Former US ambassador to Israel David Friedman lambasted the emerging maritime border deal between Israel and Lebanon, claiming it marks a complete capitulation of Israel’s interests in favor of Lebanon’s.
In a series of tweets Monday morning, the former Trump administration official said that prior to Biden’s election, the White House nearly brokered a more equitable deal.
“We spent years trying to broker a deal between Israel and Lebanon on the disputed maritime gas fields. Got very close with proposed splits of 55-60% for Lebanon and 45-40% for Israel. No one then imagined 100% to Lebanon and 0% to Israel. Would love to understand how we got here.”
“I could be wrong, by I think Israel does get zero. My understanding is that Israel gets royalties only on drilling within its own sovereign territory — that’s beyond the scope of the maritime dispute with Lebanon. As to the disputed territory, I understand Lebanon gets it all.”
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid alluded to Israeli concessions, following the release of maps from the ongoing talks, which showed the boundary now under consideration farther to the south than previously accepted by Israel.
"Over the weekend, Israel and Lebanon received the American mediator's proposal for an agreement on a maritime line between the two countries. We are discussing the final details, so it is not yet possible to praise a done deal; however, as we have demanded from the start, the proposal safeguards Israel's full security-diplomatic interests, as well as our economic interests," Lapid said.
Lapid argued that ceding natural gas reserves to Lebanon would help the country become independent of Tehran, and ultimately curb the strength of groups like Hezbollah.
Right-wing lawmakers blasted the planned concessions, however, with Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu calling any deal during the government’s lame duck session “illegal”.
"If this illegal move goes through, it will not bind us."
Texas Senator Ted Cruz expressed concern over the emerging deal, after Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah hailed Israeli concessions as a sign of Lebanese victory.
“I am deeply troubled that Biden officials pressured our Israeli allies to hand over their territory to the Iran-controlled terrorist group Hezbollah,” Cruz tweeted. “Another topic for the next Republican Congress to investigate.”
Eugene Kontorovich, Director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum and director of the Center for the Middle East & International Law at George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School, said signing on to such an agreement during a lame duck government would violate Israeli constitutional rules.
“After being proposed and rejected a decade ago, the deal is being rammed through, just weeks before the Israeli elections - in violation of Israeli constitutional rules - because the Biden Administration and Hezbollah understand the desperation and weakness of the Lapid-Bennett government.”