Security Officials Warn of Conflict with Hezbollah if Maritime Talks Fail

By Zalman Ahnsaf

Lebanese prime minister Najib Mikati. (REUTERS/ Sharif Karim/File Photo)

YERUSHALAYIM – At a meeting about progress in talks to settle the maritime dispute with Lebanon, the security cabinet heard that if an agreement isn’t reached soon, there would likely be conflict with Hezbollah, according to Walla news on Wednesday evening.

Senior security officials told the ministers that stagnation in the negotiations could lead to several days of fighting with the Lebanese terror organization.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has several times threatened Israel, including in the last week, over its development of the Karish gas field, off Israel’s northern coast.

There have been indications in recent days that the two sides are reaching an agreement, but details remain secret. The U.S. enovy Amos Hochstein met with interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid in Yerushalayim on Monday night. That the impromptu talk was with the prime minister and not the Israeli energy minister appeared to signal the negotiations have arrived at a critical stage.

Meanwhile, an Israeli think tank pointed out that an agreement on the potentially gas-rich region in the Mediterranean cannot be finalized by officials of the two governments alone.

The Kohelet Policy Forum said that Israeli law requires a national referendum to make any changes in the country’s maritime borders. That applies if the government gives up territory “not in the way of an agreement” – meaning unilaterally.

Aharon Gerber and Ariel Ehrlich, two attorneys in the litigation department of the right-wing Kohelet Forum, expressed concern that it could involve Israel conceding some of its economic waters, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“In order to prevent a constitutional problem,” Gerber and Ehrlich wrote to Lapid, “we ask to warn about the requirement in a Basic Law for every international agreement in which there is a change in the territory on which Israeli law and administration apply.”

The Kohelet lawyers wrote that while the area under negotiation lies beyond Israel’s territorial waters, Israeli law applies to them because they are on Israel’s “continental shelf,” which Yerushalayim has claimed in the talks.

Following a meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, House Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati on Monday, Hochstein said: “I remain optimistic that we can make continuous progress as we have over the last several weeks and I look forward to being able to come back to the region to make the final arrangement.”

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