PM, Defense Minister slam opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu for criticizing deal they say he has yet to see; U.S. assurances to Israel still in negotiations after Lapid Biden hold talk on Tuesday

Prime Minister Yair Lapid said on Wednesday, the pending agreement on the Israel Lebanon maritime border reduces the risk of a war with Hezbollah.

Speaking at a press conference in the presence of Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Energy Minister Karin Elharar, Lapid said the deal improves Israeli security.

יאיר לפיד
Yair Lapid (Photo: Shalev Shalom)


“Israel does not fear a military conflict with Hezbollah, and the IDF is stronger than any terror group and if a war were to break out, we would deal them a major blow,” Lapid said. “But the government’s job is to avoid war,” he said.

“We made clear to Lebanon that our drilling in the Karish natural gas field would not be delayed and Israel will not be deterred by any threats,” the prime minister said.

“The agreement will yield an income of billions that every family in Israel will benefit from. Israel will receive 17% of all revenue from the Qana natural gas field if and when Lebanon begins production there,” he said.

The prime minister said the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee will receive the full wording of the agreement for review, including the security clauses and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu will be invited to see the agreement as well.

Lapid and Gantz both slammed Netanyahu for criticizing the government for a deal he called a capitulation to Hezbollah demands.

בנימין נתניהו
Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Shaul Golan)


Lapid said Netanyahu was making unfounded claims for the benefit of his election campaign, having not seen the agreement, while Gantz reminded the Likud leader, that as prime minister, Netanyahu agreed to the terms of the Abraham Accords without revealing to his then coalition partner – Gantz, the content of the agreements in advance.

Gantz said he gave his agreement to the accords, while recovering from back surgery – because that was the right thing to do to preserve Israeli interests, something Netanyahu was refusing to do.

In answer to a question, Lapid said the decision to avoid a Knesset vote on the agreement came after it was clear that the opportune time to finalize the deal was before the end of October, when Lebanese President Michel Aoun would step down.

“There will likely be no opportunity in the near future, to have all three factional leaders of Lebanon in agreement at the same time,” Lapid said. “I would have preferred not to have to decide on the agreement so close to an election by the schedule was dictated by the political situation in Lebanon despite the Israeli elections that were imposed on us,” Lapid said.

He told the reporters that he had discussed American assurances to Israel, attached to the deal, with President Joe Biden in what he claimed was a very positive phone conversation on Tuesday. The U.S. and Israel were still negotiating on the final wording of the assurances, he said.

Lapid also thanked French President Emmanuel Macron for intervening with Lebanon, during negotiations, and preventing the talks from reaching an agreement. He thanked Macron for his efforts.

The government on Wednesday, approved the principles of the Lebanon maritime border agreement in a majority vote, and was presented to the Knesset where it could be reviewed by legislators during the next two weeks before returning to the government for final a final vote.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, ministers agreed on the importance of the deal with Lebanon, its benefit to national security.

יאיר לפיד, נפתלי בנט, אורנה ברביבאי, גדעון סער ויפעת שאשא ביטון
Political and security cabinet convenes to discuss the maritime border agreement (Photo: GPO)


While there was an overwhelming majority in favor of the agreement, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked voted against it and Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel abstained.

The government was briefed by experts who presented the main principles of the new deal and its potential for stabilizing the region.

The agreement was presented to the Knesset on Wednesday evening where legislators will have a two-week period to review it, and will later be presented to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

After 14-days of parliamentary review, the agreement will be submitted for final cabinet approval, in accordance with the government’s work regulations and accompanied by an approval by the AG.

Israel’s Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara said that the government’s statutes require that the agreement be reviewed by the Knesset. She said that the government has the right to decide whether the it must stand a vote, but doesn’t have to.

Earlier still, the security cabinet convened to give preliminary approval for the maritime border agreement between Israel and Lebanon.

This was after negotiators from the two countries on Tuesday said Lebanon and Israel received a final draft of a mediated maritime border deal from U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein and it “satisfied” all of their requirements.

National Security Council chief Eyal Hulata said in a briefing that Lebanon did not receive 100% of its demands.

אייל חולתא
Eyal Hulata (Photo: Motti Kimchi)


“Lebanon’s interests were not entirely opposed to those of Israel,” Hulata said. “They wanted all of the Qana field but were denied.

“The deal goes against Iran’s interest in Lebanon and weakens Hezbollah’s hold on the government in Beirut. In Israel’s perspective, this was a catalyst to making the deal,” he said adding that it will bolster regional security and prevent conflict with Lebanon.

Hulata noted that for the first time, Israel’s territorial borders will be recognized by Lebanon and the U.S., after decades of efforts. Lebanon will submit to the UN a paper stating it has no more maritime border demands from Israel, he said “This is an important achievement. Lebanon is an enemy of Israel and we have many disputes still unresolved,” he said.

“The agreement will bring a strategic regional stability which will allow Israel to produce natural gas without interruption,” he said.

“By adding their consent, Hezbollah – motivated by their own political and economic considerations, has shifted from its previous policy to prevent the Beirut government from reaching any agreement with Israel,” he said.

Hulata said Israel was looking forward to the signing of the agreement that will be in the presence of all partners to the deal, on the Israel Lebanon border at Naqoura, when both countries complete their approval processes.

As reported by Ynetnews