Secretary of State, Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee Comment on Maritime Accord In a statement yesterday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered remarks on the finalization of the maritime boundary negotiations between the governments of Israel and Lebanon, mediated by the US, saying “This agreement protects the economic and security interests of Israel and Lebanon and marks a new chapter for the people in the region. I thank the leaders of Israel and Lebanon for their willingness to negotiate in the best interests of their people, and I thank Special Presidential Coordinator Amos Hochstein and his team for their tireless diplomatic work in bringing the parties together to accomplish this deal.”
Representatives Gregory W. Meeks, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and David Cicilline, Chairman of the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee, issued the following statement, “the agreement represents an important step in addressing Lebanon’s dire energy needs, one aspect of its ongoing economic crisis, along with providing Europe another source of natural gas while contributing to regional stability. This is also a concrete example of the power diplomacy has to directly improve people’s lives.”
Israeli PM Fast Tracking Maritime Accord in Israeli Knesset According to Reuters, “Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said on Wednesday he would push through a deal to demarcate a maritime border with Lebanon, forgoing a parliamentary feud that could have delayed the U.S.-brokered deal beyond a Nov. 1 election.” [Reuters]
Lebanon to Resume Repatriation Plan of Syrian Refugees According to Reuters, “Lebanon will start sending Syrian refugees back home at the end of next week, President Michel Aoun said on Wednesday, in a process a security official described as voluntary, despite rights groups’ fears for their safety.” [Reuters]
First Cholera Death from Recent Outbreak Reported in Lebanon According to Arab News, via AFP, “Lebanon has recorded its first death from cholera as cases surge after an outbreak of the extremely virulent disease in neighboring Syria, the health ministry said Wednesday. Lebanon has recorded 26 cases of cholera this month.” [Arab News]
Higher Judicial Council Session Concerning Alternate Judge to Port Explosion Investigation Rescheduled According to L’Orient Today, “Due to a lack of quorum, the Higher Judicial Council did not convene yesterday at the request of caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury. The meeting was called to vote on the appointment of Judge Samaranda Nassar, known to be close to the Free Patriotic Movement, as an alternate judge to Tarek Bitar, the lead investigator in the 2020 Beirut Port explosion case.
The session, however, was postponed until next Tuesday.” [L’Orient Today]
OPINION & ANALYSIS
Rounding Up The News From Lebanon – From The Good To The Continued Drama Jean AbiNader
AbiNader writes, “Lebanon and Israel announced their acceptance of the meticulous drafted maritime boundary negotiations thanks to the Lebanese team headed by Deputy Speaker Elias Bou Saab and the diligent mediation work of US Special Energy Envoy Amos Hochstein. After a final week of headlines like “After collapse of Lebanon maritime deal, Israel fears Hezbollah attack,” followed by another round of the two-way finger-pointing that passes for negotiations in the region, a breakthrough finally emerged over the weekend. Both Lebanon and Israel took a long look at what’s best for regional prosperity and stability, stopped the saber-rattling and instead settled on a deal that benefits both countries. There are still parties in Israel that oppose the deal based on domestic politics while the parties in Lebanon decided that progress on this front had too many benefits to ignore. So a deal was made.”
The National Lebanon’s Rigged Budget Sami Atallah and Sami Zoughaib
Atallah and Zoughaib write, “The 2022 budget is flawed in numerous ways. Early draft budgets sent by the government for approval were incomplete. When a “complete” draft was finally forwarded to the Parliament, many figures were missing, forcing the postponement of multiple legislative sessions. The budget contains multiple exchange rates to collect taxes, an illegal act, particularly as it implicitly imposes the tax burden on different taxpayers as it sees fit. Compounding this, taxes are effectively calculated in foreign currency at an exchange rate that is determined on a monthly basis by the minister of finance and the Central Bank governor, which robs the Parliament of its prerogative to levy taxes. The budget allocates 17% of expenditures as a contingency, signaling poor allocation of resources, especially given that it only covers the remaining three months of the year. Some revenue items from the Ministries of Public Works and Telecommunications are not even recorded. Finally, but not exhaustively, the Minister of Energy and Water did not know that LL5 billion was allocated to the ministry he oversees. Such malpractice is symptomatic of a deeper problem regarding the role and responsibilities of state institutions tasked with preparing, approving, implementing, and evaluating the budget. Ultimately, the budget is not an accounting tool. It is a political document that spells out government priorities and the means to finance them.”Read More Here
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.