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Territorial Transgressions - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A small piece of news emerged not so long ago, about the anticipated “discovery” of vast amounts of oil and natural gas, located in the offshore territories of Lebanon. These reserves would transform Lebanon into an international producer of oil and natural gas, and would generate billions of US dollars in revenue. Subsequently, political factions began to quarrel with one another over this ‘revenue’ cake, and who should take the biggest share. Meanwhile, resistance and opposition groups entered the political arena to ‘change’ the subject. They occupied the Lebanese agenda, threatening to ‘start a devastating fire’, and to ‘chop off the hands’ of whoever dared to stand against them. Furthermore, there were other provocative speeches and subliminal messages full of threats and malice, which have ultimately turned the country into an area of great tension.

At the same time, Israel moved towards the same location in which Lebanon had claimed to have discovered huge amounts of natural gas and oil. The Israeli’s claimed possession of the site, naming it ‘Leviathan’. Israel granted the American energy company ‘Noble’, based in Houston, Texas, with the right to explore the location. It will drill its exploratory well next October at a cost of 150 million US dollars. Note that Noble’s partner in this project is the Delek group – a conglomerate owned by the renowned Israeli billionaire Isaac Tshuva.

Delek announced sometime ago that the ‘Leviathan’ site contains nearly 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and its depths are estimated to contain 4.3 billion barrels of oil. Israel’s daily consumption is estimated at 250,000 barrels, 98 percent of which is imported. Therefore, news of this discovery marked an incredible economic leap for the country. Although the figures are just “potential” and “estimated”, analysts are have high hopes that such estimates can be fulfilled, particularly considering Noble and Delek’s distinguished expertise in achieving success based on good estimations. For example, last year the two companies jointly drilled the ‘Tamar’ field, and made the largest natural gas discovery of the year, with reserves totalling 8.4 trillion cubic feet. This increased Israel’s natural gas reserves four times over.

The stock market value of ‘Noble’ rose by 40 percent since news of the ‘Tamar’ field discovery spread. Furthermore, the stock market value of Delek grew by 50 per cent, meaning that Isaac Tshuva’s wealth now far exceeds the previously estimated 2.1 billion US dollars. This all is happening whilst Lebanese leaders decline to move a muscle. How could they even talk about the occupation of Lebanon’s waters, after its land has been so violated? Furthermore, we have heard nothing from the UN, or any other authority for that matter, whether high or low level. No government official has uttered a word, and there have been no acts of resistance. Israel is continuing with its aggression on Arab soil, and now it has turned to Arab seas. No aspect of this whole situation seems to be new or different, rather everything seems to be expected and anticipated, given Israel’s historical record. In the past, Israel didn’t recognize borders, or acknowledge peace treaties, so why should it be different today, or how can we expect something else from this state. The Lebanese government must take action and to perform the role it has been entrusted with, so that other voices outside of the formal Lebanese cannot speak in the name of the resistance, or claim to be defending the homeland and the people. Now is the time for the Lebanese state, its apparatuses, and its media, to act and bring the issue to light, and highlight the arguments and evidence. Israel is fully aware that the land does not fall within its borders or maps, as acknowledged by some of its politicians and media. Nevertheless, Israel has decided to take the initiative, as it was conscious that the Lebanese would be busy with internal fights, and thus would not have the time or energy to defend this issue. Perhaps the money, and how much would be lost, will be a sufficient lure to make Lebanese politicians aware of the sea being stolen from them. They must act honourably, vigorously and quickly, to save what can be saved.

The problem is that Israel’s actions require a serious political and national reaction. For Lebanon, such a demand seems to be an almost impossible mission.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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