UPDATES 9 am Israel time, Monday, September 30 2013:
**It came to light yesterday that over the last month Lebanon has been selling oil and gas exploration licenses for Mediterranean areas off its coast. What is particularly troublesome is that some of the licenses were issued in Block 9 (see diagram below). Block 9 is disputed maritime territory that Israel has refrained from exploring for gas and oil in despite the fact that the area is likely to have significant repositories of gas.
Israeli legal experts are on record as saying that if Israel does not soon act, Lebanon will establish facts at sea that will be difficult to undo. On the other hand, the Israeli foreign ministry seems reticent to engage the Lebanese for fear of igniting a border dispute.
All of which leaves your humble servant scratching his head. There already is a border dispute. And what is worse is that some in Lebanon are already making the claim that the huge Israeli Tamar and Leviathan oil and gas fields are in Lebanese waters. Israel cannot sit idly by and let the Lebanese establish maritime borders.
**It was revealed yesterday that Israel’s security forces arrested an Iranian spy, Ali Mansouri, at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv on September 11th. Born in Iran, Mansouri had immigrated to Belgium where he married, became a Belgian citizen, changed his name to Alex Mans, and set up an international roofing business–specializing in selling tiles. While in Belgium he was recruited by the Iranian Quds Force (the same Iranian group that organized the terror attack in Bulgaria) to spy on Israel and paid $1,000,000.
On September 11, Mansouri was concluding his 3rd trip to Israel, and he had apparently succeeded in setting up a “business network” that was going to be the basis of the Iranian spy operation. When he was arrested in Ben Gurion, he was in possession of high resolution photographs of Israeli targets including Ben Gurion airport itself and the American Embassy.
When PM Netanyahu speaks at the United Nations in a few days, expect him to make reference to Ali Mansouri.
**The parade of Israeli leftists speaking at the annual J Street Conference in Washington continued with Tzipi Livni and Shelly Yachimovich leading the way yesterday. Livni offered this pearl of wisdom: “An agreement can change the situation in the entire region creating new alliances against extreme fundamentalist Islam.”
Of course Livni was referring to the Gulf Countries led by Saudi Arabia which detest Iran but are themselves nothing but hotbeds of extreme fundamentalist Islam. Does Livni really think that Israel will have an alliance with Saudi Arabia, or Bahrain, or Kuwait? Israel may share an interest with some in these countries who want to stop the spread of Iran, but the thought of an “Israeli-Gulf alliance” is nothing but a pipe dream.
All of those despotic monarchies can change overnight. And this is supposed to be a reason for making more concessions to the Palestinians?
As regular readers of this blog know, Israel and China are now beginning to work together on some massive building projects which will transform the face of Israel. One of these, which your humble servant is looking forward to with great interest, is the construction of a passenger railway from Beersheva to Eilat. Aside from providing a new way to travel to Israel’s southernmost point, this railway will eventually open up the Negev to development.
But the relationship between Israel and China is also expanding in other ways. At a time when Israeli universities are increasingly being anti-semitically targeted by European institutions, an announcement was made in Tel Aviv yesterday of the largest donation ever made to an Israeli university.
The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology (known simply as the Technion) has received a $130 million dollar grant for a joint venture with China’s Shantou University. The purpose of the grant is to build a 330,000 square meter Technion Guangdong Institute of Technology beside Shantou.
Beginning next year, Technion Guangdong will begin offering undergraduate programs in civil and environmental engineering. During the first two years of campus construction in China, Chinese students will come to Israel to study–and return to China to complete their studies in their 3rd and 4th years.
By 2020, the course offerings will expand to other engineering fields including mechanical and aeronautical engineering and life sciences. At the same time funds will also be used to upgrade the Technion Israel campus in Haifa.
The entire project is being funded by Li Ka-shing, a Chinese billionaire with a particular affinity for Israel. Speaking in Tel Aviv yesterday, Ka-shing said: “In a world of fluid boundaries, the transformative power of technology waves like a magic wand, bringing new models and opportunities to many frontiers and generating new solutions to entrenched problems, but we all know the wands are only as powerful as the wizards who use them, and the magic comes from the genius within.”
There is something distinctly refreshing about Israel’s turn to China. Not only is the world’s economic future there but also the time has come for Israel to realize that the world does not revolve around the European Union.
In the same vein, while a healthy relationship with our greatest ally the United States will always be a cornerstone of Israeli existence, it is time for Israel to become less dependent on a United States that demands that we make concessions that are not in our national interest in return for that alliance.
Acknowledgement: Israelstreet acknowledges elements of this story were taken from the Jerusalem Post.