Scoop: Israel gives updated maritime border proposal as U.S. envoy heads to Lebanon
Israel has given the U.S. its updated proposal on the disputed maritime border with Lebanon ahead of a visit by U.S. energy envoy Amos Hochstein to Beirut, two Israeli officials told Axios.
Why it matters: The Biden administration as well as the Israeli and Lebanese governments hope Hochstein’s visit will lead to a breakthrough amid threats of war from Hezbollah.
Driving the news: Lebanese officials have said Hochstein will arrive in Beirut on July 31 for talks on the maritime border.
- Hochstein previously met with Lapid on the sidelines of Biden's trip to Israel. The U.S. envoy has privately expressed optimism about a potential deal.
- But with a major Israeli gas project in the Mediterranean set to come online this fall, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened again on Monday that if Lebanon is unable to produce gas, Hezbollah will prevent Israel from doing so — even if that means war.
- Israeli defense officials said they believe Nasrallah is applying public pressure so that Hezbollah can take credit for the deal once it's reached.
- Nevertheless, the Israeli military has taken several steps to protect its Karish gas rig and prepare for a possible escalation with Hezbollah.
Behind the scenes: On Tuesday, Israeli national security adviser Eyal Hulata and chief negotiator Udi Adiri held a call with Hochstein and White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk and provided their updated position, the two Israeli officials said.
- They stressed that Israel will not discuss any demands for concessions outside of the 330-square-mile disputed area of the Mediterranean.
- Israel is demanding economic rights to any natural gas discovery in the disputed area, but the officials stressed they are ready to make compromises. They included a proposal for dividing gas revenues from the disputed area, the officials said.
What they're saying: A senior Israeli official said there is "a moment of opportunity here," but "we don’t have any indication if the Lebanese side will agree."
- State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Tuesday that “we do believe that a resolution is possible."