Israel has announced a historic deal with Lebanon, aimed at resolving a long-running maritime border dispute over Mediterranean waters. Israel and Lebanon do not have official diplomatic relations and the two countries remain technically at war.

 

What is the maritime dispute between Israel and Lebanon?

  • The two countries declared overlapping boundaries in 2011 in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Since both countries have been technically at war, the United Nations was asked to mediate.
  • The issue gained significance after Israel discovered two gas fields off its coast a decade ago, which experts had believed could help turn it into an energy exporter.

 

Key highlights of the agreement

  • The draft agreement aims to settle Israel and Lebanons competing claims over offshore gas fields in the region.
  • Sets maritime boundary —
      • The agreement sets a border between the maritime waters of Lebanon and Israel for the first time.
      • Lebanon recognised Israel’s existing control of a 3-mile-wide stretch of water closest to their shared coast.
      • Israel allowed Lebanon the right to drill in a previously contested gas field that stretches between the Israeli and Lebanese economic zones.
  • Division of gas fields —
      • A major source of friction was the Karish gas field, which Israel insisted fell entirely within its waters and was not a subject of negotiation.
      • The agreement has not been made public but under terms leaked to the press all of the Karish field would fall under Israeli control.
      • On the other hand, Lebanon will get its full rights from the Qana field, and Israel might receive share of future revenues.

 

Significance

  • The agreement is also expected to avert the immediate threat of conflict between Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.
  • The agreement will create new sources of energy and income for both countries, particularly important for Lebanon, which is facing a crippling energy and financial crises.
  • It could also have a potentially wider impact — it would likely provide Europe with a potential new source of gas amid energy shortages caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

 

What about the land borders?

  • The agreement does not touch on the shared land border between Israel and Lebanon.
    • Land border between the two countries is still disputed. However, both countries have committed to a ceasefire.
    • This border is also called the Blue Line, a boundary that was drawn up by the UN after Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000.
  • This land border is currently patrolled by the United Nations forces.