The United States will not be able to stop Israel from retaliating against Lebanon if Hezbollah decides to attack it over the Karish gas field, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly told the Lebanese prime minister in a recent meeting.
According to Saudi media reports, Blinken told Prime Minister Najib Mikati that even if Hezbollah only demonstrates a small show of force, Washington will not be able to stop Israel.
Earlier this month, the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper claimed that Washington had increased its pressure on Israel to finalize a maritime deal following intelligence according to which Hezbollah has changed the deployment of forces and is preparing for military action.
President Joe Biden spoke recently with Prime Minister Yair Lapid and urged Israel to speed up negotiations to reach a deal that would demarcate economic waters and solve the standoff over the Karish gas field which Israel plans to begin drawing gas from in the coming weeks.
According to an official readout of the meeting by the State Department, Blinken told Mikati that it is time to hold a timely presidential election in Lebanon and to implement key reforms needed to effect meaningful change, promote good governance, and revive Lebanon’s economy while restoring the trust of its people.
"The Secretary stressed the urgent need and continued support to conclude a maritime agreement to ensure stability and Lebanon’s economy. The Secretary reiterated that the United States would continue to work with Lebanon for peace and prosperity in the region," the statement said.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned earlier this month that Lebanon would pay the price for any Hezbollah attack on its offshore Karish gas field, even as it said it hoped a US-brokered deal to set a maritime boundary in the north was close to completion.
“If [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah wants to try and harm and to complicate this process, he is welcome to do so, the price is Lebanon,” Gantz told Reichman University’s 21st World Summit on Counter-Terrorism on Thursday morning. “I hope for his sake that he won’t do this, we are prepared to defend our interests.”
Last week, Nasrallah warned that Israel "faces a problem" if it begins to pump gas from the Karish gas rig.
Lebanon is waiting to receive its demands, he added, referring to a US-brokered deal on a maritime boundary between Israel and Lebanon that is in the works. "Lebanon is facing a golden opportunity that may not be repeated to address its crisis," Nasrallah declared.
He further stated that the extraction of gas from the Karish field was a “red line,” adding, "We gave the negotiations a real opportunity with the aim of extracting Lebanon's gas, and we did not look for any problem."