Jerusalem, 23 October, 2022 (TPS) — A three judge panel of Israel’s High Court of Justice issued a ruling on Sunday dismissing 4 different petitions made by opposition parties in an attempt to block the outgoing government led by Yair Lapid from implementing the recently reached maritime border agreement with Lebanon without first gaining approval of the deal in a vote of the full Knesset. Israel’s opposition leaders are highly critical of the ruling which allows the Cabinet to move forward with the Lebanon deal on its own authority with only two weeks to go until new Knesset elections are held.
The ruling itself has not been released, so the reasoning behind it is not yet known.
Two weeks ago, after mediations by the US, Israel and Lebanon reached a deal settling the longstanding dispute over where exactly to establish the offshore border between the two nations in the Mediterranean Sea. The Lebanese claimed rights to offshore natural gas fields controlled by Israel and the terrorist group Hezbollah had threatened to attack Israel’s Karish natural gas field in the Mediterranean if production began there without a formal agreement with the government of Lebanon.
The new agreement divides the offshore Qana natural gas field in the eastern Mediterranean Sea between Lebanon and Israel and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that Israel will receive 17% of its revenue. The settling of the border between the countries in the area of the Qana field was the primary issue behind the dispute, while sovereignty over Karish was not.
The opposition, led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, harshly condemned the deal for giving up what it maintains are Israeli assets in the Mediterranean. Netanyahu even went so far as to accuse the Lapid government of “surrendering” to the threats made by Hezbollah. Netanyahu also alleged that the deal would see millions of dollars in profits from the gas fields get into the hands of Hezbollah, which it would use to continue to kill innocent Israelis.
On that matter, Yair Lapid asserted in a press conference, “We told Lebanon that we would not delay the production at Karish with or without an agreement and would not give in to any threats.” Lapid also asserted that the deal ensures that money from the Qana gas field cannot be diverted to Hezbollah.
None of this placated the opposition, which is now using the Lebanon agreement as one of its top issues for attacking the outgoing government in their current election campaigns.
Leader of the right-wing Religious Zionism party Bezalel Smotrich was irate over what he sees as a reversal of the High Court of Justice’s earlier ruling on the same matter when Benjamin Netanyahu led the government.
“So the High Court of Justice,” he said, “which did not allow [former prime minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to promote the [Netanyahu’s Lebanon] gas plan without the Knesset because [the court ruled] ‘the Knesset is not a cheerleading band,’ allows Lapid to give up significant territorial territory and economic assets to Hezbollah during an election period and turn the Knesset into a cheerleading band. Thank you to the High Court judges who help us prove the critical importance of promoting our law and justice program.”