Category: Israel

Daystar, TBN ready for Messiah in Jerusalem

If the Messiah descends from the Mount of Olives as foretold in the Bible, America’s two biggest Christian broadcasters are well-positioned to cover it live thanks to recent acquisitions of adjacent Jerusalem studios on a hill overlooking the Old City.

Texas-based Daystar Television Network already beams a 24-hour-a-day live webcam from its terrace. Not to be outdone, Costa Mesa-based Trinity Broadcasting Network last month bought the building next door.

The dueling studios are part of an aggressive push by U.S. evangelical broadcasters seeking to gain a stronger foothold in the holy city. Their presence not only offers boasting rights with American viewers and contributors, but also — and more controversially — a platform for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to Jews in Israel.

In addition to its new multistory building, TBN is negotiating with Israel’s Yes satellite television provider to secure a full-time home for its evangelical Shalom TV channel.

Daystar already airs its English-language programming in Israel with dedicated channels on both Yes and cable provider HOT Telecommunications Systems, claiming to be the first Christian evangelical broadcaster to transmit a gospel message to Israeli television sets 24 hours a day.

“The main thing we want to do is help sponsor what we call Messianic Jews, or Jews that have received Jesus Christ as their Messiah,” said TBN co-founder Paul Crouch, who recently wrapped up a tour of Israel with 1,800 TBN supporters, most of them from America. “We want to do some Hebrew language programs to reach out to Jews and entice them to read the word of God and become what we call a completed Jew.”

Such proselytizing angers Orthodox Jewish groups who say it threatens the character of a nation that was created as a home for Jewish refugees of the Holocaust. Christian proselytizing is legal in Israel, though the government has at times restricted and discouraged the practice; members of the Jewish faith do not seek to convert those of other faiths.

“One of the things I find offensive is that they are bragging about their missionary work,” said Ellen Horowitz, research director at Jewish Israel, a grass-roots group created in 2008 to track and counteract Christian missionaries in Israel. “They’re actually very in-your-face about it.”

Horowitz said proselytizing is a touchy subject in Israel. “Our people have been through the wringer already with either persecution or assimilation,” she said. “Now people finally get to a Jewish nation and someone pushes a copy of the New Testament in Hebrew at them. A sensitive line is being crossed.”

When Daystar debuted in Israel in 2006, it created such a public uproar that the channel was temporarily suspended from the HOT network. It was restored after a court challenge.

Since then, Christian evangelical groups have quietly and steadily expanded their footprint in Jerusalem.

Last spring, evangelist organizer Mike Evans began soliciting donations from U.S. supporters for his $10-million purchase of a prime commercial building in Jerusalem’s city center, where he plans to open a facility devoted to Christian evangelism.

In July, American missionary Rick Ridings, a nephew of Paul Crouch who operates a walk-in prayer center near Mt. Zion, hosted several hundred Israeli youths at a three-day gospel music and prayer festival in Tel Aviv.

Crouch said TBN, whose recently purchased building houses the Los Angeles Times Jerusalem bureau, is striving to promote Christianity in Israel, where the faith is sometimes overshadowed by the struggle between Judaism and Islam. Trinity Broadcasting already is one of the world’s largest religious broadcasters, with 18 networks in seven languages.

“Christianity is not represented in Israel as well as it could,” he said. “We hope to equalize that and give Christianity a better platform.”

The latest inroads by evangelical Christians have not triggered the backlash that occurred in 2006 when Daystar went on the air. In fact, Crouch said TBN’s biggest obstacle in Jerusalem so far is rival Daystar, which he said tried to block TBN’s Shalom Channel from airing on Yes satellite.

“They raised a stink,” Crouch said. “I guess some of our Christian brothers don’t want the competition.”

A Yes spokeswoman said negotiations with TBN are ongoing and a final deal has not been reached. Daystar officials declined to comment, but said in a statement that the company “loves and appreciates Israel.”

Some Israelis are welcoming members of the American evangelical community as strategic partners, both politically and economically.

In addition to becoming the fastest-growing segment of Israel’s tourism market, U.S. evangelicals tend to be staunchly pro-Israel, lobbying in Washington on the Israeli government’s behalf on such matters as the Palestinian conflict or West Bank settlement construction.

Christian broadcasters have donated tens of millions of dollars in recent years to build Israeli schools, community centers, hospital wards and even synagogues. Part of the support is based upon their belief that the return of the Jewish people to Israel will usher in the second coming of Jesus.

Christian groups have forged close ties with Russian-born lawmakers in the parliament, or Knesset, and recently helped push through a law that extended property tax exemptions once available only to Jewish religious institutions to those owned by Christian congregations.

“They are much more sophisticated and calculated than they were before,” Horowitz said. “With all the millions of dollars they are giving, it’s harder for the government to say no.”

Her group said the number of evangelical Christian congregations in Israel has grown to 150 with as many as 20,000 followers, up from an estimated 3,000 in 1987, based on estimates from the congregations.

Christian broadcasters boast to their viewers that they are seeing a record number of Jews convert to Christianity. “The harvest is coming in so fast,” Crouch said.

Much of the growth is coming from the 1 million Russian immigrants who arrived in Israel during the 1990s. Many of the immigrants were never considered Jewish by Orthodox rabbis or had practiced Christianity in Russia.

“They see Russians as a way to get a foothold in Israel and create a Christian revival here,” Horowitz said. “We don’t have anything against Christians. But the Jewish people have to watch their backside to make sure this evangelical embrace does not become a hold that we can’t get out of.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=4227

Israel intensifies exercises for ground war following Iran strike

The Israel Army has intensified training for a war with the
Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah.

Military sources said the army is stepping up training for a war with
Hizbullah over the next few months. They said exercises have been conducted
in several locations, including the Golan Heights, Jordan Valley and Negev Desert.

 “The exercises were based on the need for a rapid ground offensive in
Lebanon,” a military source said.

The army preparations took place amid threats by Iran and its
proxies of a war with the Jewish state. Hizbullah was said to have amassed
an arsenal of 60,000 rockets, many of which were deployed in southern
Lebanon.

The sources said Teheran has assigned Hizbullah a leading role in
retaliation for any Israeli or U.S. strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

They said Hizbullah, trained by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,
also formed infantry units and mobile rocket squads to invade Israel from
Lebanon.

The Israeli exercises have consisted of Merkava-class main battle
tanks, Namer armored personnel carriers and other combat vehicles. The
sources said the aim was to achieve rapid mobility and capture Hizbullah
rocket and other targets.

In August 2012, the army conducted a night infantry exercise in the
Jordan River. During the maneuvers, the Golan Brigade’s Battalion 13,
accompanied by MBTs and APCs, crossed the Jordan River in what was meant to
represent Lebanon’s Litani River.

The exercises marked a revision of military strategy over the last five
years. In 2006, the Israel Air Force was used to attack Hizbullah bases and
particularly rocket launchers in what was regarded as an unsuccessful
effort.

Hizbullah has also been training. Over the last month, Hizbullah,
directed by IRGC, mobilized 10,000 fighters for an exercise around the
Litani River.

“The assessment is that Iran and its proxies were preparing for a
regional war over the next year,” the source said.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=4218

ARK OF COVENANT RESTING BENEATH TEMPLE MOUNT?

It would almost inarguably be the greatest archaeological find in history.

Movies have been made about it.

Voluminous books have explored its whereabouts.

It’s an artifact that combines faith, science and history.

It’s the Ark of the Covenant – the gold-laden box made by Moses with the specific instructions of God to hold the Ten Commandments and serve as a meeting place between man and his Creator.

One of the persistent theories about the whereabouts of the Ark is that it lay buried in secret tunnels and passageways constructed by King Solomon for the specific purpose of keeping it from enemies who might one day capture and destroy the Temple.

Now there is compelling new evidence that’s just what happened – and that the Ark still rests beneath the chamber known as the Holy of Holies, moved there through an elaborate machine constructed under the direction of Solomon long before the invasion of the Babylonians and the sacking of the Temple.

Most of the evidence for this theory of the Ark’s location comes right out of the Bible But WND has confirmed at least some of the story with archaeological sources secretly working within the tunnel structure beneath the Temple Mount.

Even more astonishing is the theory propounded on the specific location of the Ark – a theory that, if true – would have more meaning to followers of Yeshua as Messiah and Savior than most Christians could ever imagine.

 

Without question, the Bible seems to detail the lengths to which Solomon went to protect the Ark, with a sand-hydraulic elevator in the Holy of Holies. An emergency escape route and the stone sarcophagus in which the Ark was hidden during the siege by King Nebuchadnezzar have already been discovered in the tunnel system that honeycombs Mount Moriah.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=4169

Taking the pulse of Armageddon as Israel-Iran showdown looms

It is just an 18-mile journey from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s private residence in luxurious Caesarea on the shores of the Mediterranean, to Har Megiddo – Armageddon, the hilltop ancient ruins of one of King Solomon’s palaces from where the Bible suggests the final battle between good and evil will be viewed.

The road between the two points is populated by Israeli Jews and Arabs of widely differing religious beliefs and political opinions, and the No. 1 topic of conversation these days is whether Israel should bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. The people who live in the small, picturesque villages along the route recently talked to FoxNews.com about the looming showdown.

“Israel must not allow another Holocaust to happen. We must act first.”

– David, in the Israeli city of Har Megiddo, or ‘Armageddon’

A man who identified himself as Mordechai, who was giving away copies of a free newspaper outside local shops in Caesarea, said he fears the seemingly inevitable confrontation.

“I’m frightened” Mordechai said. “I don’t think we should attack Iran; it will start another world war. It’s also a big mistake to be talking about it here in the media.”

Haya, a well-dressed elderly lady, took a paper from him and offered a different view. “I’m happy with Bibi,” she said. “He won’t make the decision alone. He’ll listen to his advisors then he’ll do what he has to do.”

Route 65 is the “Road to Armageddon,” and a few miles east of Caesarea, it passes Kibbutz En Shemer, where Itti Moshiach, (his surname appropriately enough means Messiah), a former tank gunner who fought in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, offered his opinion.

“He (Netanyahu) should resign,” Moshiach said. “I know he doesn’t want peace; the price is too heavy for him. He doesn’t want to give back the West Bank. As for Iran, they won’t use the bomb against us because they know full well our retaliation would be 100 times worse. We hear the government complaining that there is too much talk about this, but most of the talk comes from the government.”

Yehuda Zarka knows this part of the country as well as anyone. He is the base commander for the Border Police and famously foiled a Palestinian bomb plot in 2002 when he intercepted a half-ton bomb being delivered to a target in a local Jewish town. He was commended for his bravery by then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and by the current Israeli president, Shimon Peres.

“The people of the Middle East only understand strong leaders, and Bibi isn’t a strong leader,” Zarka said. “He talks too much and does nothing. (Menachem) Begin hit Saddam in 1981, and (Ehud) Olmert took out the Syrian facility in 2007 without any prior public discussion. If Bibi had shown years ago – the moment the first missiles hit Israel from Gaza and Lebanon – that he would respond with real force, the Iranians wouldn’t have dared risk putting Israel in this position.”

Just a short drive down the road, in the Arab village of Baqa-Al-Gharbieh, few people were prepared to speak their mind. ‘Eid’, a shopkeeper, gave an insight into local Arab opinion.

“If he (Netanyahu) attacks Iran it will be a very big mistake,” Eid said. “The Jewish people don’t want to face facts. If the Palestinian problem was solved, Iran would have no reason or support to threaten Israel. We (Arabs) want peace. In life it is give and take, not like the Israelis, who take and take.”

At a gas station in another Arab town of Umm El Fahm, Samir bemoaned what war could do the already high cost of a gallon of gas. “If Netanyahu starts a war, $8 will seem cheap!” he observes. “It would be an economic disaster.”

Finally, in Har Megiddo, the view unfolds of the Jezreel Valley, where the final battle is forecast to take place. On the left side of the valley is Nazareth, while on the right – on the other side of the separation fence – is the Palestinian city of Jenin, which proudly proclaims itself the “martyr’s capital.” The name reflects the city’s having dispatched more suicide bombers into Israel than any other Palestinian town.

In the souvenir shop ‘Maya’ and ‘David’ (not their real names), gave the perspective of 30-something Israeli Jews.

“I believe Iran is close to getting the bomb,” David said. “Israel must not allow another Holocaust to happen. We must act first.”

Maya agreed: “I do” she said. “We must be sure though to bomb Iranian military targets and not civilian areas. And we must do it soon; before it’s too late.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=4068

Warning: The world is ending and the Messiah is coming!

On one of Israel’s largest websites Ynet a yellow banner with large letters appeared on Saturday proclaiming the coming of the Messiah. “The Messiah is in Israel. This will be the last government of Israel.” A click on the banner leads directly to the website 871. Here, the religious creators of the site warn about the end of the world. “The next leader will be the Messiah Ben David. The situation in the country is getting worse and the government will become more incapable. Only the Messiah can save Israel during the war of Gog and Magog. In the near future the world will witness terrible disasters, like earthquakes and tsunamis. Cities in Europe and the United States will disappear in the sea. The world’s financial system will collapse and God will destroy the Mammon (Yiddish slang for “money”). Anti-Semitism in the world will get worse, just like on the eve of World War II. For every inch of land that the government abandons the people of Israel will be punished for, because this is a rebellion against God. Solely because the two-state solution was discussed in Israel we must pay a high price. This land was promised to the people of Israel for eternity and who negotiates about the God-given land will not experience the redemption.” The ones behind the website, who regularly publish warning signals in the Israel network, are unknown. The majority of Israel’s society does not take such websites seriously, but still they appear on Israel’s largest Internet portals, such as Ynet.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3754

Israeli belief in God on the rise

Even as Israel becomes increasingly liberal (see recent report on Tel Aviv being rated top gay travel destination), it is also becoming increasingly religious, or, perhaps more accurately, increasingly God-fearing.

A survey conducted by the Guttman-Avi Chai Foundation in 2009, and whose results were finally published on Thursday after more than two years of analysis, revealed that over 80 percent of Israeli Jews believe in God. The Guttman-Avi Chai Foundation started conducing this survey over two decades ago. The 2009 poll registered by far the highest level of belief in God yet.

Furthermore, over 70 percent of Israeli Jews accept the biblical principle that the Jewish people have been “chosen” by God for a specific prophetic destiny. Seventy-one percent of respondents said they want increased biblical studies in Israeli schools.

But that doesn’t mean Jews in general are becoming more religious, at least not in an Orthodox Jewish way. Only 37 percent of Israeli Jews had a problem with fellow Jews not following the biblical commandments, and nearly 70 percent said they want more entertainment venues to be open on the Shabbat.

The numbers coincide with other recent findings and observations suggesting that Israelis are increasingly hungry for a deeper spiritual life. It also highlights the growing rift in the nation, as one portion of Israelis moves closer to God and the Bible, while the other clings ever more tightly to Western liberal humanism.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3751

AUTHOR: BIBLE PREDICTED DATE OF ISRAEL’S RETURN

 

The author of “Covenant: G-d’s Plan for Israel in the Last Days,” a book by Baruch Battlestein published in Italy, cites prophecies by Ezekiel and Moses that pinpoint with precision the date of Israel’s return to the land in May 1948.

“Was May 14, 1948, chosen by G-d as the exact day in time to resurrect the nation of Israel, or was it just some random date in human history?” Battlestein asks. “Could it be possible that this exact date was prophesied thousands of years before in Scripture?”

Battlestein cites three verses to reach his conclusion that the date of Israel’s return to the land after 1,900 years was indeed prophesied accurately.

The first is Ezekiel 37:21-22: “And say unto them, ‘Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.’”

This verse, Battlestein points out, shows “that it was the will of the Lord to bring them back to their own land and make them one nation in the land.”

The second citation of interest is Leviticus 26:23-24: “And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me; Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.”

“As a stand-alone verse this is very strange, and when applying it to the history of Israel it seems impossible to fully understand,” writes the author. “However, when we read the Book of Ezekiel we find another strange prophecy that leads us back to G-d’s prophecy in Leviticus. It is through these prophecies that we come to an understanding that May 14, 1948, was the exact date chosen by G-d for the resurrection of Israel thousands of years before it took place.”

That second Ezekiel citation is Ezekiel 4:4-6: “Lie thou also upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it: according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their iniquity. For I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days: so shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year.”

“In this strange prophecy, Ezekiel is commanded to first lay on his left side for 390 days and then on his right side for 40 days, for a total of 430 days, as punishment for the iniquities of the house of Israel,” explains Battlestein. “We are told that this punishment represents one day for each year. Taken alone, the prophecies in Leviticus and Ezekiel do not take on any specific significance. However, when we combine them, the results are astonishing.”

He continues: “G-d decreed to Israel a total of 430 years of punishment for her sins against Him. That punishment consisted of physical removal from the land G-d had promised His people. Israel’s captivity in Babylon was exactly 70 years as prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10). Therefore, the first 70 years of Israel’s punishment was completed when the Babylonian captivity ended. By the decree of King Cyrus, conquerer or Babylon, the Jews were set free from their captivity in the year 538 B.C.E. The year 538 B.C.E, therefore becomes the base year with which we begin our calculations: 430 years minus 70 year captivity equals 360 years of remaining punishment to come.”

That’s where the Leviticus prophecy kicks in, says Battlestein. The 360 years needed to be multiplied by seven, for a total of 2,520 years.

Using the 360-day Hebrew calendar, that totals 907,200 days. When converted to the 365-day calendar, the 2,520 years or 907,200 days becomes 2,485 years and five months or 2,485.5 years and months. If you subtract 538 years B.C.E, you get 1,947 years and five months.

Battlestein reminds that there was no year zero.

“Therefore, the year 1,947.5 we call the year 1948.5,” he explains. “So exactly 1,947.5 years after 538 B.C.E., we come to the year 1948.5,” he writes. “May is the fifth month of the modern calendar, and on May 14, 1948, Israel arose from the ashes of extinction to become a nation!”

Battlestein is a messianic Jew who lived in Israel until moving to the U.S. He is the author of several books

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3699

Israel Is In Secret Talks with the Vatican Over Jerusalem: Prophetic?

A special meeting was held at the Pope’s palace in Rome on Tuesday, attended by delegations from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Vatican. During the meeting, the sides discussed some of the unresolved issues between them.

At the conclusion of the meeting, which was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, the Foreign Ministry released a statement saying, “The talks took place in an open, balanced and constructive environment, during which significant progress was made towards an agreement.”

There have been disagreements between the Vatican and Israel on several economic issues and on the status of the Church and priests in Israel. Among the economic issues for which a solution has yet to be found is the question of property tax of churches and land owned by the Church, especially around the Kinneret, the tax status of churches and more?

Another controversial issue between the two sides is the Vatican’s request that Israel give it sovereignty over King David’s Tomb in Jerusalem. The Catholic Church has claimed ownership of a room in the compound, in which it says the “Last Supper” occurred. Ayalon has promised in the past he would defend Israel’s sovereignty there.

Bahij Mansour, director of the department for religious affairs in the Foreign Ministry who has been responsible for the talks with the Vatican for the past two years, confirmed in a conversation with Arutz Sheva on Tuesday that the two sides are nearing an agreement. He added, however, that for the time being the parties have agreed not to make public any information regarding the understandings reached.

Asked by Arutz Sheva whether the issue of King David’s Tomb would be included in the agreement, the Foreign Ministry said that the issue will indeed be included but would not reveal exact details.

“The details do not matter at the moment, but the subject of the room of the Last Supper will be included in the agreements,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Mansour told Arutz Sheva that both sides made gestures and concessions in order to reach an agreement.

“At this time there are almost no differences. There was great openness between the parties and we are ahead of signing an agreement,” he said, adding that the sides will meet again in six months.

In a speech in the Knesset a few weeks ago, Ayalon said that Israel does not intend to give up its sovereignty over King David’s Tomb. His remarks came in response to a question by Shas MK Nissim Ze’ev, who said that the Foreign Ministry is holding talks over giving up its sovereignty. Ayalon, in turn, said this “never happened,” but agreed to a request by Ze’ev to bring the issue up for discussion in one of the Knesset’s committees.

Ze’ev told Arutz Sheva on Tuesday he knows for a fact that there are indeed negotiations over the Vatican’s demands for sovereignty of King David’s Tomb, despite the fact that historians and archaeologists have stated that without any doubt, there is no evidence to suggest that the compound was in place 2,000 years ago or even half that time, a fact that nullifies the Church’s claims.

Ze’ev said that he believes the Church would allow the State to nationalize some of the land it owns around the Kinneret in exchange for obtaining sovereignty of the compound in question. It is not known how accurate Ze’ev’s claims are since, for the time being, both parties are being careful not to disclose any information regarding the agreement being worked out.

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3661

Israel gas finds launch navy into troubled waters

 They come to take a spoil! Ezekiel 38 & 39

When Israeli economists contemplate their country’s untapped natural gas finds far out in the Mediterranean, they dream of energy independence and lucrative export deals.

Those charged with Israel’s defense, however, worry that the navy – small and long a middling priority in budgets – may be hard put to protect the multinational drilling platforms and rigs out at sea.

“We will do our best, but without a major boost to our capabilities, our best will not be enough,” a senior military planner said in one of a series of Reuters interviews with Israeli decision-makers on the subject.

That all spoke on condition of anonymity indicates concern that such doubts over security might scare off investors and, perhaps, even encourage sea-borne attacks by Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese guerrilla movement hostile to Israel and to its exploration of gas fields also claimed by Beirut.

There are internal political considerations, too. With Middle East instability spiraling, Israel’s Finance Ministry is poring over an unwieldy plan for fiscal cuts combined with new spending on national security. The navy is lobbying for cash but is loath to challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly.

Maps and other dry facts speak amply.

The huge gas fields centered 130 km (80 miles) from the port of Haifa in northern Israel, along with Yam Thetis, the existing gas-production rig just off Ashkelon in the south, make for a body of water covering 23,000 square km (9,000 square miles) – more than Israel’s territory on land.

Guerrilla raids from the north appear the main threat, with Palestinian Hamas militants penned in Gaza to the south and rumbling discontent from the Lebanese government over Israel’s drawing of a maritime border unlikely to take a military turn.

Providing rapid response in an emergency would strain the Israeli fleet of three corvettes – which have a crew of about 70 and can carry helicopters – 10 other missile boats and fast patrol vessels, and three diesel submarines, not least given their existing roles of enforcing the Gaza Strip blockade and the occasional foray through the Suez Canal to the Red Sea.

“You would need to have at least two missile boats in the vicinity of the rigs at all time,” said a senior officer.

Another declined to give a specific number, saying only the navy required “several” new vessels to meet future missions.

TALL ORDER

That would mean major expansion of the fleet – a tall order, not least as Israel bought another submarine for $335 million in March.

Visiting Israeli joint defense headquarters in Tel Aviv reveals the navy’s junior status, its cramped command centre overshadowed by the marbled tower of the well-funded air force.

The navy also faces skepticism from an Israeli cabinet stiff with former army generals and a finance minister, Yuval Steinitz, who is a civilian expert on maritime security.

In the spirit of what Israelis mordantly call their “ad-hocracy”, an unwillingness to spend on things that seem less pressing, the government may not agree with naval commanders about the urgency of protecting gas fields which are years away from being fully exploited and operational.

One of the handful of gas development projects under way, Tamar, has finished a well 70 km (45 miles) from Haifa. An underwater pipeline will run from there to a production rig that will be erected next to Yam Thetis, 25 km (15 miles) from Israel’s southern coast, by July 2013.

Another project, Leviathan, is 130 km (80 miles) off Haifa – a remoteness from shore that would itself appear to provide protection from guerrilla raids – and is not expected to produce gas before 2017. A number of firms hope to find undersea oil reserves, as well as the gas.

Robin Mills, head of consulting at Manaar Energy in Dubai, predicted an eventual increase in such activity off Israel and Cyprus, with several new exploration wells supported by supply ships and pipe-laying vessels.

“It won’t be like the North Sea, but not a negligible presence either,” Mills said. “I wouldn’t say the security discussion is premature.”

Asked about prospects for protecting the gas fields, a senior Finance Ministry official said only: “This is one among the Israel Defence Forces’ various missions. We are confident that the IDF will successfully rise to it.”

MISSILES, DIVERS, DRONES

Like its foreign counterparts, Israel’s navy prides itself on a spit-and-polish proficiency, especially in carrying out missions of strategic importance. The officers who spoke to Reuters chafed at the idea that, in a fix, they might be forced to call on NATO powers which sail the Mediterranean, such as the United States.

The Israeli navy has fended off a variety of threats over the decades, including at long range. Last year it captured anti-ship missiles which Israel said were destined for Palestinian guerrillas in the Gaza Strip. From there, the weapons could potentially have been used to blow up Yam Thetis.

Citing intelligence assessments, the navy fears Hezbollah guerrillas in boats could fire similar missiles against Israeli targets in the northern gas fields. Other scenarios include remote-controlled flying bombs crashing into rigs, or miniature submarines striking from below. A separate possibility is of gunmen approaching the platforms in civilian vessels or with divers’ gear, then storming aboard to kill or capture the crews.

“We designated these kinds of attack as having a ‘reasonable likelihood’ of occurring,” one Israeli officer said.

Anthony Skinner, Middle East analyst at London political risk consultancy Maplecroft, voiced doubt about the imminence of any such incident. He argued Hezbollah has a role as a reserve reprisal arm of its patron Iran, should the latter’s controversial nuclear facilities be bombed by the Israelis.

“Were Hezbollah to target gas platform and production rigs, such an attack would likely provoke a robust response from Israeli forces, which may in turn precipitate a broader conflict. One of Iran’s key cards against Israel would be removed from the table,” Skinner said.

But merely menacing the energy assets could have value in the eyes of Hezbollah and its allies: “It is altogether conceivable that Hezbollah will seek to deter or frustrate Israeli extraction. Iran too does not want Israel to be able to exploit massive oil and gas wealth in the Mediterranean,” Skinner said.

MUTUAL DETERRENCE?

Though outgunned by Israel, Hezbollah guerrillas fought its army to a standstill in a border war in 2006 and have since maintained a tense standoff while making clear they are honing their military capabilities for any new conflict.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, indicated in a speech last July that any attack on Israeli offshore gas facilities would be in retaliation for an attack on Lebanon.

Israel’s navy says that in addition to enhancing its own fleet it expects stepped-up air force patrols of the gas fields and espionage further abroad.

“If there is a Hezbollah guy training in South America to attack a gas platform, we want to know about it,” an Israeli officer said, speaking hypothetically.

There is hope for stop-gap measures such as unmanned, machinegun-equipped naval patrol boats that can travel long distances and remotely challenge suspect vessels. Navy officers also hint at the development of electronic counter-measures that would allow gas rigs to block incoming guided missiles.

“The IDF knows how to provide a response for all of Israel’s military needs,” said Ohad Marani, a former Finance Ministry director-general and now CEO of ILD Energy, which plans to begin drilling the first of two new offshore wells in June.

Texas-based Noble Energy, the main foreign company developing the gas fields with Israel and its maritime neighbor Cyprus, declined to discuss security measures for the platforms.

One of the Israeli officers said the rigs had private guards who coordinate closely with the navy. But they have not yet held sufficient joint emergency drills, the officer said, citing reluctance to disrupt work that costs around $1 million a day.

“Noble was the only company crazy enough to work with us,” the officer said. “We don’t want to be inconsiderate.”

That leaves the hope that Hezbollah will shrink from the geographical, and geopolitical, hurdles of strikes at sea.

“The targets are so distant, and if they miss, then they hit the water and get no effect whatsoever,” an Israeli officer said, channeling Hezbollah thinking. “And if they do get the target, then they hurt Americans and Filipino crewmen rather than just Jews. So maybe they’ll think it’s not worth it.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3603

Netanyahu: ‘Fatal mistake’ to concede sacred sites

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday it would be a “fatal mistake” ever to give up control over Jerusalem’s holy sites.

His remarks, in a parliamentary speech, went a little further than Israel’s longtime policy of viewing Jerusalem, a city at the heart of Middle East conflict, as its “indivisible capital”.

Addressing a debate marking 45 years since Israel captured and annexed the city’s eastern sector, in a move never recognized internationally, Netanyahu said:

“Whoever proposes we take the heart of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, and take it out of our hands, and that this would bring about peace, I say not only is this a mistake but a fatal mistake.”

Netanyahu said that sites holy to Judaism, Islam and Christianity enjoyed a “wonder of inter-religious peace that is maintained thanks to Jerusalem’s unity under Israeli sovereignty.”

“The Temple Mount is in our hands and … it shall remain in our hands,” Netanyahu added.

The Temple Mount, a site in Jerusalem’s old walled city, is revered by Jews as the place where two biblical temples once stood. The area also houses two of Islam’s holiest shrines, the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

Palestinians want east Jerusalem as capital of a future state in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, territory Israel also captured in a 1967 war.

Western-sponsored negotiations hit deadlock months ago in a dispute over Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.

In a related development, Israel’s parliament passed a law on Monday granting tax incentives to organizations seen as encouraging settlement in Israel and occupied territory, in addition to tax breaks already offered to settlers in the past.

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