Israel Accuses Lebanon of Stealing Its Gas and Oil
By: Yahya Dbouk
Published Thursday, October 3, 2013
As Lebanon’s Ministry of Energy and Water prepares to issue licenses to international companies for oil and gas exploration in the Mediterranean, Israel is crying foul.
Israeli officials issued statements to the media warning that Lebanon seeks to issue oil and gas exploration licenses to international companies in what Tel Aviv insists are disputed waters in the Mediterranean.
Lebanon “is close to issuing survey rights for gas and oil in areas that are within Israel’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ),” one official told the Hebrew economic affairs website Globes.
It remains to be seen how Israel plans to deal with this territorial dispute, which could spark a war with Lebanon. Israeli experts in international law warned that their country could lose these areas if it does not act by either objecting legally or, if need be, resort to force.
The Israeli website reported that the Lebanese Ministry of Energy is currently considering bids by a number of major petroleum companies, and will soon issue licenses for drilling in five blocks within Lebanon’s EEZ. However, it adds, Tel Aviv has raised objections about Block 9, which lies at the southernmost tip of Lebanese territorial waters.
Israel claims that this block – one of the richest areas in terms of commercial gas deposits recently discovered in the Mediterranean – extends into its EEZ.
“According to accepted legal practice in international law,” Israeli legal expert David Cornblath told Globes, “the country that does not respond to such a step is tantamount to surrendering its right to demand jurisdiction over it.”
He suggested Israel sends its navy to conduct patrols in the disputed area, while at the same time seeking out a third party that can mediate the dispute. He also advised his government to seek out the companies that have submitted bids to warn them that there are conflicting claims.
The site reported that tens of companies have submitted bids to conduct exploration to the Lebanese government, pointing out that many of these firms are reluctant to deal with Israel for fear of losing business in the Arab world.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.