The National Bloc: Maritime Border Deal with Israel Cheers Up Lebanon’s Officials... Does It Serve the National Interest?

The National Bloc released the following statement:

Lebanese sectarian leaders hastened to celebrate the maritime agreement with Israel. Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in a rejoiced tone, said in a televised speech on Tuesday, October 11, that “Tonight we will not issue threats. Tonight, there will only be joy and clapping,” and ended the raging debate over the paternity of the agreement between the three Chiefs and the rest of the Lebanese tribal leaders, while preserved for himself the lion’s share in clinching a deal that is even worse than May 17, 1983 agreement as admitted by Al-Akhbar newspaper itself on July 13, 2022.

It is true that the agreement allows Lebanon to begin the extraction process in the Qana field, yet the size of oil and gas resources in the sea remains uncertain and under assumptions. There is also no doubt that the oil and gas sector could be a game changer for Lebanon, if well developed and well managed outside the logic of quotas and usual disruption, yet the revenues from gas exploitation would not be sufficient to cover the losses and would not dispense the country from the International Monetary Fund’s reform. But above all, the Lebanese people have the right to know that Lebanon could have obtained a much larger share of the disputed fields had there been a better and more transparent management of the negotiation process.

Accordingly, the agreement is deemed to be a failure compared to what could Lebanon have obtained, and raises concerns about the ways Lebanon manages its foreign and defense policy, for several reasons, the most important of which are:

  • A bad agreement is a result of mistakes committed by the political authority during the demarcation negotiations, first with Cyprus in 2007 by adopting point No. 1, then by abandoning Line 29 in 2011 in favor of Line 23 at that time according to Decree No. 6433 and during the negotiations with Israel, noting that Line 29 rests on firm legal and historical foundations and would have strengthened Lebanon's position in the negotiation process.
  • The “People’s Army and Resistance” equation has failed to no avail in allowing Lebanon to secure its full rights. As for Hezbollah’s drones launched toward Israel two months before the end of the negotiations, they indicate nothing but a preemption to an agreement that reconsiders the implications of Hezbollah’s arsenal, and have not improved any Term of the maritime border Agreement.
  • Sectarian leaders were unable to defend the higher Lebanese interest, so they rushed to broker a futile agreement with Israel to serve their own immediate interests: On the one hand, President Michel Aoun wants to do everything to preserve his legacy and his political heir; while Hezbollah, has been preoccupied with obtaining political legitimacy for a frayed political system that it struggled to defend during the October 17 uprising; While the rest of the system has succumbed to the demands of French and American diplomacy, who are thirsty for an agreement that would make the Eastern Mediterranean a major source for the European energy market.

Therefore, and based on this failed negotiating experience, lessons must be drawn to preserve the security of Lebanon and the southern border, and to better manage the oil and gas sector away from the hegemony of sectarian leaders:

First, the agreement establishes a new security equation between Lebanon and Israel, by linking the economic interests of the two countries, as the ability to profit from gaseous resources is linked to ensuring sustainable stability on the southern borders:

- There is no need any more for the "the army, the people and the resistance" equation after Israel and "Hezbollah" accepted the agreement and the economic normalization between the two countries.

- Crafting a defense policy based on the integration of Hezbollah’s arsenal into the Lebanese Armed Forces and strengthening the latter militarily. It is equally important to shape a foreign policy that benefits from the agreement to pave the way for a truce with Israel based on the Lebanese constitution and international and Arab sponsorship that gives Lebanon and the people of the south in particular security guarantees that they have not enjoyed since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. It is an undeniable fact that the security of the Eastern Mediterranean is now directly linked to the economic security of Europe.

  • Second, the possibility of Lebanon becoming an oil country reinforces the need to implement the reforms imposed by the International Monetary Fund, as they constitute guarantees for more effective and transparent financial governance.
  • Third, restructuring the Lebanese diplomatic administration and making use of the available human capabilities, outside the logic of quotas and nepotism, and by placing the supreme national interest above all considerations.
  • Fourth, passing the agreement to the Parliament, in compliance with the Lebanese constitution and based on the principle of sovereignty over natural resources that embodies the right of peoples to dispose of their natural resources.
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