by: Kate Norman
Wednesday, 28 October 2020 | An Israeli delegation traveled to Lebanon today to continue talks to settle their long-held maritime border dispute, Israel’s Energy Ministry reported.
The delegation headed just north of the border to a United Nations base in Naqoura, Lebanon, to continue US-mediated talks that began earlier this month to demarcate the official border between the two nations in the Mediterranean. This is the first time the two countries have reopened talks on the subject in 30 years.
The disputed waters are filled with rich natural resources—particularly natural gas.
The delegations will discuss today and tomorrow, reaching an agreement on the maritime border “in a way that will enable the development of natural resources in the region,” the Energy Ministry said in a statement.
The neighboring countries reopened talks on the subject on October 14—just a month after Israel signed the Abraham Accords for peace with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in Washington DC.
The resumption of talks is another reflection of the shifting dynamics in the Middle East as more Arab and Muslim countries are joining hands with the Jewish state in peace.
Nonetheless, Israel’s military continues preparing to ensure that its borders remain safe and sound from enemy attacks. On Thursday, the Israel Defense Forces will conclude its largest exercise of the year, dubbed “Lethal Arrow,” which simulates war with Hezbollah.
The Lebanese-based terror group has its tentacles wrapped tightly around Lebanon, reaching even into the government—and those tentacles stretch all the way back to their base in Tehran.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset (Parliament) that while Hezbollah “effectively controls Lebanon, there can be no real peace with this country.”
He added a hopeful note about the resumed maritime discussions, saying they hold “enormous potential and economic significance, both for them and for us.”
While touring Israel’s north to inspect the Lethal Arrow exercise, Defense Minister Benny Gantz also acknowledged Hezbollah’s hindrance to the possibility of peace between Israel and Lebanon.
“The citizens of Lebanon must remember that Hezbollah, not Israel, is their problem, because if Hezbollah attacks the state of Israel, Lebanon will pay the price for any aggression,” the defense minister warned. “We are here to be ready for the moment that I hope will not come.”
Israel last fought a war with Hezbollah in the 2006 Lebanon War.
Lebanon is engulfed in one of the worst financial crises in the nation’s history, following the economic fallout amid the pandemic as well as the large explosion in Beirut’s port in August, which killed over 200 people, injured thousands and rendered hundreds of thousands homeless. Many blame Hezbollah for the explosion, and the disaster opened the eyes of many of the Lebanese people to the fact that Israel is not their true enemy—Hezbollah is.
In fact, coming to an agreement with Israel on their shared border in the Mediterranean and even cooperating on their handling of the natural resources in the region could give Lebanon the leg up it needs to pull itself out of the financial quagmire.
Defense Minister Gantz said during his northern visit: “I am hearing positive voices coming out of Lebanon, who are even talking about peace with Israel, who are working with us on things like determining maritime borders.”
Gantz did not specify who those voices belong to, but his statement came a day after the Lebanese president’s daughter said she would not object to peace with Israel.
“I defend the interests of my country, Lebanon, first,” Claudine Aoun Roukoz told Al-Jadeed. “Are we required to remain in a state of war? I do not have an ideological dispute with anyone, but my dispute is political.”
The president’s daughter said the main issues standing between Israel and Lebanon are the maritime border dispute, “the issue of Palestinian refugees, and another topic which is more important which is the issue of natural resources: water, oil and natural gas, which Lebanon is depending on to advance its economy.”
Posted on October 28, 2020
Source: (Bridges for Peace, October 28, 2020)
Photo Credit: Israel Defense Forces/flickr.com
Photo License: flickr.com
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