Religious Zionism head MK Bezalel Smotrich
Religious Zionism head MK Bezalel Smotrich Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

On Sunday, MK Bezalel Smotrich, the head of the Religious Zionism party, wrote a letter to the heads of the other parties considered to belong to the right-wing bloc - Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud), Aryeh Deri (Shas), and Moshe Gafni and Yitzhak Goldknopf (United Torah Judaism), calling on them not to recognized the validity of any maritime agreement caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid might sign with Lebanon.

Earlier on Sunday at the weekly cabinet meeting, Lapid updated members of his government on progress made in reaching an agreement with Lebanon on control of the territorial waters on their coastlines, including lucrative and contested gas fields beneath the Mediterranean Sea.

Lapid informed ministers that Israel had received details of the American mediator's proposal for a deal and said that the proposal "safeguards Israel's full security-diplomatic interests, as well as our economic interests." He added that, "We do not oppose the development of an additional Lebanese gas field, from which we will of course receive the share we deserve," arousing suspicion that the proposed deal involves concessions, perhaps even significant ones, to Lebanon.

"This agreement should give us sleepless nights," Smotrich wrote in his letter. "On the face of it, Lapid has totally submitted to Hezbollah's threats and is giving in to all the demands made by the Lebanese government, both territorial and economic. This is an agreement that harms Israel's territorial and economic interests and which will cause billions of gas revenues to flow to Hezbollah, money that will go to finance terrorist operations against the State of Israel."

According to Smotrich, "the agreement is liable to be signed in extreme haste by a caretaker government that lacks a majority in the Knesset and among the populace, without even obtaining the Knesset's approval and certainly not a plebiscite, and this is contrary to the country's Basic Laws.

"I believe that we must tell everyone, in an official announcement, including those international actors who are involved, that our position is that any such agreement lacks all validity and will not be either recognized or respected by us when we with G-d's help form the next government, following the elections. Such an announcement made prior to the signing of any agreement has immense impact and will affect our legal standing regarding the agreement as well as the manner in which the international community views its legitimacy, as we, as members of the next government, take determined action to protect the national interest and the interests of all Israel's citizens."

Smotrich's letter was in fact preempted by Netanyahu's own attack on the apparently pending agreement. "Yair Lapid has shamefully submitted to Nasrallah's threats," he said, addressing the general public in a video statement. "He is giving sovereign territory to Lebanon, including huge gas reserves that belong to you, the citizens of Israel. He is doing this without a Knesset debate and without calling a referendum. Lapid has no mandate to hand over sovereign territory to an enemy state, and if this agreement is actually signed, it will not be binding upon us."

Responding to Netanyahu's words, Yair Lapid wrote on Twitter: "Netanyahu, you tried and failed for ten years to achieve such an agreement; at least now don't harm Israel's security interests or aid Hezbollah with such irresponsible statements."