The Biden administration has ramped up pressure on Israel and Lebanon in recent weeks to reach a resolution to a decades-old dispute over maritime borders, including a tiny swath of the Mediterranean Sea that is rich in oil and gas.
For decades, Israel and Lebanon have been locked in non-direct negotiations, mostly with the help of U.S. mediators, over an 860-square-kilometer area of the sea that both countries hope to explore for oil and gas resources.
Negotiations between the two countries, which have no diplomatic ties and have fought multiple wars, were renewed two years ago and appeared to be making progress this week.
While comments by both Israel’s caretaker Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, and Lebanese President Michel Aoun indicate a deal could be forthcoming, ongoing tensions between the neighbors still risk being undermined by the Iranian-backed Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah, particularly as Israel appears determined to push ahead with production at Karish, a new offshore gas rig not far from the disputed waters.
HEZBOLLAH THREATENS TO ‘SEVER’ THE HAND OF ISRAEL IF IT ATTEMPTS TO TAP DISPUTED OFFSHORE GAS
Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), told Fox News Digital this week that for the deal to collapse at this point it would take something dramatic, especially because the U.S. seems intent on pushing Israel to give into Hezbollah’s demands for Lebanese sovereignty over the entire area under dispute.
The U.S. — first under Obama, then Trump and now with Biden — has been pushing for a solution as a way to create new revenue sources for Lebanon, a country on the brink of economic collapse, said Badran.
“Israel had already begun drilling in fields that are all outside the disputed area, and the Obama administration, per the U.S. mediator at the time, wanted to encourage international companies, which are reluctant to work in areas of dispute or conflict, to come and operate in Lebanon,” said Badran.