News Digest — 10/7/22

Police Commissioner: ‘We Are Happy To See Thousands Coming To The Temple Mount’

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai told Israeli media on Thursday (6th) that the police draw strength from the sight of the many worshipers who visit the Western Wall and the Temple Mount during the Tishrei holidays.

“We are happy to see Jerusalem with thousands who come to pray at these holy sites – this gives us as police, the motivation and the strength to invest and put as many police officers as possible in as many places as possible to allow everyone to celebrate the holidays in these holy places,” Shabtai said.

To the question of whether there has been a policy change regarding visits to the Temple Mount, the commissioner replied, “There is no policy change.  We allow anyone who wants to go up to the Temple Mount to do so, but within the existing guidelines.”

“What has changed is that there are more and more Jews who want to visit and we are doing everything we can to make this possible.  We expect everyone to respect the rules and behave accordingly because we want to continue to preserve this without creating unnecessary provocations,” he concluded.

Israel’s celebration of the Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) holiday begins at sundown Sunday (9th) and continues through Sunday (16th) at sundown.



IDF Put On Alert As Israel Refuses Lebanese Demands

Israel’s defense establishment is gearing up for a possible conflict with Lebanon, after maritime border talks between Jerusalem and Beirut floundered.

Minister of Defense Benny Gantz on Thursday (6th) held a situation assessment regarding Israeli defenses on the northern front together with the IDF Chief of Staff, MOD Director General and Head of the IDF Operations Directorate.

“In light of the development in the maritime border negotiations with Lebanon, during the assessment, Minister Gantz instructed the defense establishment to prepare for any scenario in which tensions increase the northern arena, including defensive and offensive readiness,” a defense ministry spokesperson said.

Tensions rose Thursday (6th), after Lebanon demanded further changes to a draft agreement of a maritime border deal, which would formally delineate the boundaries of Israel and Lebanese waters, including prized offshore gas fields.

Last week, US envoy Amos Hochstein submitted a new draft of the agreement, including major concessions by Israel to Lebanon.

The draft was accepted by Jerusalem, which viewed the version as final.

After Israel signaled its agreement of the draft, however, Beirut issued further demands, repudiating, among other things, the provision of the deal which would ensure Israel royalties for gas extracted from parts of the Kana field.

Instead, Lebanon has insisted that the French corporation licensed to drill in Kana will buy out Israel’s rights to the gas.

Israeli PM Yair Lapid on Thursday (6th) rejected Lebanon’s new demands, a senior official told reporters.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Thursday (6th) that the deal would deescalate tensions in the region, alluding to a likely war should talks fall through. 

“I am convinced that the deal is strategically important,” Mikati said.  “First of all, because with it we prevent a certain regional war.”

Israel has indicated it will move forward with extraction efforts in the Karish gas field even if talks stall or fall through, with PM Lapid warning that any attack or threat of attack by the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah on Israeli facilities or ships at the gas field would lead to a cessation of negotiations.



Company Announces Major New Gas Discovery Offshore Israel

As the Israeli security cabinet convened to discuss the US-drafted deal that will determine the fate of the Karish gas field on Thursday (6th), Greek gas producer Energean announced it had made a major discovery of natural gas in commercial quantities in waters offshore Israel.

The London-based company notified the Tel Aviv and London stock exchange that it had discovered more than 0.5 trillion cubic feet of gas at its Hermes exploration well.

Hermes is located southeast of the Karish field, the subject of the maritime dispute with Lebanon that is also powered by Energean.  Last month, the company said the first gas from Karish would be delivered in a matter of weeks.

According to the oil and gas company, early estimates in the Hermes exploration indicate that there are between 7 and 15 billion cubic meters (BCM) of recoverable natural gas.

The company added that the Hermes discovery boosted the chances of finding gas in the nearby Poseidon and Orpheus structures.



Hamas To Visit Syria As Part Of Efforts To Revive Ties With Assad

A Hamas delegation will visit Syria later this month, two sources told Reuters on Thursday (6th), in a move by the Palestinian Islamist group to rebuild ties after shunning President Bashar al-Assad for years over his violent crackdown on protests.

A senior Hamas official said the visit would take place after a Hamas delegation concludes an October 10 trip to Algeria to discuss reconciliation with the rival Palestinian Fatah movement of Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas.

The second source, a Palestinian official familiar with the issue, confirmed details of the Syrian trip.

A Palestinian source in Syria denied that a visit would take place, while Hamas officials in Gaza, the coastal enclave where the group has ruled since 2007, declined to comment.  And there was no immediate comment from the Syrian government.

Hamas leaders publicly endorsed the 2011 street uprising against Assad’s dynastic rule and vacated their Syrian headquarters in Damascus in 2012, a move that angered their common ally, Iran.

Hamas’ relations with Iran were later restored and Hamas officials praised the Islamic Republic for helping with building up their Gaza arsenal of long-range rockets, which they have used in fighting Israel.

Normalizing ties with Assad’s government could help restore Hamas’ inclusion in a so-called “axis of resistance” against Israel which also encompasses Iran and Lebanon’s powerful armed Shiite Hezbollah group.

In June, two Hamas officials told Reuters the group had decided to restore ties with Syria.  Hamas has eased into the process slowly, fearing a backlash from its mostly Sunni Muslim financiers and other supporters, given that most of the victims of Assad’s crackdown in Syria were Sunnis.



Phantom Fantasia In The Middle East – Thane Rosenbaum

Decades of impeccable PR and global gullibility have enabled many to bizarrely believe there once was an Arab nation called Palestine, with the people in it known as Palestinians.  Yet there never has been an Arab nation-state called Palestine.  At the time of Israel’s founding, in 1948, the word Palestinian did not describe a distinct Arab people.  In fact, the word, created by the ancient Romans, referred to Jews – Jews who lived continuously in what is today Israel since the time of the Jewish patriarchs of the Old Testament.

Palestine is more an idea than an actual place, the magical thinking of a country that never existed.  Hocus-pocus political history.  Palestinian inclusion within the vortex of intersectional grievances is laughable given how Sharia-observant Palestinians, especially in Gaza, feel about women, the transgender culture and academic freedom, religious diversity, free speech, and the rule of law.  Palestinian rejection of five separate offers of statehood since 1947 is never mentioned.

Nothing was stolen from the Palestinians.  They are stateless because they never had a state – not because they were denied one, or had one taken away.  Indeed, it’s not at all clear whether they actually want one.  For a people with no national currency, political history, sustained leadership, defined borders, or even a gross national product aside from terrorism, Palestinians have nonetheless created the illusion of a homeland lost to Jewish land-grabbers.  But hate does not a nation make.

The writer is a law professor and, Distinguished University Professor at Touro College



Over 2,000 Christians To Arrive In Jerusalem For Feast Of Tabernacles

Over 2,000 Christians from 70 countries will travel to Jerusalem between the 9th and 16th of October to take part in the 43rd annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration.

The event, which is said to be both the largest Christian gathering and largest solidarity mission to Israel this year, is sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ).

The event will also highlight the anticipated return of Christian tourism to the Jewish state after two years of travel bans to the country as a result of the pandemic.

Before COVID-19 hit Israel, Christians made up 55% of all tourism in 2019, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.  Of the Christians that visited, 28% were evangelicals – which also made up 13% of all tourism.  When the pandemic began the following year tourism dropped from 4.5 million in 2019 to 831,500 – which is 81% less.

The ICEJ’s Feast of Tabernacles celebration will begin at the Sea of Galilee, then go on to Capernaum National Park for two days and then will end in Jerusalem

The Israeli tourism industry is expected to largely recover with the return of Christian visitors.