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Biden expected to sign letter committing to fully implement Israel-Lebanon maritime-border deal

Lebanese President Aoun credited Hezbollah’s threats against Israel as an important element that ‘secured Lebanon’s national interests’

US President Joe Biden holds a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid in Jerusalem, July 14, 2022. (Photo: Emil Salman/POOL)

U.S. President Joe Biden reportedly aims to affirm Washington’s commitment to Israel’s security and economic rights as contained in the maritime-border deal signed between Israel and Lebanon under Israel’s caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid. 

A draft letter, which Biden is expected to sign in the coming days, pledges American backing for the “full implementation” of the maritime-boundary deal that was mediated by U.S. special envoy Amos Hochstein, and reportedly articulates the president’s support for Israel’s right to defend itself. 

The draft letter’s language is likely meant to strengthen Lapid’s position amid domestic criticism that he capitulated to Hezbollah’s threats of aggression. For its part, the Lebanon-based terrorist group said it would stand down after having issued threats to attack the Karish gas field if the state were to begin drilling there prior to concluding a border deal with Lebanon.

The U.S. administration’s letter backs the “status quo” and articulates a firm opposition to unilateral changes of the maritime boundary established by Thursday’s agreement, which “recognizes the buoy line stretching 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) into the sea from Rosh Hanikra as the status quo line,” the Times of Israel reported.

Washington would only accept changes that are mutually acceptable to both Jerusalem and Beirut. 

In the draft letter, addressed to Lapid, the U.S. reportedly promises to stand with the Jewish state if Lebanon were to violate the deal. 

Outgoing Lebanese President Michel Aoun recently welcomed the deal and credited Hezbollah’s threats against Israel as an important element that secured Lebanon’s national interests in the bilateral agreement. At the same time, Aoun stressed that there was no coordination between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government in acquiring Israeli compromises. 

“It wasn’t coordinated [with the government]. It was an initiative taken by Hezbollah and it was useful,” Aoun stated, claiming that the Lebanese military “had no role” in Hezbollah’s conduct. 

In reality, Hezbollah, backed by Iran, has emerged as the most powerful player in Lebanon. 

Benjamin Netanyahu – head of the Likud party and a top contender for prime minister in the Nov. 1 election – accused Lapid of wanting to transfer a gas field to Lebanon that would give Hezbollah the billions needed to buy “thousands of rockets and missiles that will be aimed at Israeli cities.”

The Islamist terrorist organization is considered far more powerful than the Lebanese army; Hezbollah controls much of Lebanese politics and Aoun, himself, is considered a Hezbollah loyalist. 

The Lebanese-Israeli agreement will likely serve cash-strapped Lebanon, where the currency has lost 95% of its value and has pushed 80% of the Lebanese population into poverty and stirred socioeconomic unrest throughout the country. However, it is not likely to serve as a permanent deterrent for Hezbollah, which has discovered it can move territory-policy agreements by threatening imminent violence.

Washington's draft letter stated it will prevent Hezbollah from receiving any revenue from the now-Lebanon-held Qana gas field, where Israel will retain partial economic rights.

While Israel has financial interests in the agreement, according to Lapid, the deal’s main importance lies in an indirect recognition of the Jewish state by an enemy country. 

“It is not every day that an enemy state recognizes the State of Israel in a written agreement, in view of the entire international community,” Lapid recently stated

The Israeli army reportedly has lowered its alert level on Israel’s northern border following the finalization of the deal. 

In July 2022, the Israeli army shot down Hezbollah drones that were directed to fly toward Israel’s gas field in the Mediterranean; the incident prompted the Israeli military to increase its alert level along the volatile border between Lebanon and Israel. 

Since the end of the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Hezbollah has vastly upgraded its military capabilities and reportedly has an arsenal of 150,000 rockets that can reach any point inside Israel. Like its patron, the ayatollah regime in Iran, Hezbollah is committed to Israel’s destruction.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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