In the Moment of Truth in Negotiations with Iran –- Lapid Falls in Line with Biden

Lapid’s conduct is not divorced from his flawed approach: a policy of “closed rooms” regarding the Iranian nuclear agreement and, also, his basic approach to each of Israel’s gas field layouts.

Also, the feeling regarding the gas issue with Lebanon is that Yair Lapid is operating according to the policies of a [U.S.] Democratic administration, even if this signifies Israeli compromise.

The confrontation and negotiations over the issue of Israel’s maritime border with Lebanon have suddenly landed on Israel’s agenda. In general, when there is a decisive strategic issue, it takes years for public and political institutional assessments regarding the issue to gradually develop. In general, it also becomes “controversial.” Regarding the maritime border with the launch of the Karish reservoir and other gas reservoirs, there are those that claim at least some of them are in Lebanese maritime territory. Israel’s political system did not raise the maritime issue in time, something that spread and became a national problem in Israel. From the beginning, it was known that the U.S, i.e., the Biden administration, was removing its support for the gas pipeline project going from Israel to Europe (EASTMED), a joint project between Israel, Greece and Cyprus. After this coordination, contacts began led by one Amos Hochstein, about whom no one had heard until he began explaining to Israelis on behalf of the Biden administration what they needed to do with their gas and the way to export it, if at all.

Dr. Dore Gold, the outgoing chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said, “The negotiations over the maritime border and the gas reserves are part of the negotiations and conflict with Iran.” As said, the last part of the short, historic telephone call between President Joe Biden and interim Prime Minister Lapid was devoted to the American directive: You must immediately complete negotiations over the maritime border with Lebanon. How much extortion can the Iranians apply by means of kilograms of enriched uranium?

The evening of Lapid’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Dr. Gold said, “The issue of the maritime border and threats by Hezbollah against the Karish gas field must be the focus of Lapid’s speech. He must place the issue on the international agenda. These are threats by Iran on the supply of gas to Europe. The address for Israel’s message is that of countries such as France, Britain and Germany, which are suffering from a cutoff of gas by Russia to Europe.” An Israeli message like this creates international support for Israel in case the problem moves over to the military sphere. The status of Israel’s maritime border is the same as that of its land border.

Lapid’s conduct is not divorced from his flawed approach -– a policy of “closed rooms” — regarding the Iranian nuclear agreement, as well as his basic approach to all of Israel’s gas field layouts. Until a few years ago, Lapid spoke of nullifying the gas layout. He has backed off from that. Why did he oppose it? This is still not clear. When his Energy Minister Karine Elharrar-Hartstein began her work, she spoke about green energy and announced the stoppage of granting concessions to search for gas. These actions by the government send a signal to the international market.

The sense is that just as is the case with antisemitism and the Iranian nuclear program, Lapid is working according to the policies of the Democratic administration. The significance for Israel, given the American dictates, finds expression regarding the seam line.* The green line from 1967 has been resurrected. The wave of attacks are focused west of the border, and soldiers posted there this week arrested armed terrorists; the soldiers were apparently afraid to shoot.

Regarding the Lebanese issue, as Ariel Kahana told this newspaper this week that Israel cannot bypass the Lebanese parliament on issues related to changes in the border. Meanwhile, the defense minister is certain there will be an agreement and that Hezbollah will say this is their decision. But when you take into account the nature of an attack conducted by Hezbollah against the Karish gas platform, the organization can record for itself a tepid Israeli response. Israel is conducting a policy of containment.

*Editor’s note: “Seam line” is a nonpolitical, nonlegal term used to describe the 1967 separation point between Israel and the Arabs.

About this publication

About Charles Railey 61 Articles
I recently retired from the federal government, having worked for many years on Middle East issues and regional media. My fascination with the region has never changed and this is one reason why the work of Watching America caught my eye. I live in the DC area with my wife, two grown children, and three cats.

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