Israel and Lebanon close to an agreement on maritime border dispute

Russian reports claimed recently that the two countries are inching closer to settling their maritime border dispute.

  Karish gas field, located in Israel territory and disputed by Lebanon.  (photo credit: ENERGEAN)
Karish gas field, located in Israel territory and disputed by Lebanon.
(photo credit: ENERGEAN)

A final agreement in the maritime border negotiations between Israel and Lebanon over the dispute surrounding the Karish gas field could be signed as early as next month, Israeli officials assessed on Monday.

Russia's state-owned media outlet Sputnik reported last week that the two Middle East neighbors are closing in on an agreement that would see their maritime border clearly defined.

According to the report, a Lebanese source confirmed that an agreement is very close, adding that they will soon announce it to US mediator Amos Hochstein. This is despite threats made recently by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.

The Hezbollah leader said that "we are heading toward an escalation "if the US mediator does not give Lebanon what it asked for in terms of its rights."

The US State Department mediating team led by Hochstein is "still wasting time," which is "running out," he said.

 Lebanon's caretaker Energy Minister Walid Fayad, gestures as he meets with US Senior Advisor for Energy Security Amos Hochstein, in Beirut Lebanon June 13, 2022.  (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED AZAKIR) Lebanon's caretaker Energy Minister Walid Fayad, gestures as he meets with US Senior Advisor for Energy Security Amos Hochstein, in Beirut Lebanon June 13, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED AZAKIR)

Israel and Lebanon's maritime border dispute

Israel and Lebanon have had a years-long, ongoing dispute as to who has the rights to maritime territories that contain natural gas fields, in which the two sides have yet to agree on a border.

Energy Minister Karin Elharrar claimed earlier this month that Jerusalem made a serious offer to Beirut, hoping to successfully bring maritime border talks to an end. “I call on Lebanon to take what is a very significant step for them towards becoming a country that produces gas, in order to solve their economic and energy crisis," Elharrar added.

There have been calls within Israel, mostly from the opposition, to hold a national referendum on any agreement reached with its northern neighbor.

According to the Kohelet Policy Forum think tank, Israeli law requires the government to hold a national referendum on any agreement reached with Lebanon over the maritime border.