But don’t hold your breath waiting for a formal peace deal.
Israel and Lebanon, which have been in a formal state of war with one another since Israel’s independence 72 years ago, are set to hold rare talks over maritime disputes. The two countries will work on where exactly to set their borders into the Mediterranean Ocean west of their respective coastlines.
This is especially significant as Israel and Lebanon have made conflicting claims to possible natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean. The United Nations will mediate the talks.
The news comes after Israel established diplomatic ties with two Arab Gulf states, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. But the circumstances are quite different.
Lebanon’s economy is crashing and its people have been taking to the streets to protest the power that the terrorist organization Hezbollah has over their country. The recent explosion at the Port of Beirut which killed almost 200 people has been blamed by some on Hezbollah which is said to have been storing munitions there.
Lebanon could surely use any revenue that would come from an offshore natural gas field. The disputed area totals roughly 330 square miles.
Lebanese Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri said of the framework agreement, “This framework agreement draws the way for the Lebanese negotiator, which will be the Lebanese army with its efficient leadership and its specialized officers, sponsored by the Lebanese president and any future government.”
Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s energy minister, who will lead the Israeli delegation in the talks, said, “Our goal is to bring an end to the dispute over the demarcation of economic water between Israel and Lebanon in order to assist in the development of natural resources for the benefit of all the peoples of the region”
Israel understands that it needs Lebanon to be stable and see its economy get back on track. Minister Steinitz added that Israel hopes, “Lebanon will be a global capital of natural gas and will develop all of its natural resources We don’t want to see Lebanon collapse.”
Minister Steinitz, however, warned people not to get too excited about this leading to yet another peace deal between Israel and an Arab nation saying, “I don’t think Lebanon is going to become Abu Dhabi because of this. I don’t have any illusions.”
“The United States looks forward to commencement of the maritime boundary discussions soon, to be held in Naqoura, Lebanon, under the UN flag and hosted by the staff from the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL),” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
The Secretary added, “Today’s announcement is a vital step forward that serves the interests of Lebanon and Israel, of the region, and of the United States. Both countries requested that the United States participate as mediator and facilitator in the maritime discussions.”
“The United States also looks forward to separate expert-level talks to define unresolved issues related to the Blue Line [Israel’s border with Lebanon] which offer the promise of another positive step for regional stability.”