After many years of off-and-on negotiations, Israel and Lebanon have finally reached a deal concerning their offshore waters and the gas fields under them. The deal, brokered by the US, has set off a firestorm of extreme criticism and equally extreme praise on the part of the Israeli commentariat.
The fact is that the deal is neither wonderful nor terrible, but rather the best that can be hoped for under the circumstances.
Much has been made by the critics that under the terms of the deal, Israel relinquished 860 square kilometers of its maximum demand. the critics overlook, however, the fact that Lebanon gave up 1,430 square kilometers of its extreme position. In other words, a compromise was struck, in which neither side got everything it wanted--the very definition of a compromise.
Additionally, five kilometers from shore Israel controls a security zone that otherwise would not be in its waters.
Israel gets the totality of the Karish field and the rights to 17% of the revenues from the Sidon field, otherwise under Lebanese control. The revenues will be received by the field's developer, the French company Total, and Lebanon's share will not be disbursed until Israel is paid its share.
Once the Sidon rig is completed by Total and is operating, Hezbollah loses all incentive to destroy the Israeli Karish rig, since Israel would immediately retaliate by destroying the Sidon rig.
One aspect of the agreement is questionable. Total will pay Lebanon's share of the Sidon earnings only to the Lebanese government, not to Hezbollah; however, since Hezbollah has effective control of Lebanon, it can undoubtedly force the government to turn over all or part of the payments.
All-in-all a reasonable agreement. The US is to be congratulated on its contribution to resolving a difficult problem in the Middle East, where the Biden administration's overall record is dismal.
Dr. Norman Bailey is professor of Economic Statecraft at the Galilee International Management Institute, and adjunct professor at the Institute of World Politics, Washington DC. Dr. Bailey was a senior staff member of the National Security Council during the Reagan administration and of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence during the George W. Bush administration.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 18, 2022.
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