The Lebanese community living in Israel offered mixed reactions to the U.S.-brokered maritime border agreement signed on Thursday.
Most of the estimated 3,500 Lebanese people residing in the Jewish state are South Lebanon Army veterans and their families who fled south after Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000.
Maryam Younnes, a first-generation Lebanese-Israeli and the daughter of a South Lebanon Army veteran, said, “When you understand the political situation around us, you understand that it’s not an ideal agreement, especially not for Lebanon.”
Younnes believes that first-generation Lebanese may or may not fully understand the importance of the deal.
“That’s because many of us went on with our lives, and many don’t care about what’s going on in Lebanon, especially those who are my age and younger,” she said.
As for Eli Nahra, the son of a former South Lebanon Army veteran, he said he cares about the agreement, but whether it makes him happy or not, is the fundamental question.
“Am I happy? No. Because the money from gas exploration will be stolen by the Lebanese government, like everything else that has been stolen. That’s my prediction. The people in Lebanon behind this deal are thieves,” Nahra said.
Eli’s wife, Marian Nahra, is also the daughter of a former veteran of the South Lebanon Army.
She said when she initially heard about the deal, she was happy, but she also had mixed feelings.
“On the other hand, I wanted to hope for the better, but I also didn’t have any feeling that the deal would change anything currently.”
She added: “It might turn a new page, we hope there’s normalization in the future, but I’m not sure if it will happen in my time.”
As a former soldier of the South Lebanon Army, Jad Rizk said that while the agreement is good for both Israel and Lebanon, a peace deal with the nations isn’t on the cards in the imminent future.
“Why? Because Iran rules”, he said. “It rules Hezbollah. And Hezbollah answers to Iran. But I still wish for peace between the two countries, so I can go back to Lebanon.”
Rizk continued: “It’s a great thing that without even being aware of it, Lebanon fell into this deal with Israel.”
Mark, the son of a former SLA veteran, thinks this deal could be the first step to normalization between the two nations, but he believes there’s one major problem.
“This deal has come at the wrong time with the wrong Lebanese government. Because Lebanon will be taking more from this deal, and none of these wins will be going to the Lebanese people.”
Sana, the wife of a South Lebanon Army veteran said that as happy as she feels about the deal, she would have still preferred more.
“I would have much preferred a wider, bigger deal. But at the same time, this deal doesn’t add any benefits to Lebanon currently. But as a deal, it’s great, because it affects the rest of the Middle East region, including Israel.”