After a prominent Lebanese politician asserted that part of a prodigious, newly discovered natural gas field stretches into his country’s territorial waters, a top Israeli official vowed today to defend the energy resources off Israel’s northern coast. “We will not hesitate to use our force and strength,” declared Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau, a member of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, “to protect not only the rule of law but the international maritime law.”
Three fields, and particularly the “Leviathan” site discovered earlier this month, are estimated to be able to turn Israel into a net energy exporter.
Yesterday, Tablet Magazine columnist Lee Smith predicted that Israel’s newfound energy resources could be the spark that lights what many consider to be an inevitable second round of the 2006 Lebanon war. A member of Hezbollah’s executive council told Smith, “If Lebanon needed to pile up hundreds, thousands of rockets to protect our sovereignty, dignity, and hydraulic resources, then the need to protect our hydrocarbon assets motivates us to enhance the Resistance’s capacities.” Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a Hezbollah ally, added to Smith, “The arms of the Resistance are crucial for defending Lebanon’s offshore petroleum resources.”
For years, according to Smith, Hezbollah has justified its armed presence with reference to the Shebaa Farms, “an insignificant piece of land in the Golan Heights.” “The natural gas fields,” Smith notes, “are Shebaa on steroids.”
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.