THE WEEK AHEAD: Israel and Lebanon finalize maritime border, West Bank tensions on the rise, and Jews celebrate the Torah
Here are the stories we are watching...
Israel, Lebanon agree on maritime border
West Bank tensions on the rise
Countdown to Israeli elections
Simchat Torah celebration
Lebanon to return Syrian refugees
ISRAEL, LEBANON AGREE ON MARITIME BORDER
The drawn-out dispute over Israel and Lebanon’s shared maritime border is expected to be settled this week with a “historic” agreement. Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid hailed the draft deal as one that “meets all the security and economic principles laid out by Israel.” His political opponents, however, are calling the agreement a complete capitulation to Lebanese demands.
“Lapid and [Israeli Defense Minister Benny] Gantz surrendered to Hezbollah’s extortion behind the backs of the citizens of Israel and the Knesset. They are transferring Israel’s strategic assets to Hezbollah in a liquidation sale,” said Israeli opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
U.S. Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein mediated the deal, which grants Lebanon most of the disputed maritime territory, while allowing Israel to keep its offshore Karish gas field. Per the deal’s conditions, Lebanon would exert full sovereignty over the adjacent Qana zone, where gas exploration could yield billions of dollars. Should gas be found in Qana, Israel would receive royalties.
U.S. President Joe Biden issued a statement to congratulate “everyone involved;” the White House reportedly wishes to celebrate the achievement with an official ceremony.
WEST BANK TENSIONS ON THE RISE
Israeli security forces continue to be on high alert in the disputed regions of Judea, Samaria and the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem, following an uptick in violence in these areas. Last week, various Palestinian assailants killed two IDF soldiers and attempted to lynch a Jewish family that was driving in a car with children.
Security forces also arrested a terror cell called the “West Bank headquarters,” which was being directed by the Gaza-based Hamas to carry out attacks against Israeli targets; during their arrest, rioters threw Molotov cocktails, stones and pipe bombs at Israeli forces.
COUNTDOWN TO ISRAELI ELECTIONS
On Nov. 1, Israelis will go to the polls for the fifth time in less than four years to cast their ballot for one of dozens of political parties competing for seats in Israel’s parliament.
The latest pre-vote polls show Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party coming in on top with 32 seats, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party collecting 24, the far-right Religious Zionism party of Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir taking 13 and Benny Gantz’s National Union party securing 12.
These numbers show Netanyahu, Lapid and Gantz as the main contenders for Israel’s premiership, but it is impossible to predict who will play king or kingmaker before coalition negotiations begin.
SIMCHAT TORAH CELEBRATION
The last of the Jewish High Holidays is upon us, with Simchat Torah (“rejoicing of the Torah”) to be celebrated by Jewish congregations on Monday. Simchat Torah marks the last verses of the Torah’s annual public reading and the first verses of a new cycle.
The holiday sees the celebrants at synagogues, dancing with Torah scrolls, singing and chanting verses in a ritual called “hakafot” – meaning, “in a circle.” The custom relates to a story in the Book of Joshua, about the surrender of Jericho to the Israelites. Once a day for a week, the Israelites circled Jericho, while carrying the Ark of the Covenant, the musicians in the lead. On the seventh day, they blew the shofar and shouted, and saw the walls of Jericho fall down.
LEBANON TO RETURN SYRIAN REFUGEES
Lebanese President Michel Aoun announced that Lebanon will start retuning Syrian refugees to their home country “in batches” at the end of this week. Lebanon plans to repatriate 15,000 Syrian refugees each month, despite safety warnings from human rights organizations.
According to Lebanese authorities, the country’s population of more than 6 million includes roughly 1.5 million refugees from Syria – the highest number of refugees per capita in the world. Lebanon is facing a devastating economic crisis, which recently has seen several people breaking into banks to retrieve money trapped in their own savings accounts.
This week we are also keeping an eye on these developing stories:
... Did the Biden administration ask OPEC+ to delay cutting oil production until after midterms?
... Will Netanyahu be the “Comeback Kid,” or will Israelis be saying, “Bye, Bye, Bibi” on Nov. 1?
... Did Israel give up territory or gain economic security in its maritime deal with Lebanon?
... Why does COGIC Bishop Alton Gatlin say his visit to Israel was “a trip of a lifetime”?
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.