All ministers approve, except Shaked, who abstains; agreement now moves to full cabinet for approval; Knesset will review pact but will not be able to vote on it
By LAZAR BERMAN
Israel’s security cabinet voted Wednesday to move to the final stage of the approval process for the maritime border agreement with Lebanon.
The deal now advances to the full cabinet, which is expected to approve the deal.
The assembled ministers approved Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s summary of the meeting, which stated: “There is importance and urgency in reaching a maritime agreement between Israel and Lebanon at this time. The members of the cabinet expressed their support for advancing the approval process for agreement by the cabinet.”
All the members of the security cabinet supported moving the agreement to the full cabinet, with the exception of Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, who abstained.
Though in Lapid’s governing coalition, Shaked has expressed her desire to join a future government with many of the opposition parties.
Shaked later issued a statement clarifying that the vote was just on Lapid’s summary and that if a vote on the agreement comes up without Knesset approval, she will oppose it.
The meeting was attended by Lapid and his senior advisers, Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, Energy Minister Karine Elharrar, and other ministers in the governing coalition.
Lapid later said he will invite opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu to a security briefing on the deal, his office said.
It was not clear if Netanyahu — who has spoken vociferously against the deal — will accept the invitation. While Netanyahu rejected such face-to-face briefings while Naftali Bennett was prime minister, he met twice with Lapid in August.
On Tuesday morning, Israel announced that it had reached a “historic” agreement with Lebanon over the maritime border between the two countries in gas-rich Mediterranean waters.
Earlier in the day, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara revealed that the current outgoing government is legally entitled to sign the agreement, despite the proximity of elections and the fact that it is a caretaker government.
She also wrote that although it would be preferable for the government to allow the Knesset the right to approve or reject the deal, it was under no legal obligation to do so, and could suffice in merely providing the Knesset with the details of the agreement.
Opposition lawmakers — along with Shaked — have insisted that the maritime deal should not go through while an interim government is in power and should be brought before the Knesset, which is not currently in session.
Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, a member of Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, said he would convene the plenum so the deal can be swiftly reviewed by MKs. He cited “the importance of the matter” and a request from the cabinet secretary for the Knesset to meet over the recess for the Jewish High Holidays.
According to a law passed in 2014, any plan to cede territory within the borders of the State of Israel must either be approved by the Knesset with a majority of 61 votes, and then by the public at a referendum, or passed by the legislative body by a supermajority of 80 votes.
Lapid has emphasized that the deal only pertains to Israel’s offshore exclusive economic zone, not sovereign territory.
The government itself is however entitled to make the decision as to whether to allow the Knesset to approve the deal or merely provide the Knesset with the details of the agreement, said Baharav-Miara.
On Wednesday morning, the High Court of Justice rejected a request by the Lavi lobbying organization to issue an injunction against the government to prevent it from signing such an agreement given the short period of time before the elections scheduled for November 1.
Lapid said the deal would “strengthen Israel’s security, inject billions into Israel’s economy, and ensure the stability of our northern border.”
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.
Times of Israel