Israel’s Ministry of Energy gave the Greek-British energy gas company, Energean, the green light on Tuesday to begin extracting gas at the Karish natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea.
The permit was the last formality the gas company needed to begin extraction, a spokeswoman for the Energy Ministry said.
“As we said all along, the production of gas from the Karish field would start as planned the moment the technical conditions are completed,” Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said.
Israel and Lebanon entered a historic agreement earlier this month establishing the maritime border between the two countries, in a deal brokered by United States envoy Amos Hochstein.
“All our demands were met, and the changes that we asked for were corrected,” said Israel’s National Security Council Director Eyal Hulata, the head of Israel’s negotiating team. “We protected Israel’s security interests and are on our way to a historic agreement.”
Lebanon’s chief negotiator was also satisfied with the deal.
“Lebanon felt that it takes into consideration all of Lebanon's requirements and we believe that the other side should feel the same,” Lebanon’s chief negotiator Elias Bou Saab said at the time.
Lebanon already formally approved the deal, which grants it most of the maritime territory in dispute and gives Israel continued ownership of its offshore Karish gas field. Per the deal, Lebanon would exert full sovereignty over the adjacent Qana zone, where gas exploration could yield billions of dollars; should gas be found, Israel “will receive approximately 17% of the revenues from the Lebanese gas field, the Qana-Sidon field,” Lapid said.
The Israel Cabinet approved the deal’s basic principles and is expected to sign off on the agreement this week following any changes recommended by the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which has been debating the deal’s finer details for days.
That the deal’s final authorization will not be put to a vote in the Knesset, has infuriated the Israeli opposition, with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu slamming the deal as a “historic surrender” to Lebanon and Hezbollah.
After review in the Knesset, the deal will be put to vote before the Israeli Cabinet again, in order to acquire the state’s seal of approval. Afterwards, “We’re going to have a deal,” Hochstein said, “Hopefully this Thursday.”
Hochstein is expected to attend the signing ceremony, which Israel hopes will bring Israeli and Lebanese representatives into the same room, but it is unclear what kind of ceremony is planned.
According to the pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar daily, the signing ceremony will take place in Naqoura, Lebanon, with delegations of the respective countries in separate rooms.
Prior to the deal, Hezbollah repeatedly threatened to attack Israel if the Jewish state went ahead with extracting gas in the Karish field. In July, Hezbollah sent drones toward the Israeli gas field, which were downed by Israeli forces.
According to the Israeli prime minister, the extraction of natural gas from Karish “strengthens Israel’s energy stability, advances our standing as energy exporters, strengthens Israel’s economy, and helps in contending with the global energy crisis.”
Karish will be Israel’s third offshore rig, rounding out the fleet of two others, Tamar and Leviathan, which already provide natural gas.
The Karish rig will allow more gas exports to Jordan and Egypt and “to additional countries in Europe that need natural gas sources in light of the global energy crisis,” stated Israel’s Energy Ministry.
Facing a devastating financial crisis, described as one of the worst in the country’s history, Lebanon reportedly hopes gas extraction from the Qana field will help bring economic stability to the nation.
Last week, Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who is set to leave office next week, asked French energy company TotalEnergies to launch explorations for natural gas immediately and to start drilling as soon as possible.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.