Analysis: The politics behind the Lebanon-Israel border talks
Lebanon and Israel are scheduled to sit down for talks this week on a decade-old maritime border dispute that has gained importance after large and lucrative discoveries of natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean.
The talks are the first between Beirut and Tel Aviv in 30 years on a civilian matter. They are set to begin on Wednesday in the southernmost Lebanese border town of Naqoura under United Nations auspices, with US mediation.
The United States has worked to broker a deal on the issue for most of the last decade – a hard task given that Lebanon does not officially recognise Israel and the two nations technically remain at war.
Israel in 2006 fought a 34-day war with Hezbollah, a Shia Muslim group backed by Israel’s greatest regional foe, Iran.
But it was Hezbollah’s main Lebanese ally, House Speaker Nabih Berri, who announced late last month that he had reached a framework agreement for the talks after working on the issue for 10 years.
Any deal on the maritime border is likely to be far off. But the parties involved in negotiations stand to reap immediate political benefits.
The dispute dates back to 2011 when Israel ratified a maritime border agreement with neighbouring Cyprus that used as a reference point a maritime border that Lebanon and Cyprus had agreed to in 2007, but which Lebanon’s parliament never ratified.
Lebanon later in 2011 clarified its maritime border to the United Nations, saying that it included an additional 860 square km (332 square miles) south of the 2007 line.
Israel disagreed, and the dispute over that sliver of the sea was born.
A decade of US mediation was beset by differing views in Lebanon and chronic political crises.
Lebanon has insisted that both its land and sea border disputes with Israel be resolved together and disagreed with Israel about setting a time limit for the negotiations.
A visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in March of last year led to a breakthrough.
“When Pompeo came and met with Berri, it clicked,” Yassine Jaber, a member of Berri’s political bloc and head of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, told Al Jazeera.
Laury Haytayan, Middle East and North Africa Director of the National Resource Governance Institute told Al Jazeera: “From what we’ve seen there’s definitely been a compromise.”
“The Israelis wanted a deadline, which doesn’t exist. It could start this week and never end. And the Lebanese said there would be no agreement if there wasn’t an agreement on land and sea together. But this is not there,” Haytayan said.
Instead, the land borders will be discussed on a separate track.
Israel and Lebanon both fell into political crises shortly after Pompeo’s visit, which pushed back talks.
Israel held three elections between April 2019 and April 2020 as it failed to form a government, and Lebanon moved from its biggest-ever popular uprising against the ruling class into near-collapse.
As the crisis in Lebanon grew, so did the significance of potential gas revenues. Lebanon in 2018 signed its first contacts for exploratory drilling with an international consortium, including for southern Block 9 which partially lies in the disputed area, but Berri said drilling there has been delayed by the dispute.
“All the fine details were agreed to in mid-2020,” Jaber said.
Lebanon heads into the negations with a four-man team, two military and two civilians, but no diplomat, as had previously been reported.
Israel’s six-person delegation includes the director-general of the energy ministry, a diplomatic adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and an Israeli army strategist.
The two Lebanese civilians, Wissam Chbat, lead geologist at the Lebanese Petroleum Administration, and Najib Massihi, a maritime border expert, have a “maximalist approach to the border issue – they see that legally we can get more than we’ve asked for so far,” Haytayan said.
Former US-sponsored proposals had given Lebanon between 52 and 60 percent of the disputed area, but Lebanese officials declined.
A question of timing
The timing of the negotiations has raised eyebrows. They take place as the US ramps up sanctions on Lebanese individuals and entities with ties to Hezbollah.
The US blacklisted Berri’s top aide, former finance minister Ali Hasan Khalil, just three weeks before Berri announced that negotiations would take place.
“This was a direct threat to him: ‘If you don’t comply, you’re blacklisted and sanctioned too’,” Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, told Al Jazeera.
The announcement of talks also comes amid the US-sponsored landmark normalisation deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on September 15, seen as an attempt by US President Donald Trump to boost his foreign policy record amid a difficult re-election campaign.
Berri announced the agreement on October 1, saying it had been reached in July – though the version he read was dated September 22.
“It’s clear Trump thinks that signing treaties between the Arabs and Israel will help his re-election bid. He can tout these talks between Israel and Lebanon as part of that process,” Khashan said.
Lebanese leaders have also agreed to go to the table as they face unprecedented pressure, both at home and from the international community, to implement wide-ranging reforms after a huge explosion at the port destroyed large parts of Beirut and killed nearly 200 people in August.
The blast exacerbated an economic and social crisis that had already thrown most of the population into poverty.
French President Emmanuel Macron visited Beirut twice after the blast and said the international community would disburse much-needed financial aid if politicians quickly formed a government to implement an ambitious reform agenda.
But Hezbollah and their ally, Berri, prevented that from happening.
Instead, they chose familiar ground: negotiations with no time limit that pose little threat to their interests at home, versus a French initiative that sets clear, short-term deadlines for an overhaul of the political system.
Sami Nader, the director of the Levant Institute for Strategic Studies, said the parties picked the US-mediated negotiations over the French initiative in an attempt to stave off more sanctions by the Trump administration until US elections in November – elections that Trump increasingly looks like he will lose.
“At the end of the day they know the buck stops in Washington. If [former US vice president Joe] Biden is elected I don’t think Lebanon will sign a final [borders] deal: they’ll gather their cards and play a new hand,” he told Al Jazeera.
Jaber says that Lebanon had always pushed for the talks to take place under UN auspices at Naqoura, where the Israeli and Lebanese armies hold regular meetings to discuss security matters, rather than outside of Lebanon.
“We didn’t want to go to New York, or somewhere else so as not to give the appearance of normalisation [with Israel],” he said.
He dismissed any such possibility and said both parties had come to the table for purely economic reasons: Oil and gas extraction requires stability.
Others say Lebanon has taken a soft step towards normalisation.
“Its beyond demarcating our borders,” Haytayan said. “We are recognising the existence of Israel by recognising its borders.”
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AKANCopied from the book, Reality as Myth by Onyeji Nnaji. The influence of the
Akan on their content nations lies on their population and commonwealth of
their brother nations. The Akan are one of the largest ethnic groups in West
Africa. Their population is scattered across West Africa and beyond. Among this
huge population of the Akan, the Ghanaians are more popular, perhaps because of
the political influence of the Ashanti Empire in the area. Not much is heard or
known about other Akan settlements like the Akwamu, the Akyem , the Akuapem,
the Denkyira, the Abron, the Aowin, the Ahanta, the Anyi, the Baoule, the
Chokosi, the Fante, the Kwahu, the Sefwi, the Ahafo, the Assin, the Evalue, the
Wassa the Adjukru, the Akye, the Alladian, the Attie,the M'Bato, the Abidji,
the Avikam,the Avatime the Ebrie, the Ehotile, the Nzema, the Abbe, the Aboure,
the Coromantins, the Ndyuka people and other peoples of Côte d'Ivoire. Every Akan nation adopts the image…
from the Book; "Reality as Myth"
by Onyeji Nnaji
of the discovering of the Radar Rivers and their channels is that it disproves
the western hegemonic claim of the Euphrates valley being the position of the
birth of the great river, all the points that opposed their claims
notwithstanding. Even God himself was very perfect in His creation by placing
them in their positions, hierarchically, according to their birth. The first
river that flowed located the Havilah land where there are good quality gold,
bdellium and fine onyx stones. Pison was the oldest of the rivers and it flowed
through the land of the southern Africa. The second river flowed northward to
Ethiopia. It was when Africa had been overtaken by virtue of her proximity to
the Great Water that other parts of the world began to encounter the remaining
river; remarkable with Hiddekel.
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The major problem towards deciphering the original plac…
Copied from the book, Reality as Myths by Onyeji NnajiThe world of the Bantu travellers shows the walls of the
migration that recorded the highest population among the African settlement.
Originating from the largest population among the four races that settled in
the east before time, all Bantu travellers were pygmies; for that was the
nature of the Umudiala, the
generation that gave birth to them. Bantu migration was rated the third
earliest migration of the Negro race from the east. In this regard, all their
movement had involved great population of people compared to the number of
people involved in the two earlier populations that gave birth to Ethiopia,
Nubia and Egypt: the Walker Traveller, and the
Race of Anu. Bantu population as we have identified in the third chapter
above outweighs the rest of the population of the ancient fathers that founded
many of the nations of antiquity mentioned earlier. Discussing them in beat
will pose a little challenge since their migration condi…
My neighbour had vowed never to let any girl
survive as a salesgirl in my shop. This thing has happened for over three
times. Each time we brought a new salesgirl, the girl would stay for two or
three months; and suddenly she would end her contract with us. In all these, my
husband did not know. So, being that the girls usually stole money and other
items, the reason for their departure became genuine, thus: they ran away to
avoid being punished for their actions. But behind this, the underlying truth is
that the girls had been embarrassed by my neighbour who would warn them to leave
her loosed husband. Recently, the woman threatened to f…
The name Nkalaha is a
coinage which stands for a people occupying a geographical land and regional
setting in the eastern part of Nigeria. It is a coinage which attempts to
explain the direction of movement and adventure of the men who founded the
community in the 15th century AD. According to oral sources and some
documentation about this community, some of these men were believed to have
traveled from Ida, old Benue state of Nigeria to inhabit the land. These men
had traveled on different days to locate the place. Onojah who originally
founded the land was said to have been in a deep search for a place of safety
as he was besieged by a fate that appeared to make him somewhat incompatible
with his own people. Nkalaha
is one of the communities that make up Ishielu Local Government Area of Ebonyi
State. Nkalaha occupied the northern part of Ishielu Local Government Area. She
is located through the zip 135.031.000. The community sits on 923.768km2. She shares boundaries with neighbourin…
The Mystery of
Number, “Five” in the Igbo Cosmology.From: Aspects
of the Ancient African Metaphysics;Chapter: Seven;Topic: Igbo
Geometries and the Metaphysics of Numbers.Author: Onyeji
Nnaji. In the Igbo
cosmology, the word Isee is a definite symbolic word as revealed through
the Igbo language and culture. A human being has five fingers, five toes. The
hands and feet are fundamentals to the survival in life as they are necessary
in ensuring that man moves to places where he gets food and grapples on the
food to sustain his life. To this view, the rhetoric that binds vocatives in
the form of incantation (anchoring on the heart-lock: four) and the
concomitant reprisal in the manner of affirmation that holds the human life
bind to his original spiritual person, therefore defining existence and
essences are unified by the corresponding echo: Isee!!!!! Therefore
it stands that anytime a prayer is said in the Igbo land, the attendants who would
want the fulfillment of the prayer unanimously …
INTRODUCTION One thing that made Udi remarkable is the indubitable
legacy adopted in commemoration of the legendry fighter, Uto at Nsude. It was one
of the greatest contributions of the descendants of Agbaja to the survival of
Nsukka civilization of memory. Uto held from Oshie. Uto dies of small pox after
a mercenary battle he was hired to fight in the ancient Benin. His body was buried
in the evil forest as the tradition demanded. Although he lived no longer, the
stepped pyramids above were adopted to commemorate the lasting peace he brought
to the entire Oshie and Udi nation of people. Another remarkable thing about Udi is the
fertility of the land. This has contributed widely in sustaining the
inhabitants and provided a name for the inhabitants in the manner of Abakaliki,
Umudike, Ogbaru, Igboariam, Ohaji, Uzouwani, etc., especially in Amofia-Agu,
Affa. Udi is a land of great rivers and springs: Adaada, Ajali, Oji, Aria,
Nvenu, Ngene Evu, Iyi Ububo, etc. as was the situation every…
There are four generations…, and the fourth generation, which is the most exalted, is kingless and perfect. These people will enter the holy place of their Father and they will reside in rest … They are kings. They are the immortal within the mortal (The Nag Hammadi, 219)
Also read Nsukka Civilization: The Peopling of Ancient Nsukka One of the African homes that colonialism has completely deformed beyond certain level of recognition is Nsukka. Colonialism apart, the most affecting factor to the survival of the meaning which the rich cultural enclave, Nsukka, carries will best be blamed on postcolonial political structure. The biggest harm all these have against Nsukka as a people is that they rubbed her of the meaning of her name; their place of origin; how their fathers managed to come into their present abodes and who their ancestors were. A profound understanding of the excerpt above will open the door towards deciphering the meaning and origin of the people called Nsukka. Geographica…
ETHIOPIAHISTORY & ORIGIN (Extracted from the
book, Reality as Myth)BYONYEJI NNAJI
Those piles of ruins which you see in that narrow valley
watered by the Nile, are the remains of opulent cities, the pride of the
ancient kingdom of Ethiopia. ... There a people, now forgotten, discovered
while others were yet barbarians, the elements of the arts and sciences. A race
of men now rejected from society for their sable skin and frizzled hair,
founded on the study of the laws of nature, those civil and religious systems
which still govern the universe(Count Volney). Because of the position of Ethiopia
in the Bible story as one remarkable black nation with ancient history, it
becomes almost impossible to see any other nation as being of more ancient than
Ethiopia. Ethiopia suddenly became the yardstick for the analysis of the Negro
race. And with the influence of Christianity in the inner part of Africa, the
adherents were provided with bold pictures of the cradle of the human race…