Over the past week, a wave of optimism dominated Lebanon’s political scene with the news of a potential conclusion of the US-led mediation efforts to restrict the Lebanese-Israel maritime border. This step would allow Lebanon to explore the Qana Gas field and potentially use the funds to repair what remains of its crumbling economy, or so it seemed.
The finals steps for the conclusion of the demarcation arrangement proved to be difficult. Israel declared that it was not willing to revise its proposal, one which led to sudden tensions on the border with the Israeli defense minister mobilizing his troops, and the torpedoing of what many wrongfully assumed would the start of Lebanon’s economic salvation.
These roller-coaster negotiations seem to have finally concluded with the two sides declaring a deal which would demarcate the maritime borders between the warring nations, which in theory, amounts to a quasi-peace agreement. From the Israeli perspective, the gas exploration is far more advanced than their neighbors to the north, as Israel a few days back was able to test the gas platform and run an experimental pumping procedure to the shore. It’s a step which brings them closure to exporting their gas to Europe.
The Lebanese, and the outgoing Aoun regime, and the Iranian militia that protects it, have framed this deal as a win for the axis of resistance, which was able to stand its ground until a favorable and indirect agreement was reached through the good offices of the United States mediator Amos Hochstein. The Lebanese political establishment, even those who claim to be against Hezbollah, have failed to garner any real gains. On the contrary, they have conceded hundreds of miles of gas-rich fields and settled for the Qana field, technically Lebanese, to begin with.
Yair Lapid has branded the Lebanon deal as “historic” and will use it and abuse it in the upcoming parliamentary elections to try to outmaneuver his primary political opponent, Benyamin Netanyahu, who previously blasted the ongoing talks as ones that would empower Hezbollah.
Respectively in Lebanon, much of the concession of the Lebanese political elite headed by President Michel Aoun’s son-in-law was presented against the backdrop of the upcoming presidential elections. Bassil has time and he again tried to appeal to the United States as a willing accomplice who deserves to be removed from the sanctions list, becoming eligible to be considered as the next president of Lebanon.
On the other hand, Hezbollah has blessed Bassil’s normalization with Israel. It has spun this Israel-Lebanese peace deal as one of necessity, claiming that Israel was forced to give Lebanon this deal to avoid a costly war with Hezbollah. It’s ludicrous and deceptive to say the least.
Nasrallah has no vested interest in fighting Israel and that Iranian weapons are only there to use against the local population and ensure Iran’s unmitigated hegemony of the resources of the region, including Lebanon’s.
The most alarming aspect is that the Lebanese - who refuse to name Hezbollah as a leading cause for their country’s collapse - have spent millions of dollars from the gas revenues before the gas was discovered. The problem with this dangerous and juvenile cavalier attitude is that it ignores the fact that the issues were never economic but rather were a lack of proper governance. This trait will only worsen with the demarcation deal’s false sense of entailment.
Even worse for Lebanon’s future is that this ruling establishment has again sidestepped carrying out the critical structural reforms that the Intentional Monterey Fund and the intentional community have demanded time and again. Consequently, Lebanon urgently needed IMF recovery plan will be shelved, with a return to the country’s reckless and unsustainable economic model the result. It’s the same one which allowed Hezbollah and other regional actors to infiltrate and influence many of Lebanon’s unscrupulous politicians.
At the crux of this maritime demarcation charade lies the prolonged problem afflicting the country. It’s the people of Lebanon that pays the price of Iran’s occupation of their country. At the same time, Hezbollah - whose supposed function is to destroy the Zionist state - blesses a deal which will make Israel richer and Lebanon even poorer, all for the sake of Iran.
Regardless of where the populist Israeli and Lebanese politicians take this deal, what is certain is that the people of Israel will reap the rewards of their gas. In contrast, the ailing Lebanese people who presume that their salvation is within reach will continue in their never-ending purgatory and take responsibility for their lack of action and their normalization with a political system which feeds off the misery and death of others.