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On Tuesday, the interim government of Israel agreed to a deal with the government of Lebanon involving the Karish gas field, discovered  just a few kilometers off of the coastal town of the northern Rosh Hanikra in 2010. Lebanon has claimed that part of the Karish maritime gas fields were under its control, and demanded a maximalist economic position for the proceeds of the gas extraction.

Israel has conceded to the Lebanese demands, in exchange for a 3 mile internationally recognized maritime border. The French oil and gas company, Total, had agreed to commence extracting gas this past September, and has delayed this process until this week. Lebanon, whose government is under the firm political control of Iranian-backed Hezbollah had used a complex strategy combining threats from Hezbollah, together with both obstinate and intricate negotiating positions from the Cedars government of Lebanese President Michael Aoun, to be able to conclude this deal. Israel did not commence extracting the gas in September.

It is impossible not to conclude that the threats from Hezbollah, which with their 150,000 missiles aimed directly at Israel, did not factor into this equation.

Hezbollah had threatened to attack the French ship and oil rig if they began extracting before their maximalist demands had been met. The Biden administration, whose foreign policy dossier has been littered with abject failures since our feckless withdrawal from Kabul and our willful blinding of ourselves to the combined threats to the American-dominated post World War II order by  a combination of Putin, XI and the Iranian Mullahs,  gleefully seized upon this negotiation as a much-needed foreign policy success.

President Joe Biden announced this as “a historic breakthrough,” adding, “The agreement announced by both governments today will provide for the development of energy fields for the benefit of both countries, setting the stage for a more stable and prosperous region, and harnessing vital new energy resources for the world,” Biden said in a statement. “It is now critical that all parties uphold their commitments and work towards implementation.”

A White House spokesperson added that “This agreement is not a win-lose agreement,” said the official, who asked not to be named, as is common practice when the White House briefs reporters. “The parties are not getting more than the other because they get different things. The win for Israel is around security, stability and economic gain. The win for Lebanon is economic prosperity, economic development, foreign direct investment and hope for an economic recovery.”

Of course one has to understand and empathize with  the utter severity of Lebanon’s economic crisis. The Lebanese pound has lost 95% of its values, and according o the United Nations, approximately 80% of the population live below the poverty line. The World Bank has stated that “because of a  combination of corruption, poor economic polices and unsustainable financial policies, (the Lebanese economic crisis) is one of the worst globally since the mid-nineteenth century.”

Yet, one has to wonder how much of the profits from the maritime gas extraction will end up in the hands of the impoverished Lebanese people, and just how much of this will go into lining  the pockets of Hezbollah.

In terms of Israel’s “security, stability and economic gain”, one also has to wonder how long-term Israel’s security and stability will remain. Although, with the advent of Israeli elections coming up in a few short weeks, and the current Israeli caretaker government also in desperate need for a foreign policy “win”  many in Israel’s current government will vote in favor of the deal. Yet, one has to look no further than the proximity of the Iranian proxy state’s  just concluded maritime agreement to  the state of Israel, to wonder why Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah boasted, “Now is not the time for threats. Now is the time for celebration and applause.”

I hope and pray that I am wrong, but based on Sheik Nasrallah’s jubilant statement, this deal seems to be yet another example of the triumph of short-term wishful thinking over long term, realistic strategic threats.

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About the Author

Sarah Stern
Sarah Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

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