Israeli-Lebanese Maritime Dispute: A 12 Month Outlook


    The Israeli-Lebanese maritime dispute is a long-standing issue over offshore natural gas fields. Competing claims over natural resources complicate an already hostile relationship. The two countries appear to be on the verge of a breakthrough deal. Even as they reach an agreement, Hezbollah is increasing the level of threatening rhetoric against Israel. As Gaza periodically flares up, Lebanon may prove to be a difficult task to handle for the new Israeli administration during a time of political uncertainty in Tel Aviv. 

    KJ-1: It is highly likely that Israel and Lebanon will commit to a maritime agreement in the next 12 months.

    • The current dispute revolves around the Karish oil field. The area intersects ‘Line 29’, Lebanon’s proposed demarcation [source]. 
    • The dispute reignited in June after an Israeli floating gas platform entered into the disputed area. Energean, a joint British and Israeli company, owns the rig [source].
    • Lebanon needs a resolution to the present dispute in order to secure private investment in Lebanese oil fields [source].
    • France has stepped in to provide additional mediation in the dispute [source].
    • US envoys involved in the talks expressed optimism that a deal is imminent. Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker, Nabih Berri, similarly expressed a positive outlook [source].
    • Several energy experts indicate that Lebanon made a number of concessions on the total area it is entitled to under maritime law [source]. 

    KJ-2: There is a realistic probability that Hezbollah will not launch sustained attacks against Israel in the next 12 months.

    • Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate, Najib Mikati, criticized Hezbollah for risking the country’s safety by threatening Israel [source].
    • Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, backtracked on previous threats by suggesting he is now more ambivalent about launching attacks against Israel [source]. 
    • Even so, Hezbollah is believed to possess anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM) obtained from China. Hezbollah is also believed to possess Russian Yakhont ASBMs [source]. 
    • Hezbollah used a Chinese C-802 ASBM to disable the INS Hanit in 2006 [source]. 
    • Israel shot down three Hezbollah drones over the Karish oil field [source]. 
    • Hezbollah published videos taken by drones of Israeli natural gas extraction ships, implying it has the ability to monitor and therefore target Israeli vessels [source].
    • Iranian support greatly enhanced Hezbollah’s anti-air capabilities. This in turn limited the ability of the Israeli Air Force to conduct intelligence-gathering missions over Lebanon [source]. 
    • Israel regularly targets and destroys Iranian-supplied anti-air systems in Syria for this reason. However, Israel has chosen restraint in attacking Hezbollah’s anti-air targets in Lebanon [source].
    • The head of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, met with Hasan Nasrallah in Beirut in order to coordinate efforts at cooperation [source]. 

    KJ-3: It is likely that Israel will become a major supplier of natural gas to European and Middle Eastern markets in the next 12 months.

    • There is an estimated 1.7 billion barrels of oil and 34.5 trillion m3 of natural gas in the disputed maritime zone [source]. 
    • A deal was finalized in June between the EU, Egypt and Israel to supply liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe [source].
    • Israeli LNG will be sent via pipeline to Egypt’s LNG liquefaction terminal at Beheira. The LNG will be transported further to the European energy market by tanker [source]. 
    • This new deal will complement the EastMed pipeline project started in 2020. EastMed is an undersea pipeline between Israel, Cyprus and Greece [source].
    • While the EastMed project will take roughly 7 years to complete, the deal signed in June takes immediate effect [source].
    • Israel increased gas exports to Egypt and Jordan. Both countries increased their imports of Israeli gas to match domestic demand [source]. 
    • Turkey and Israel are reportedly in closed-door discussions over constructing a pipeline, although these efforts are still in the preliminary phases [source].

    Intelligence Cut-Off Date: August 19, 2022

    Alec Smith
    Alec Smith
    Alec Smith is a graduate of the MSC International Relations program of the University of Aberdeen and holds an LLB in Global Law from Tilburg University.

    Table of contents


    Get the weekly email from Grey Dynamics that makes reading intel articles and reports actually enjoyable. Join our mailing list to stay in the loop for free!

    Related contents