“This is an agreement to strengthen Israel’s security and Israel’s economy,” Lapid told his Cabinet.
He also said Israel would not object to the development of “an additional Lebanese gas field” in the middle of the sea border, as long as Israel gets “the share we deserve”. He said this would weaken Lebanon’s dependence on Iran, contain the militant group Hezbollah and promote regional stability.
He said the deal is being reviewed by legal and defense officials before the government votes. Israeli media said a vote could take place on Thursday.
On Saturday, the proposal was also passed on to Lebanese leaders.
Lebanon and Israel have been officially at war since Israel’s founding in 1948 and both claim some 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea.
Amos Hochstein, senior adviser on energy security at the US State Department who mediates between the two neighbours, last visited Beirut in September, where he expressed optimism after a meeting with leaders of Lebanon.
Lebanese parliament speaker Nabi Berri said in an interview with London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday that the proposal “in principle meets Lebanon’s requirements.”
Lebanon hopes to expand offshore oil and gas production as it grapples with the worst economic crisis in modern history, which has plunged three-quarters of its population into poverty.
A Lebanese official who attended the talks last month told the AP news agency that the proposal put forward by the US special envoy would give Lebanon the right to mine the Qana mine, which is part of Israel’s territory. Part of it stretches deep into the disputed area. The official added that the main issue now is how to draw the demarcation line in a way that extends south of Qana. Lapid’s comments seem to allude to the emerging deal for Qana.
Israel has set up a gas rig at the designated location at the Karish field. Israel says the area is part of an exclusive economic zone recognized by the United Nations, while Lebanon insists Karish is in the disputed area.
In July, the Israeli military shot down three unarmed drones belonging to the Lebanese Iranian-backed rebel group Hezbollah flying over the Karish field. The leader of Hezbollah has issued a warning to Israel over the maritime dispute, saying “any arm” reaching out to steal Lebanon’s wealth “will be severed.”
The heavily armed group, which has fought in several wars with Israel, has repeatedly said in the past that it will use its weapons to protect Lebanon’s economic rights. However, Hezbollah officials said they would confirm an agreement reached between the Lebanese and Israeli governments.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in a speech on Saturday echoed similar feelings to Lebanon’s top political leaders over Hochstein’s proposal, and reaffirmed that the Iran-backed party would support the position of Lebanese political leadership. “God willing, if the desired and best result is achieved, then it will be the result of unity, cooperation and national unity,” he said.