Hezbollah cautiously endorses Lebanon-Israel maritime deal

Mohamed Hatem, Wednesday 12 Oct 2022

Hezbollah will back a maritime agreement between Israel and Lebanon Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, said on Tuesday, only if it is officially endorsed by the Lebanese government. Gas riches are the "only door" to prosperity for crisis-hit Lebanon, he added.

Hezbollah Maritime border
In this photo a Hezbollah supporter holds a portrait of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah as he speaks via a video link during a ceremony marking Prophet Muhammad s birthday, in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, Lebanon, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022. AP


"If the president announces that Lebanon's official position supports the agreement, then, for us... things are settled," Nasrallah said.

The statement comes after both countries settled a long-held dispute over maritime borders with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid hailing the US-brokered agreement as a "historic agreement."

The settlement will allow the neighbouring countries to unlock opportunities for offshore gas production in the Mediterranean rich gas fields.

"Tonight we will neither threaten nor make promises, tonight we are calm and without slogans, tonight is about joy, and I was careful in every word I say so that the enemy does not benefit from any word," said the Hezbollah leader.

However, Israel remains wary as it has long expressed concerns against the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, its greatest immediate threat, possessing an estimated 150,000 rockets and missiles capable of striking anywhere in Israel.

Nonetheless, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid welcomed the agreement saying it would "strengthen Israel's security," according to a statement released on Tuesday by Lapid's office.

Lebanon's presidency reflected Lapid's positive sentiment, voicing hope that "the agreement on the demarcation will be announced as soon as possible."

There has been a "full agreement on the English draft of the accord," Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said following a meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun.

Aoun will review the Arabic translation with an official announcement expected on Wednesday, Mikati added.

US President Joe Biden expressed his country's support, congratulating both sides on a "breakthrough agreement" to establish maritime boundaries for the first time between both countries.

"My administration was proud to facilitate this deal, an anchor for regional stability and prosperity" he tweeted.

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz also voiced his support, calling the accord "positive for both sides," according to a statement made on Tuesday, while criticising Hezbollah, which he said "attempted to destroy the process" with its threats.

However, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu called the deal a "historic surrender" to "all of Hezbollah's demands," threatening to go back on the agreement if he returns to power.

"This is not a historic agreement, but a historic capitulation," he said during a Facebook live statement.

"He who capitulates to Nasrallah cannot be prime minister... Israel cannot allow itself to have an amateur and weak prime minister," he added.

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