Who wins, who loses and the electoral aspects of the Israel-Lebanon deal

Israel and Lebanon reached an agreement last Tuesday, the 11th, regarding the maritime border between the two countries. This will likely unlock natural gas exploration in two fields in the Mediterranean, close to the coasts of both countries. The agreement will also generate international repercussions amid the conflict in Ukraine and, above all, will have an electoral impact. In more than one country, even.

First, to say that Israel and Lebanon reached an agreement is a bit of an exaggeration. The two countries do not have formal relations and are in a situation of frozen conflict, with occasional skirmishes. They do not have a formal agreement on their borders, whether land or sea, and their common recent history is marked by conflicts and the impact of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

What will exist is a set of two agreements, with the US as a mutual actor. An agreement between Israel and the US and another agreement between Lebanon and the US. In practice, the Washington government, in addition to being a mediator, will be the guarantor of the agreement. There will be no joint signing ceremony, for example, and the various security aspects bring doubts and some skepticism to the agreement.

Table of Contents

US Government

Anyway, this is the first winner of this negotiation, the US government. Not just the nation state, but the current Joe Biden administration, which will certainly capitalize on the deal in next month’s internal elections. Especially with a view to weakening the republican rhetoric that the conservatives would be Israel’s “true friends”.

The text of the agreement defines the exclusive maritime economic zone of each country. the southernmost gas field, named Karish, will be under Israeli control, while the northeast field, named Qana, will be in Lebanon. As natural phenomena such as gas fields do not respect borders, the Israelis will receive a share of Qana’s exploration royalties, as it is juxtaposed by the division.

According to the authorities of the two countries, the agreement will strengthen mutual security, can be part of broader stabilization, and will represent billions of dollars for economies. In this sense, the Biden administration will also sell the agreement as a victory for Europe’s energy security, as the French company responsible for exploring the fields says that exports can start in a matter of weeks.

Speaking of companies in the field of natural gas exploration, the agreement is a very clear example of lobby diplomacy, something relatively common in the US. The negotiator who crafted the deal is a lobbyist named Amos Hochstein, appointed by the US government in October 2021. In addition to being an advisor to the Biden administration, he has an extensive career as an executive in private companies in the natural gas and oil sector.

Energy and Lebanon

About European energy security, Russia will come out on the bottom, losing part of its energy bargain in relation to the conflict in Ukraine. We have already mentioned here in our space how the recent discoveries of natural gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean would be the target of a race by European countries. And also a potential reason for a crisis between countries like Greece and Turkey.

If the US government comes out on top and Russia is negatively affected by the agreement, what about the internal repercussions in Lebanon and Israel? The main Lebanese negotiator, Elias Bou Saab, said in an interview that the text “takes into account all requests from Lebanon”. In addition to the foreign exchange of gas exports, the agreement could represent energy supply to Lebanon itself, which is in deep crisis.

Already part of the Lebanese opposition condemned the agreement allegedly for making too many concessions and Hezbollah, which has Israel as its main enemy, said only that it will follow the official position of the Lebanese state. Prime Minister of Israel, called the agreement historic. Israel will likely reap the economic rewards of the agreement first, as the country already explores natural gas in the Mediterranean.

Elections in Israel

Last June, Israel and Egypt signed a cooperation agreement on gas exploration. The point is that, in a fortnight’s time, Israel will face its fifth general election in three years. The main opponent de Lapid is veteran Netanyahu, while Benny Gantz will probably be the decisive actor to make possible the formation of a government.

Netanyahu stated that the agreement is a “historic surrender” and several Israeli political actors question whether Lapid would have the legitimacy to sign an agreement of this magnitude. in the midst of the election period. The prime minister will face a real race against the clock to pass the text in the Knesset before the election, if he succeeds. The impact of the deal on polls will be measured in the coming days.

Again, it is important to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism about the deal, given the track record between Lebanon and Israel, especially involving some Lebanese actors. It is also not yet possible to measure the domestic and electoral impact of the agreement in Israel. For now, the big winner is the US government, in the role of mediator, especially in its speech as a European energy partner and in the upcoming elections.

Recent Articles