Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday expressed reservations about the agreement being formed between Israel and Lebanon on the maritime border between the countries.
Bennett said during talks he held that the agreement in question is different from what he knew and what was presented to the cabinet. Lebanon, he argued, is getting everything it wants in the agreement.
Channel 13 News reported that Bennett held several discussions on Monday in which he examined the agreement on a security and political level, and he is expected to formulate a clearer position before the discussion in the cabinet on the agreement. Bennett believes that it is very important to settle the matter and allow continuous activity of gas production. He has not yet decided whether to exercise his right to veto the agreement, although it is not certain that it is at all relevant, because of the ongoing legal proceedings against the agreement.
The political-security cabinet is scheduled to convene to discuss the maritime border agreement with Lebanon immediately after Yom Kippur. While Israel has made it clear that the agreement is acceptable, Lebanon still has several objections. In the meantime, the criticism of the passing of such a significant political agreement during an election period and a transitional government, is expanding beyond the opposition.
Senior political officials told Channel 13 News on Monday that the issue in the principle outline, according to which Israel would give up ownership of the Qana gas reservoir, but would receive royalties from the company that would produce the gas there - was known to Bennett. These officials wondered why Bennett changed his position. At the same time, financial simulations were made in Israel that will be presented to the cabinet in the upcoming discussion, confirming that Israel will indeed receive money.
Following the public skirmishes recorded on Sunday between Prime Minister Yair Lapid and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the emerging agreement on the maritime border with Lebanon, the opposition leader once again attacked the agreement at a special press conference on Monday evening.
"The time has come to say enough, enough of this dangerous government of weakness. This weakness has only become apparent now, when Lapid surrendered to Hezbollah's threats. His agreement of surrender is illegal, and we will not be bound by it," said the opposition chairman.
Beyond the criticism of many members of the opposition, as well as that of Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, the former US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, also lambasted the agreement on Monday.
“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,” he tweeted.
“I could be wrong, [but] 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,” he added.
As part of Prime Minister Lapid's attempt to explain his decision to pass such an agreement during an election period, he revealed on Sunday in an interview with the Kikar Hashabbat website that he discussed this with MK Yuval Steinitz of the Likud, formerly the Minister of Infrastructure who handled the issue.
However, Steinitz claimed on Monday evening, "I have not seen the details of the agreement. The conversation with Lapid was about the Iranian issue."