For First Time Since the Days of King Ahab: Israel and Lebanon to Open Maritime Border Talks

“Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon With beautiful branches and shady thickets, Of lofty stature, With its top among leafy trees.” Ezekiel 31:3 (The Israel Bible™)

Israel and Lebanon are readying to open maritime border talks in July, a move which may open up the trade necessary to build the Third Temple.

Israel’s Channel 13 news station cited senior Israeli officials who said the two sides have made significant progress with regard to direct talks. The goal of the negotiations is to demarcate the maritime border between the two states. The initial round of direct negotiations is expected to kick off in July.

[wpipa id=”94167″]

According to the report, U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield, who was mediating the negotiations last week, experienced a breakthrough between the Lebanese government and Israel’s Energy Minister, Yuval Steinitz. The marine border agreement should impact offshore oil and gas exploration. However, one of the main sticking points is Israel’s demand for a six-month deadline.

According to the report, direct negotiations are to take place at UNIFIL offices in Nakura, giving the UN some say in the discussions as well. Israel has reiterated that the discussions will focus solely on the maritime border and not land borders.

Israel and Lebanon have not yet resolved their longstanding maritime border dispute. The disagreement covers an area that extends 860 sq. km in the Mediterranean Sea. This triangle includes blocks for exploratory offshore drilling that Lebanon would love to get their hands on. Lebanon claims that two of the blocks that are situated in the disputed waters belong to their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Sections of Block 9 run through an area that Israel asserts as its own EEZ.

Oil and gas reserves that have been discovered off the coasts of both Lebanon and Israel are estimated to generate up to $600 billion over the course of the next several decades.

Trade between the two countries is not entirely unprecedented. Cedars were imported from Lebanon and used extensively in the construction of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. Once a staple in Lebanon, the species is becoming rare.  One of the last vestiges of the extensive forests of the Lebanon cedar is a forest preserve located at Bsharri named Cedars of God.