On October 6, 2022, the pro-Hizbullah Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar published a report presenting Lebanon's comments on the draft maritime border agreement with Israel and the proposed changes to the draft that had been submitted by Lebanon to the U.S., which is mediating the deal. These proposed changes were approved by Lebanese President Michel 'Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
Today (October 7, 2022), after Israel announced its rejection of these changes, Al-Akhbar reported that "Lebanon clarified to the American mediator Amos Hochstein that it would not retract the amendments it submitted." The daily also quoted the head of Lebanon's Free National Movement, former foreign minister Gebran Bassil, who is the son-in-law of President 'Aoun, as saying that "the enemy must choose between an agreement and war."
It should be noted that Lebanon's demand to amend the draft agreement is at odds with recent reports in Hizbullah's mouthpiece Al-Ahed, which described the draft as "a complete victory" for the Lebanese resistance and stated that Lebanon had "achieved every single one of its rights."
The following is the list of Lebanon's proposed changes to the draft agreement, as reported by Al-Akhbar:
(Source: Lorientlejour.com, June 9, 2022)
Lebanon Refuses To Recognize Israel’s "Buoy Line" As International Border
1. "Lebanon requested to omit the term 'Blue Line' in reference to the border [between the two countries], stressing that it insists on its international border."
2. Lebanon rejected Israel's demand to recognize the buoy line, unilaterally installed by Israel in the sea off Al-Naqura, as the international border, and stressed that, as far as it is concerned, "the so-called buoy line has no significance or existence," and Lebanon refuses to turn it into a status-quo.
3. "Lebanon replaced the term 'south Sidon prospect,' which was used to designate the Qana [gas] field in the American draft, with the term 'Sidon-Qana field,' and added a sentence stating that this field 'was developed by Lebanon for Lebanon.'"
Lebanon Rejects Demand That Companies Under U.S. Sanctions Be Barred From Developing Qana Gas Field
4. The Lebanese rejected the clause in the draft deal stating that the gas fields must be developed by companies "that are not under U.S. sanctions," and demanded to change this to companies "that re not under international sanctions and are not Israeli or Lebanese" companies. Al-Akhbar explains that Hizbullah, for example, is designated as a terrorist organization in the U.S. and is therefore under U.S. sanctions, whereas the UN and other world countries do not designate it as a terror organization and have not imposed sanctions on it. According to the daily, Lebanon demands that this language apply to all the companies and figures involved in drilling and production in the Lebanese gas fields.
5. The current draft deal states that the entire Qana field will be developed by Lebanon, and that the companies drilling there will provide Israel with financial compensation for the part of the field that is located in Israeli territory. According to Al-Akhbar "the [current] draft deal [also] stipulates that 'Israel does not intend to oppose any measures taken in the Qana field in the area beyond [i.e., north of] Line 23 [which is the maritime border between the countries according to the current draft deal].' However, Lebanon has asked to amend the language to 'Israel does not and will not oppose' [such measures], in order to emphasize this point." The daily states further that "Lebanon stressed that its agreement with the companies that will develop the Qana field shall not be dependent on any prior agreement between [these] companies and Israel."
Lebanon Demands That Development Of Qana Field Commence Immediately, Regardless Of Any Financial Agreement Between Israel And French Company TotalEnergies
6. As noted, the draft agreement currently states that the companies that will develop the Qana gas field will compensate Israel financially for the share of the field located in Israeli territory. According to Al-Akhbar, Lebanon demands to omit the term "financial compensation" and clarify that any financial agreement between Israel and the French TotalEnergies company has nothing to do with Lebanon: "Lebanon opposed the term 'financial compensation' and emphasized that it will be a financial agreement between the company operating [the Qana field] and Israel, to which Lebanon will not be party. The Lebanese side insisted that 'Lebanon is not party to this [financial] agreement, and that, if the agreement between then company and the enemy entity [Israel] is delayed, this will not impact operations in Block 9 [i.e., the drilling in Qana], which will commence immediately, regardless of this agreement.'
7. "The draft agreement [currently] states that, once the agreement [is finalized], the U.S. will help facilitate the operations of the company operating [the Qana field]. Lebanon asked to amend the language and write that 'the U.S. commits to rapidly facilitating the operation of the [drilling] companies immediately after the agreement on demarcating [the maritime border] is finalized.'"
Al-Akhbar notes further that it is Israel's response to these comments that will determine "whether things are advancing towards an agreement that will be announced soon, or the efforts have failed and the tension threatening not only Israel and Lebanon but the [entire] region will return…" It adds, citing "a knowledgeable source," that "most of the Lebanese comments were acceptable to the American side, but some of them are still being debated, especially the Lebanese refusal to link the commencement of TotalEnergies' operation of the [Qana gas] field to any agreement between this company and Israel." Another issue still being debated, according to the daily, is Lebanon's aforementioned demand to change the clause barring companies "under U.S. sanctions" from operating at Qana.
Al-Akhbar: Lebanon Rejects American Demand For Each Side To Submit A Separate Document Ratifying The Agreement
In addition, Al-Akhbar addresses the contacts between the sides regarding the procedure for signing the agreement. It states that "contacts regarding the arrangements for signing the agreement are underway. The American side, it turns out, has proposed that Lebanon and Israel will merely be required to submit letters to the U.S. and the UN stating that they approve the agreement, and then the American side will affirm this and announce that an agreement has been reached. A knowledgeable source states that the American mediator wishes to finalize the matter quickly without spending time on formalities and ceremonies. But [Lebanese] Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri insists that the agreement, its clauses and its structure must be part of the framework agreement that has already been announced, which stipulates that the delegations must return to Al-Naqura in order to finalize the documents. Therefore, [this] principle has been agreed upon with the Americans, and the UNIFIL headquarters has been asked to start preparing the meeting place and the [arrangements for] signing [the agreement]."
Lebanon Insists That Lebanese And Israeli Delegations Be In Different Rooms During Signing Of Agreement
According to the daily, "Lebanon has informed the Americans that it refuses to have the Israeli, Lebanese, American and UN delegations present in the same room [during the signing ceremony], and that it is waiting for Israel's final replies to its requests [for changes in the agreement] and for a U.S. announcement that an agreement has been reached. Only then will President Michel 'Aoun appoint the Lebanese delegation that will go to Al-Naqura. The source emphasized that President 'Aoun does not want the [Lebanese] delegation to include any diplomats or judiciary figures, but only military and professional personnel from the [Lebanese] Armed Forces."
 Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), October 7, 2022.
 See e.g., alahednews.com.lb, October 3, 2022.
 Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), October 6, 2022.
 The framework agreement between Israel and Lebanon on the maritime border discussions, announced by the U.S. on October 1, 2020, stated that negotiations would be brokered by the U.S. and would take place in Al-Naqoura under UN sponsorship.