June 24 (Bloomberg) -- Minister of National Infrastructures Uzi Landau said Israel is willing to use force to protect off-shore natural gas finds after the speaker of Lebanon’s parliament said the fields extended into his nation’s waters.
“We will not hesitate to use our force and strength to protect not only the rule of law but the international maritime law,” Landau, 66, said in an interview yesterday at his Jerusalem office when asked about Lebanese claims. “Whatever we find, they will have something to say. That’s because they’re not challenging our findings and so-called occupation of the sea. Our very existence here is a matter of occupation for them. These areas are within the economic waters of Israel.”
Israel, which is seeking to wean itself off oil and coal imports from as far away as Mexico and Norway, has said the Leviathan and Tamar fields may allow it to start exporting gas. The discoveries also have prompted talks with Cyprus to seek clarification on maritime boundaries. Israel and Lebanon are technically at war and have no diplomatic relations.
Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said that Israel is “ignoring the fact that according to the maps the deposit extends into Lebanese waters,” Agence France-Presse reported on June 9.
Noble Energy Inc. and Israeli companies controlled by billionaire Isaac Tshuva, say the gas finds in the past 18 months may hold 24 trillion cubic feet of gas, more than twice the U.K.’s gas reserves. Leviathan lies about 130 kilometers (81 miles) off Israel and Tamar 90 kilometers, according to Landau’s ministry. Delek Drilling-LP, one of Noble’s partners, said June 15 that the licenses are in waters where Israel has authority.
Delek rose as much as 1.7 percent today in Tel Aviv to 11.28 shekels and was trading at 11.21 shekels at 10:20 a.m. The stock has doubled in the past 12 months.
Noble fell 65 cents, or 1 percent, to $62.41 in yesterday’s trading on the New York Stock Exchange. It has gained 9 percent during the past year.
Lebanese Energy Minister Gebran Bassil said June 17 his country “will not allow Israel or any company working for Israeli interests to take any amount of our gas that is falling in our zone.” He said Noble was warned not to work close to Lebanon’s economic zone.
Bassil said Lebanon’s government and lawmakers “should move quickly on starting the exploration of offshore gas.”
A coastal state is entitled to explore for oil and gas in its economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers), according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. A halfway point is used when the distance between countries is less than 400 nautical miles. Haifa, in northern Israel, is about 148 nautical miles from Cyprus, which is located north of Leviathan.
Lebanon’s claim may be complex because its border with Israel is indented, making it harder to establish where Israel’s sea boundary ends and Lebanese waters begin, Robbie Sable, a professor of international law at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, said on June 15.
Israel is working on an agreement with Cyprus over the two countries’ maritime borders, Landau said. There is no dispute with Cyprus over Israel’s rights to the Leviathan gas exploration site and the Tamar field, said Landau, who last year left the ruling Likud party to join the Yisrael Beitenu party led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The group is the second-biggest party in the ruling coalition.
Landau said Israel and Cyprus are “in close touch” about the gas fields.