According to diplomatic sources quoted by the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar on 24/10, former Special Coordinator for Regional Affairs at the State Department Frederic Hoff, who had recently retired, was asked by the State Department to resume his mediation efforts to solve the maritime border dispute between Lebanon and Israel [Link in Arabic].
Hoff, who was in charge of three major dossiers, including this one, before his resignation, was asked by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to focus solely on finding a solution to the border dispute. If the leaked information is confirmed, it would be a signal that the current administration is determined to resolve this complicated and urgent issue.
Hoff intends to resume his mission from where he had left it, which means both sides are expected to offer compromises. Out of the approximately 870 Km2 disputed area, the proposed “Hoff plan” would recognize roughly 530 Km2 as part of Lebanon’s offshore area.
Hoff, who intends to visit Beirut shortly (or to send an envoy) to get a final Lebanese response on his proposed plan “promises all other sides [meaning Israel and Cyprus] will agree to it once Beirut gives its final agreement”. Earlier this month, the Cypriot ambassador to Lebanon confirmed that amendments to EEZ are possible if all countries concerned are in agreement. A deal is crucial for both Lebanon and Israel. An optimal exploitation of natural resources is hardly possible without stability, which in turn is threatened if border disputes are not settled. On 06/10, Israel intercepted and downed Ayoub (Job) a drone operated by Hezbollah[Link in French], which flew hundreds of kilometers over Israeli waters and lands, signaling the resistance group’s advanced deterrence capacities. The main message was that, for one party to benefit from a maximum exploitation of its natural resources, all other parties must be equally satisfied. Stability depends on this simple equation, and Hoff and the Americans are aware of that.
Hoff reportedly relies on PM Najib Mikati to facilitate the adoption of his proposal. However, internal political disputes and power plays must not be ruled out. Mikati’s quest to secure the consent of all Lebanese factions to Hoff’s proposal is key. Only if the PM is able to coordinate between rival factions in and outside his government, ensuring none is left out, will he be considered a valuable factor for internal stability.