October 14, 2022 | Flash Brief

Israel-Lebanon Maritime Deal Elicits Dueling Arguments

October 14, 2022 | Flash Brief

Israel-Lebanon Maritime Deal Elicits Dueling Arguments

Latest Developments

Israel and Lebanon reached a maritime deal on Tuesday, eliciting robust debate over its prospective merits, flaws, and implications for regional security. Supporters of the agreement argue that it averts a potential war between Israel and Hezbollah, weakens Hezbollah, strengthens Israel’s economy, and constitutes de facto Lebanese recognition of Israel. Critics contend that the accord by definition is an act of appeasement that empowers Hezbollah, cementing its partnership with France under a U.S. umbrella and forcing Israel to concede to all of the group’s demands under the threat of force.

Expert Analysis

“Negotiating with Israel over anything is anathema to Hezbollah and the Islamist regime in Iran. Lebanon’s economic despair, however, has forced Hezbollah to bend and strike a deal with Israel that the militia tried to spin as an Israeli concession under threat of war.” – Hussain Abdul-Hussain, FDD Research Fellow

“The U.S. administration made a point to publicly force Israel to capitulate entirely to Hezbollah in this deal, which Team Biden has framed as part of its agenda to prop up and ‘integrate’ Iran’s ‘equities’ in the region. On its own terms, this deal provides American protection to Hezbollah’s effective partnership with France while eroding Israeli deterrence, even as threats to Jerusalem’s security continue to grow in Lebanon.” – Tony Badran, FDD Research Fellow

Supporters of the Deal Say It Deescalates Tensions with Lebanon

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said on Wednesday that the maritime deal “does not preserve our security, it enhances our security.” In a Twitter post, he stated the agreement will “minimize Lebanon’s dependence on Hezbollah and Iran” and benefit the economies of both countries. According to Mossad chief David Barnea, Hezbollah supports the deal only to boost its standing among the Lebanese people. “Hezbollah did not want an agreement with Israel, but realized that in light of the internal political crisis in Lebanon, it has an opportunity to gain points in public opinion,” said Barnea.

Critics Lambast Deal as Threat to Israeli Security

Opponents of the deal maintain these assertions do not hold up to factual scrutiny, arguing that the deal plainly benefits Hezbollah financially, militarily, and strategically. Hezbollah not only managed the negotiations, it also launched drones and threatened to further attack the Karish gas field — even though it lies entirely within Israel’s borders — if Israel failed to concede to the group’s demands. Former Israeli Minister of Energy Yuval Steinitz thus described the deal as “by definition a surrender to blackmail.” Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah praised the agreement on Tuesday by claiming that “Israel is more afraid of war than the Lebanese.”

Critics also note that claims of Lebanon’s “dependence” on Iran are imprecise. Iran already dominates the country through its control of Hezbollah, which effectively runs the Lebanese government.

Related Analysis

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Energy Hezbollah Iran Iran Global Threat Network Israel Lebanon