Israel’s government approved the maritime boundary agreement with Lebanon this evening. All the ministers voted in support except for Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who voted against, and Communication Minister Yoaz Hendel, who abstained.
Earlier today, Israel’s Security Cabinet advanced approval of the agreement with Lebanon today. A statement by the cabinet read, “There is importance and urgency in reaching a maritime agreement between Israel and Lebanon at this time. Security Cabinet members express support for promoting the authorization process in the cabinet.”
All members of the Security Cabinet but Shaked had voted in favor of proceeding. Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett rejected the request of his party colleague to veto the deal and also voted in favor. Bennett argued that the deal does not merit “celebrations of victory nor cries of despair as if it were a catastrophe,” adding that it was “not a historic diplomatic victory, but it is also not a terrible surrender. Not everything that is good for Lebanon is bad for Israel. There are times when it is possible to reach a positive outcome for both parties.”
Following the approval , the agreement will be presented this evening to the Knesset, though without putting it up for the parliament’s approval. In two weeks, the government is expected to approve the agreement in a final vote.
According to this morning's legal opinion by Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, the current government is legally entitled to sign the maritime border agreement, despite the proximity of Nov. 1 elections and its status as an interim government. He said the government did not need to hold a referendum on the issue and suggested it would be preferable for the government to allow a Knesset vote on the issue, though it's under no legal obligation to do so.
In parallel, today Israel’s High Court rejected a petition by two nongovernmental organizations to prevent the government from signing the agreement, citing the short time before the upcoming elections.
Members of the Likud and other right-wing parties approached Knesset speaker Mickey Levy this morning, demanding that the agreement be put to a parliamentary vote.
As Lebanon considers Israel an enemy state, it refuses to directly negotiate a deal, so the agreement has taken the form of letters exchanged between itself and the United States and between the United States and Israel as well as letters from both Lebanon and Israel to the United Nations. The agreement does include plans for representatives of Israel and Lebanon to meet in the near future at the Lebanese border town Naquora to finalize it.
After announcing that Israel and Lebanon had reached an agreement last night, Lapid thanked US President Joe Biden and the American mediation team for their support in clinching the deal.
At the cabinet meeting today, Lapid said he intends to invite opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu for a briefing. Netanyahu, a stout objector to the agreement, has not yet said whether he intends to accept.