Update on Lebanon-Israel Relations and their Maritime Border Agreement

Lebanon-Israel relations have continued to be problematic during the last decade. Both states are still officially at war, and maintaining a maritime dispute which resulted in heightened tensions during the summer of 2022. However, ‌Lebanon and Israel could soon sign a bilateral maritime border deal with the mediation of the US. This agreement, which could resolve the dispute, would facilitate gas exploration and exploitation in the Eastern tip of the Mediterranean Sea and economically benefit both countries.

Key Judgment 1: Despite Israel facing certain internal challenges, Lebanon and Israel will likely sign a bilateral maritime border deal in the next 3 months.

  • On the 11th of October 2022, Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid announced Israel reached a historical agreement with neighboring Lebanon [source].
  • Lebanon’s deputy speaker announced a met agreement “which satisfies both sides” and improves Lebanon-Israel relations [source].
  • The Office of the Lebanese President stated the treaty satisfied Lebanon’s right to natural resources [source].
  • Israel’s alternate prime minister, Naftali Bennett, claimed Israel should not celebrate the current deal as a historical diplomatic victory nor see it as a catastrophe [source].
  • While recently elected prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu harshly criticized and opposed the deal; Israel’s military leadership voiced its firm support for the agreement [source][source].
  • The leader of Hezbollah clarified the Iranian-backed organization would also endorse the Lebanese government’s position [source][source].
  • It is likely the Israeli government will send the treaty to the Knesset for review [source].

Key Judgment 2: It is highly likely the signing of the agreement will stabilize Lebanon-Israel relations and improve the former’s economic situation.

  • The agreement would resolve their territorial dispute in the eastern tip of the Mediterranean Sea, thereby improving Lebanon-Israel relations [source][source].
  • The deal would divide the Qana gas field between the two countries but would give its exploitation to Lebanon [source].
  • Lebanon will give the French company total permission to search for gas in the Qana field. Also, Israel will receive a share of all revenues [source].

Key Judgment 3: There is a realistic probability the signing of the deal will strengthen Israel’s position in the region, and weaken Iran’s regional influence and Palestine’s voice.

  • The potential improvement of Lebanon’s economic situation will likely weaken Hezbollah’s positions within the country and also Iran’s influence [source].
  • It is almost certain the deal will increase Israel’s security within the region and improve Lebanon-Israel relations [source].
  • Moreover, it is likely the deal will further weaken Palestine’s position and any consensual resolution, such as the “two-state solution” [source].

Intelligence Cut-Off Date 12 October 2022

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