With the IDF on high alert, Gantz speaks with northern Israel officials

After putting the IDF on high alert due to Lebanon maritime border negotiations, Gantz was warned by northern regional authorities that the north is unprepared for war.

 Minister of Defense Benny Gantz at a state Memorial ceremony for the fallen soldiers of the Yom Kippur War at the military cemetery memorial hall on Mount Herzl, October 06, 2022. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Minister of Defense Benny Gantz at a state Memorial ceremony for the fallen soldiers of the Yom Kippur War at the military cemetery memorial hall on Mount Herzl, October 06, 2022.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

After putting the IDF on alert due to the falter in the maritime negotiations with Lebanon, Defense Minister Benny Gantz spoke with the heads of regional authorities in Israel's north on Friday.

Gantz was accompanied by Deputy Defense Minister Alon Shushter, the head of the  National Emergency Management Agency Yoram Laredo, the commander of the Homefront Command's Northern District Col. Bezalel Schnaid and Brig.-Gen.(res.) Alon Friedman, the  Former Northern Command Chief of Staff.

According to a statement released by his office, Gantz spoke to them about the latest developments as well as the defense establishment's preparations.

"The Defense Minister emphasized that at this stage there are no special instructions for the home front and should there be, they will be informed in an orderly manner," the statement said.

Among those he spoke with was the head of the Kfar Vradim regional council, the head of the Upper Galilee Regional Council, the Mayors of Ma'alot Tarshisa, Nahariya, Kiryat Shemona, Katzrin and others.

 A deserted post for the Lebanese army is seen in Naqoura, near the Lebanese-Israeli border, southern Lebanon, October 6, 2022.  (credit: REUTERS/AZIZ TAHER) A deserted post for the Lebanese army is seen in Naqoura, near the Lebanese-Israeli border, southern Lebanon, October 6, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/AZIZ TAHER)

According to Army Radio, the heads of the local authorities warned Gantz that “residents are not prepared for war” and that there was not enough safe rooms in their communities. 

The north is home to about 244,000 Israelis, many of whom do not have access to a bomb shelter and plans for population evacuation, should a war break out, have yet to be completed.

The report said that they asked Gantz “not to get into unnecessary adventures” and that his statement on Thursday about preparing for escalations caused “unnecessary anxiety” for residents of the north.

Maritime border negotiations hit a wall

Gantz's decision to put the military on high alert came after Prime Minister Yair Lapid rejected changes proposed by Lebanon to the maritime border agreement drafted by US Energy Envoy Amos Hochstein. 

Hochstein’s draft, presented to Israel and Lebanon last week, was meant to be close to the final version of an agreement settling the dispute over the countries’ economic waters. Lebanon submitted its comments on the draft on Tuesday.

Lapid assessed some of the demands to be new and significant, and instructed the negotiating team to reject them.

According to a senior diplomatic source, one of the Lebanese demands that Lapid rejected was that Total Energy, the French petroleum giant that holds the license to develop the Kana gas field, buy out the portion of the reservoir in Israeli waters, whereas the proposal that Israel agreed to accept stated that Total would pay royalties to Israel for the gas extracted from its waters.

Shortly after Lapid's decision was announced, the Security Cabinet authorized Lapid, Gantz and Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to take decisions if there were to be an escalation in the North. Gantz warned that Israel will defend its infrastructure regardless of the outcome of negotiations.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.