Maritime dispute with Lebanon is marginal

Amiram Barkat

Even if the UN were to adopt the Lebanese version of the maritime border, there would be no serious harm to Israel's exploration licenses.

To judge from the main headline in one of this morning's newspapers, Lebanon is about to seize Israel's natural resources worth billions of dollars with the unexpected support of the US.

But reality contrasts starkly with such panic inducing headlines, and is as far from the truth as Cyprus is from Israel. The reality is so far from the media headlines that even the volatile Tel Aviv Stock Exchange accepted the new-old threat to the licenses of Ytizhak Tshuva and his partners with apathy.

The proposed maritime border that was approved by the cabinet today was prepared by the Israel Mapping Center in consultation with jurists familiar with maritime law. The route of the border has been presented by the legal department at the ministry of foreign affairs to US diplomats that visited the region on several occasions. The route that the border follows is now being submitted to the UN, about a year after Lebanon submitted its interpretation of the sea border route between the two countries. The decision on the matter will be taken by an arbitration body appointed by the UN, and not the US.

However, the entire story has been taken out of all proportion. Even if the UN were to adopt the Lebanese version of the maritime border, there would be no serious harm to Israel's exploration licenses in the region.

A professional Israeli source that examined the border route under contention said that it involved the northern extremes of the Alon and Ruth licenses, in the northern part of Israel's licenses region. As far as is known, in these areas there are several structures that might contain gas or oil, but these structures are relatively small, and are not top of the agenda of Noble Energy Inc. (NYSE: NBL) and Delek Group Ltd. (TASE: DLEKG) who own the licenses.

The only fallout from moving the Israel Lebanon maritime border south would thus be in the Ruth and Alon gas and oil fields, if there are discoveries in these licenses, and if they spill over the border into Lebanon. If that is the case then development of these fields, which are far from the top of the agenda, would be delayed.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 10, 2011

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011

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