September 23, 2022 | Flash Brief

Israel, Lebanon Near Agreement on Mediterranean Gas Field

September 23, 2022 | Flash Brief

Israel, Lebanon Near Agreement on Mediterranean Gas Field

Latest Developments

Two years of U.S.-mediated negotiations on demarcating a maritime border between Israel and Lebanon appear to be reaching a conclusion, with senior envoys meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York this week. In 2020, the Hezbollah-dominated Lebanese government claimed rights to Karish, an Israeli gas field located in the Mediterranean Sea. This insistence constituted a negotiating tactic aimed at compelling Jerusalem to make territorial concessions on the entirety of the disputed maritime area, including Qana, a prospective gas field that lies within both Lebanese and Israeli waters.

Expert Analysis

“Hezbollah, as always, is playing with fire — and, as always, the fuel is being poured from Tehran while ordinary Lebanese and Israelis are liable to get burned. While the Biden administration seeks an Israel-Lebanon deal soon, it should make it clear that this is in no way a response to Hezbollah threats and that Washington and Jerusalem will not be spooked into capitulation.” – Mark Dubowitz, FDD Chief Executive

“Once this deal goes through, the Biden administration will have set the precedent of extracting territorial concessions from Israel under the threat of attack leveraged by the United States on behalf of Iranian assets. What’s more, the deal, by design, will turn Hezbollah into a player in Eastern Mediterranean energy.” – Tony Badran, FDD Research Fellow

Israel’s Ownership of Karish

Karish has always lain within Israel’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Before 2020, Lebanon had never claimed control of Karish and has not formally registered its claim to own Karish with the United Nations. Thus, Lebanon’s claim to it is disingenuous. In June 2022, Israel declared it would begin extracting gas by the end of September despite protests by Lebanon.

Hezbollah’s Threats

Hezbollah has threatened to attack Israeli offshore platforms should Jerusalem fail to meet its demands. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said last month that it could expand its attacks “beyond Karish” if the two countries failed to reach an agreement that satisfies the terrorist group. In late June and early July, Hezbollah launched four drones toward Karish that the Israeli military shot down.

Hezbollah’s objective is to force Israel into conceding the entire disputed area, including all of the Qana prospect, under the threat of terrorism in return for Israel’s retention of its already existing rights to Karish. Israel, noting that Karish is indisputably within its waters, insisted that the rig’s activation will take place as scheduled by month’s end regardless of progress — or lack thereof — in diplomacy.

A Familiar Playbook

Hezbollah is following a playbook familiar to those watching the Vienna talks over Iran’s nuclear program, where Iranian nuclear escalation has led to a steady stream of American concessions. Hezbollah seems to expect intransigence will result in financial benefits, just as Tehran’s stonewalling in Vienna has led to promises of extensive sanctions relief.

Related Analysis

Hezbollah Drones Target Israeli Gas Rigs, Amplify U.S. Pressure on Israel,” by Tony Badran

America’s Regional Integration Scheme Benefits Iran,” by Tony Badran

Facing failure in Lebanon,” by Cliff May


Hezbollah Iran Iran Global Threat Network Israel Lebanon