Agreement has been reached between Israel and Lebanon on advancing negotiations to resolve the dispute on demarcation of the maritime border – an issue that has become more relevant following gas discoveries in the Mediterranean Sea and the interest of both countries in maximizing the economic benefit of gas production.
So far, all attempts at mediation have failed, even though in the last set of talks (2011-2012), Israel agreed to a suggested compromise that provided a greater portion (with a ratio of 55:45) of the area in dispute (860 sq km) to Lebanon. Nonetheless, Lebanon did not respond to this concession.
Lebanon’s current agreement to negotiate stems mainly from its difficult economic situation, and without a doubt required the agreement of Hezbollah, which is also facing financial hardship and expects its own portion of the dividends from the gas production.
It seems that aside from the economic benefit, agreement between the countries would have additional positive implications, but at this stage it is still an open question whether an agreement would serve as an incentive for Hezbollah to maintain calm along the border with Israel over time. In the regional framework, if an agreement is reached, it would be possible to consider four-way cooperation between Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Egypt to advance a regional transport system from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe.
In any case, despite the joint interest in resolving the issue, Israel can expect difficult and complex negotiations with national security implications. Therefore, it is proposed that a designated inter-ministerial team be established to manage the negotiations, which will ensure the inclusion of all relevant parties and manage an organized decision making process.