Israel is being advised to take legal, and possibly even military action in response to Lebanon’s issuing of an offshore energy exploration license that encroaches on Israel’s territorial waters.
Early last month, Lebanon issued licenses in five blocks of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). One of those licenses expanded the territory into Israel’s EEZ, with Lebanon announcing that the area had a high potential for natural gas discovery.
Globes reports that international law experts are telling Israel that it must respond - either in court or through military force - or risk losing some of its maritime territory.
The areas in question are indeed rich in natural gas, Israel have already discovered massive offshore deposits. Those finds previously led Lebanese officials, including those from Hezbollah, to claim that Israel was stealing Lebanon’s natural resources.
However, Israeli officials pointed out that they have never issued a license or made maritime territorial claims that encroached on areas previously claimed by Lebanon or any other nation.
The need to respond to Lebanon’s new encroachment is serious. Israel’s new natural gas finds are a major boost to its economy and satisfies much of its energy needs. It is a resource Israel simply cannot afford to lose, nor can Israel allow Lebanon to set a precedent that could later be followed by Egypt and others.
At the same time, a show of force by Israel would almost certainly result in renewed direct confrontation with Hezbollah, which defines itself as Lebanon’s weapon against the “Zionist enemy.”