With Tel Aviv’s military on alert and Hezbollah threatening to destroy Israeli oil and gas facilities, the dispute is teetering on the brink
Israeli navy vessels are pictured off the coast of Rosh Hanikra, an area at the border between Israel and Lebanon (Ras al-Naqura), on June 6, 2022. © JALAA MAREY / AFP
Israel has announced its readiness for war with Lebanon, as the ongoing US-mediated maritime border demarcation talks head towards a dead end. The issue, however, is not just causing dispute between Beirut and Tel Aviv, but also becoming more prevalent within Israeli politics as it heads into another round of general elections.
On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid rejected Lebanese amendments to a US-proposed maritime border demarcation agreement. The previous day, Israeli officials had reportedly been briefed on the deal, which was the cause of much optimism, with an unnamed source telling Axios news that Lapid “made it clear that Israel will not compromise on its security and economic interests, even if that means that there will be no agreement soon.”
Later on Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the military establishment to prepare for an armed confrontation with Lebanon. A four-hour cabinet meeting, which was said to have been attended by major Israeli security establishment figures, was then concluded with a public announcement that the prime minister and defense minister had been granted permission to strike Lebanon without further cabinet approval.
Why are Lebanon and Israel on the verge of war?
In early June, a ship owned by the gas company Energean arrived at the resource-rich Karish field in the Eastern Mediterranean to begin preparations for natural gas production for Israel. Lebanese President Michel Aoun condemned the arrival, warning Tel Aviv against taking any further “aggressive action.” The Karish field, as well as the nearby Qana field, have for years been central to on-off US-mediated negotiations between Lebanon and Israel. The two nations have still not come to any agreement on the demarcation of their maritime borders, with Beirut seeing Karish and Qana as vital to reviving its collapsing economy.