Lebanon, Israel Upping Ante in Maritime Dispute

YERUSHALAYIM -
The Israeli Leviathan gas field gas processing rig near Caesarea. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Israel is gearing up to meet Lebanon’s recent demand for an expanded maritime zone with an expanded demand of its own, The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday.

A map being prepared by the Energy Ministry shows “Line 310,” or the red line, which depicts Israel’s claim considerably farther north than its initial negotiating position, the blue line on the map.

Israel and Lebanon began U.S.-mediated negotiations on their conflicting claims to the gas-rich Mediterranean Sea in October, the first talks between the countries in 30 years.

But four rounds of talks halted in November. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz accused Lebanon of changing its position seven times, presenting “positions that add up to a provocation.”

Two weeks ago, Lebanese Public Works and Transport Minister Michel Najjar declared that they will soon submit to the U.N. its revised position on its exclusive economic zone, increasing the area it had claimed thus far in the negotiations.

“We will not give up any inch of our homeland, or a drop of its waters or an inch of its dignity,” he said.

Steinitz then ordered that Israel revise its demands upward as well.

“This wasn’t our original intention, but the moment Lebanon moved forward with submitting their line, we prepared to submit ours, which, in symmetry with theirs, encroaches on hundreds of kilometers of Lebanon’s economic waters,” a ministry source said Monday, according to the Post.