Less than 10 days until Israel’s election
Israeli President Herzog meets with U.S. President Biden
Israeli Cabinet to authorize deal with Lebanon
Israel, Egypt and PA discuss Gaza gas field
Israel’s new academic year begins
‘Riyadh Season’ cultural festival
NINE DAYS UNTIL ISRAEL’S ELECTION
Israel’s political parties are entering the final stretch of their campaigns ahead of the Nov. 1 vote that will establish a new national government, hopefully. Recent polls show opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party coming in on top with 31 seats; Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party securing 24; the far-right Religious Zionism Party of Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir capturing 14; and Benny Gantz’ National Union party winning 11.
Netanyahu, Lapid and Gantz are seen as the main contenders for the premiership, but in Israel’s parliamentary system, it is not easy to predict how the usual political deadlock will play out.
Each candidate tries to strike a different chord with voters: Lapid highlights that a Netanyahu-led governing coalition would be one that includes Ben Gvir and Smotrich, seen as far-right lawmakers; Netanyahu highlights the fact that any coalition without Likud would necessitate an alliance with the Arab parties, and would thus lean considerably leftwards; Gantz promises voters that, unlike in 2020, he would not sit in a government with Netanyahu, by no means.
ISRAELI PRESIDENT HERZOG MEETS WITH PRESIDENT BIDEN
Israeli President Isaac Herzog will travel to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Oct. 25, to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House, just a week before Israel’s national election.
“The purpose of the visit is to reinforce the strong partnership between the United States and Israel and to reflect the deep ties between the two nations in these challenging times,” said Herzog’s office.
According to the White House, the two presidents are expected to discuss “regional and global challenges.” Topics on the agenda likely will include the maritime-border deal that the U.S. brokered between Israel and Lebanon, as well as heightened tensions with Palestinians in Israel’s backyard and vis-à-vis the Iranian nuclear threat. During his two-day visit, Herzog will hold meetings with members of Congress and Jewish community leaders.
ISRAELI CABINET TO AUTHORIZE DEAL WITH LEBANON
The Israeli Cabinet is expected this week to approve the Israel-Lebanon maritime-border deal that was brokered by U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein, without putting the deal to vote in the Knesset, Israel’s legislative body.
While the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has been debating the deal’s finer details for days, the fact that the deal’s final authorization will not be put to the legislative branch has infuriated the Israeli opposition. Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu has slammed the deal as a “historic surrender” to Lebanon and Hezbollah, while Yair Lapid, Israel’s caretaker prime minister since July, has lauded the agreement.
The agreement grants Lebanon most of the maritime territory in dispute, while granting Israel continued ownership of its offshore Karish gas field. Per the deal, Lebanon would exert full sovereignty over the adjacent Qana zone, where gas exploration could yield billions of dollars; should gas be found, Israel would receive royalties. Top Lebanese lawmakers are expected to sign a copy of the agreement this week.
ISRAEL, EGYPT AND PA DISCUSS GAZA GAS FIELD
Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority reportedly are holding talks to promote the development of a gas field off the Gaza coast, with the United States and the European Union involved in the discussions. The Gaza Marine natural gas field has the potential to supply the Gaza power station, as well as to provide thousands of jobs to Palestinians in Gaza.
ISRAEL’S NEW ACADEMIC YEAR BEGINS
Israel opened its academic year for university students this Sunday for 342,000 registered students, according to official state data. This reflects a 1.6% increase from last year, which saw 337,000 students.
Two years ago, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 24,000 more students chose to pursue higher education than in the pervious year. The number of Arab students in Israeli institutions has increased by 130% over the last decade. Women constitute the majority of students in bachelor’s (58%), master’s (65%) and doctorate (53%) programs.
‘RIYADH SEASON’ CULTURAL FESTIVAL
Saudi Arabia has dominated headlines in the West for defying U.S. President Biden’s request to lower global oil prices, but the Kingdom is getting a different kind of attention this week in the Middle East.
On Friday, the Saudi capital launched the five-month Riyadh Season arts and culture festival, which offers a range of experiences and activities, from sports and culture to music and circus acts. The festival will also feature traveling circus, Cirque du Soleil, and will then host two female Lebanese singers, Elissa and Haifa Wehbe, superstars in the Arab world.
The state-sponsored festival reflects the direction Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has been taking the country; it is part of his Vision 2030 framework to modernize the Saudi economy and diversify away from a dependence on oil.
This week we are also keeping an eye on these developing stories:
... Is Israel discriminating against elderly immigrants and preventing family reunification?
... Are Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir the “radicals” and “racists” their critics claim?
... Did Israel give up territory or gain economic security in maritime-border deal with Lebanon?
... ECHOES OF GOG & MAGOG? Tensions between Russia and Israel are on the rise
... Why did the Biden administration express rare public “disappointment” with the P.A.’s president?
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.