water-boundary dispute. The US has sought to help the countries, which have no relations, come to some kind of an agreement.

But Hezbollah opposes this and slammed US envoy Amos Hochstein in May. The terrorist group used antisemitic terms in its attack on Hochstein, asserting that Jewish envoys were not wanted because they are sympathetic to Israel.

Lebanon now appears to be helping cover for Hezbollah’s threats. Normally, any threats by Hezbollah would be an illegal terrorist act, but Lebanon helps give cover for the terrorist group in this case by enabling “aggressive action.”

According to reports, Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who is a Hezbollah ally, has said any activity in the disputed area would amount to an act of aggression and a provocation. Aoun knows that his Christian supporters performed badly in the last election. By law, the president of Lebanon must be a Christian.

Lebanon has a caretaker prime minister named Najib Mikati, who said Israel was “encroaching on Lebanon’s maritime wealth and imposing a fait accompli in a disputed area,” calling this “extremely dangerous.”

He made several comments that were printed in Mayadeen, including saying that any Israeli actions in the disputed areas obstruct the negotiation process that is being mediated by the United States under the auspices of the United Nations.

Mikati also said exploration in the area was aggression that threatens peace and security. It was decided to carry out a series of diplomatic contacts with the major countries and the UN to explain Lebanon’s position and to confirm its adherence to its maritime rights, he said.

Lebanon has invited the US to mediate again. “I discussed with President Aoun the steps that must be taken to confront Israel’s attempt to create tension near our southern maritime borders,” Mikati said. “Any Israeli actions in the disputed areas obstruct the negotiation process that is being mediated by the United States and under the auspices of the United Nations.”

Iran’s Tasnim News Agency has joined in the attacks on Israel. Lebanese Defense Minister Maurice Sleem has slammed the Jewish state, claiming that it had enabled the “illegal entry of a ship belonging to the [Israel] regime into the disputed maritime zone with Lebanon,” Tasnim reported.

Sleem has apparently said Israel is threatening the stability of the region. He has also said Israel is ignoring international law and threatening talks on demarcating maritime boundaries.

Lebanon claims it wants the UN to take notice. Beirut has indicated that ships entering this disputed area are committing “aggression.” The country seems to be threatening to dispute this gas field.

Lebanon’s political leaders say they reject some of the discussions with Israel because they believe it is part of a conspiracy designed to show that Lebanon is “normalizing” relations. Iran uses its allies in places such as Lebanon to fight “normalization.” It has done the same thing in Iraq, getting Baghdad to pass a new law against such normalization.

This is the context of the threats from Lebanon. The real goal of its authorities, after seeing how Hezbollah’s allies performed badly in the last elections, is to cling to power through threats of conflict with Israel.

This is part of their populist plot, and it is likely being encouraged by Iran to create a casus belli, meaning an excuse for conflict that will enable Hezbollah to claim it is “resisting” Israel. This is part of the narrative that Iran has used for years: getting Hezbollah to create fake excuses for the need to keep stockpiling Iranian-supplied weapons.

The terrorist group has now also infiltrated southern Syria, with Iran’s backing, to threaten Israel from near the Golan Heights.

The goal of Lebanon’s failed leadership is to create tensions to pretend they are “defending” their country and thus justify increasing tensions with Israel. This then hands Hezbollah an open-ended invitation to “retaliate” against the Jewish state.

Hezbollah has created these kinds of excuses in the past – not only relating to Mount Dov, but also when it has claimed its members were killed or targeted in Syria. It then says Hezbollah must “resist.”