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Former US envoy who worked on maritime deal claims Lebanon got 100% of its demands

In this photo released by Lebanon's official government photographer Dalati Nohra, Lebanese President Michel Aoun, right, meets with David Schenker, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, at the presidential palace, in Baabda east of Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. The leader of Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group, Hassan Nasrallah, said Schenker visiting Beirut to mediate between Lebanon and Israel over a maritime border dispute is a "friend of Israel." Nasrallah urged Lebanese officials to negotiate from a point of strength. (Dalati Nohra via AP)

The former US envoy tasked with settling a maritime dispute between Israel and Lebanon expressed significant skepticism on Monday regarding the compromise proposed by his successor, claiming that Beirut will be receiving “100 percent” of its demands if the deal goes through.

Over the weekend, the Biden administration’s energy envoy Amos Hochstein presented what is believed to be a final proposal aimed at addressing competing claims over offshore gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea. The proposal has been welcomed by both sides, and even the country’s Hezbollah terror group appeared to drop its former vehement opposition to a deal.

But in an interview with The Times of Israel, Hochstein’s predecessor David Schenker expressed several reservations about the brewing agreement to end the 860-square kilometer-dispute. The former assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs argued that the deal would allow for Lebanon’s maritime border to extend to the very same point it had demanded early on in the talks.

Schenker also voiced skepticism as to whether the resolution will better secure Israel from threats posed by Hezbollah, as Prime Minister Yair Lapid maintained earlier this week. The former US envoy — who has returned to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy since serving in the Trump administration — posited that the proposal also does not ensure that the funds Lebanon will be able to acquire from impending oil and gas production won’t end up in Hezbollah’s pockets.

Full details of the agreement have not been made public, but diplomats familiar with the matter say that it will recognize the buoy-marked border that Israel established roughly five kilometers off of the coast of the northern kibbutz of Rosh Hanikra. After that, the border will follow the southern edge of the disputed area known as Line 23.

Lebanon will enjoy the economic benefits of the area north of Line 23, including the Qana gas field, though a senior Israeli official briefing reporters on the deal said Sunday that Jerusalem will receive compensation for giving up rights to Qana, a portion of which will lie in what the agreement recognizes as Israeli waters.