Lebanon and Israel are becoming even more hostile to one another in disputes over natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean. The recent hostilities are due to maritime borders that were approved by Israel’s cabinet and sent to the United Nations for approval. This prompted a response from the Lebanese:
‘The new border as proposed by Israel cuts through Lebanon’s economic zone,’ said Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour.
‘Israel’s new measures will create more tension in the region and will threaten peace and security,’ Mansour told reporters. He added that Lebanon would also refer the issue to the United Nations.
Lebanon’s president Michel Suleiman warned against any ‘unilateral decisions Israel may take on maritime borders which would be a breach of international law.’
As both countries are still technically at war and diplomatic relations have been severed, there are no legitimate channels through which Israel and Lebanon can directly resolve the dispute. While Lebanon is yet to threaten any military action, Israel has already done so. When the fields were first discovered, National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau said, “We will not hesitate to use our force and strength to protect not only the rule of law but the international maritime law.” Almost speaking preemptively, Landau added, “Whatever we find, they will have something to say. That’s because they’re not challenging our findings and so-called occupation of the sea. Our very existence here is a matter of occupation for them. These areas are within the economic waters of Israel.”
As a map of the natural gas shows, the deposits are quite literally on the borders of the two countries were they extended out to sea. The catch, however, is whether or not a Lebanese or Israeli map is used. An Israeli map would extend its northern border from west of Metula out to the Mediterranean, whereas a Lebanese map would would extend the Israeli border from Rosh Hanrika out towards the Mediterranean.
The deposits are significant, estimated to be worth around $40 billion. Israel has started the ball rolling early and is already establishing infrastructure to exploit the deposits while Lebanon has barely done anything. With so much money at stake, as well as hostile relations between the two countries, there runs the risk of a flare up between Israel and Lebanon.