1 of 2 | Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Tuesday said a proposal for a new shared border in the Mediterranean Sea “meets all the security and economic principles laid out by Israel.” File Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Israel and Lebanon have reached a "historic agreement" that would allow the longtime adversaries to redraw their maritime border and increase sharing of natural gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
After months of challenging negotiations, a final draft of the agreement was delivered Tuesday to Israel's caretaker government, which is expected to vote on the matter later this week.
The two Middle East neighbors have no official diplomatic ties. However, both make claim to some 330-square miles of the same waters of the Mediterranean, leading to a push for a more precise reading of the demarcation line -- originally set by Israel after it was established in 1948.
Europe's growing need for gas caused by Russia's war on Ukraine is increasing interest in speeding exploration and drilling of gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea -- and pushing Lebanon and Israel to try to settle their yearslong maritime border dispute.
The United States played a central role in negotiating the deal, which Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said "meets all the security and economic principles laid out by Israel."
In a tweet, he called the deal "unprecedented," saying it "will strengthen Israel's security, bolster our economy and deliver cleaner, more affordable energy to countries around the world."
Lapid said he planned to meet with his national security team on Wednesday in hopes of implementing the plan before the Nov. 1 election.
"This is a historic achievement that will strengthen Israel's security, inject billions into Israel's economy and ensure the stability of our northern border," he said, according to The New York Times.
U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with both Lapid and Lebanon President Michel Aoun to congratulate them on the "historic breakthrough agreement."
In a statement, Biden descried the agreement as one that will provide for development of energy fields for the benefit of both countries while creating a new energy resource for the world as well as setting the stage for a more prosperous and stable region.
"It is now critical that all parties uphold their commitments and work towards implementation," he said.
Washington reportedly settled one of the primary disputes in the talks, which had been Lebanon's pursuit of an official border at a 3-mile "buoy line" between the countries.
Israel's neighbor also wanted more elbow room to explore the Kana gas field, which would give it a bigger slice of the pie due to Israel's current holdings in contested territory.
The talks overcame several snags before U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein delivered the final draft of the modified agreement to Lapid in Israel on Tuesday.
A previous U.S. proposal called for the buoy line to remain the same as routes taken by naval patrols, while also ensuring the integrity of Israel's defense along its northern coast.
Lebanon rejected portions of the deal that would have put its boundaries too close to Israeli military patrols.