Tensions with Lebanon increased this week when Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid rejected the US-mediated agreement with Lebanon regarding the maritime borders.
The skirmishes in the last few months in the “battlefield” waters of the Mediterranean Sea have intensified as part of a “shadow war” between Hezbollah (backed by Iran) and Israel. The vast natural gas reserve off Israel’s shores and the rigs and platforms harvesting those resources for Israel have been under attack (by drones and in a war of words) for at least the last two years.
The US has worked since 2020 to negotiate an agreement between Lebanon and Israel to secure peace and broker economic gains for both nations. Hezbollah (the ruling party in Lebanon) has upped its maritime demands and has rejected the offers to share the gas profits.
On Thursday, after Yom Kippur, Prime Minister Lapid rejected Hezbollah’s attempt to grab more territory…and the IDF prepared for a possible war.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with his top generals for a debriefing and then informed the military “to prepare for any scenario in which tensions increase in the northern arena—including defense and offense readiness.”
At a ceremony commemorating those who died in the 1976 Yom Kippur War, Gantz said, “If Hezbollah tries to harm [Israeli infrastructure or sovereignty], the military cost to Lebanon and Hezbollah will be very high.”
“We constantly remember the lesson of the Yom Kippur War. We must not sin by being arrogant; we must be ready for every scenario,” Gantz said.
(In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israeli forces were caught off-guard by the attack from Syria and Egypt. Israel won the war but had unacceptable losses. Nearly 3,000 soldiers died. Had we been prepared, the number of casualties would have been far less.)
Shortly after Lapid turned down Hezbollah’s counteroffer, the Israel Security Council gave Lapid (and Alternate PM Naftali Bennett) the decision-making authority they would need if fighting broke out at Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.
Lapid made it clear to the US Energy Envoy Amos Hocstein, who was instrumental in the draft maritime agreement, that Israel would make no further concessions. However, Hocstein’s office says he remains hopeful that a deal can be achieved.
“Special Presidential Coordinator Amos Hochstein continues his robust engagement to bring the maritime boundary discussions to a close. We remain in close communication with the Israelis and Lebanese. We are at a critical stage in the negotiations, and the gaps have narrowed. We remain committed to reaching a resolution and believe a lasting compromise is possible.”
In dispute is the Kana reservoir—a natural gas field of unknown potential. Lapid refused the offer to buy out the Israeli side of the field due to the fact that its financial value is unknown at this point. Also, the so-called “buoy line”—a security buffer zone off the shores of Israel’s northern border with Lebanon—is a point of contention. Israel wants it to be recognized by Lebanon as a sovereign border, and Lebanon has wanted it to be declared part of international waters.