The talks with Lebanon need quiet diplomacy

Any tactical derogation or strategical hidden objectives should be put aside.

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun speaks during a news conference at the presidential palace last month in Baabda, Lebanon.  (photo credit: DALATI NOHRA / REUTERS)
Lebanon's President Michel Aoun speaks during a news conference at the presidential palace last month in Baabda, Lebanon.
(photo credit: DALATI NOHRA / REUTERS)
It looks like the talks between Lebanon and Israel to delineate their maritime border will be actively encouraged by the Biden administration. The leaks by Israeli sources to the media on the substance of the talks disturb the process, and might even postpone the chance to reach an agreement fast.
I perused the Lebanese media since the beginning of the talks and find laconic reports such as the atmosphere, or when will be the next meeting. No leak from inside discussion held in Naqoura tent.
Lebanon joined the talks not without internal tension. Hezbollah insisted that only militaries will compose the Lebanese delegation. President [Michel] Aoun, a close ally of Hezbollah, overruled the request. The tension between both parties rose high. Nasrallah is waiting for the occasion to derail the talks.
Leaking details about Israel’s maps, one provocative, the other moderate, will put Lebanon on the defensive, prolong the time to an agreement and embarrass other players.
In any negotiation, the sides start with maximalist demands and start to retract slowly. According to the discussions, until reaching an agreed solution the leaks harm this process.
In the talks with Lebanon, there are two more players which we have to value: the commitment to success by the US and the UN. Any faux pas from our side will only embarrass this. Even more so, the leaks will harden the positions that need time and efforts to diffuse. All sides should confine to the agreed-upon meaning the delineation talks are about the disputed triangle only of 860 square kilometers.
Any tactical derogation or strategical hidden objectives should be put aside. The successful delineation of this triangle will not exclude future disputes, since the gas resource is in the bottom of the sea. Its extraction might be complicated.
Israel has the technology. Lebanon hired the French company Total. There is an idea, although still unripe, that Total will extract the gas from the triangle and will distribute it between Israel and Lebanon, according to an agreed repartition, if it happens.
This solution will bring to a new reality with our northern neighbor.
In the coming days, the talks will resume. Israel should refrain from intentional leaks and ask Lebanon not to fall in the sin of leaking, for the sake of a compromise. Although the new American administration will push toward that compromise, probably without the same impetus as its predecessor. Israel should help the new administration by returning to quiet diplomacy.

The writer is former ambassador to Egypt and United Nations Geneva.