Israel and Lebanon ended a second round of ‘productive’ maritime border talks on Thursday, and are expected to resume negotiations next month. These are the very first non-security talks between the two countries, which are technically at war. Israel confirmed plans to reconvene next month, and a Lebanese source said discussions would resume on November 11. Lebanon hopes that oil and gas discoveries in its territorial waters will help it overcome an historic economic and financial crisis. Israel already has a fully developed natural gas industry in its national waters—enough to produce all that is needed for domestic consumption, plus excess gas that is exported to Egypt and Jordan. Lebanon has insisted the negotiations are purely technical and do not involve any political normalization with Israel.
The White House informed Congress of its plans to sell as many as 50 F-35s to the United Arab Emirates after weeks of talks between the United States, UAE, and Israel. An informal notification to the US House Foreign Affairs Committee revealed that the White House plans to sell the Lockheed Martin jets for an approximate total cost of $10.4 billion. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initially opposed the sale, but last Friday reversed his position. In spite of Netanyahu’s approval, the proposed sale is facing scrutiny from a growing number of Democrats and even some Republicans. On Friday, House Foreign Affairs Chair Eliot Engel will introduce legislation to stop the sale, unless given strong assurances that Israel’s regional “Qualitative Military Edge” will be maintained. Similar legislation has already been introduced in the Senate. The United States and the UAE aim to have a letter of agreement for the sale in time for UAE National Day, December 2.
Government ministers decided early Friday to allow synagogues to reopen on Sunday, November 1. In the original reopening plan, synagogues were to remain closed until November 15. Meanwhile, as Israel slowly rolls back its coronavirus restrictions, street stores must remain closed until at least November 8. In addition, the ministers agreed to reduce from a nine to a six-stage exit strategy outlined by the Health Ministry. Small business owners took to the streets on Thursday, asking the government to allow them to operate. Unless there is a significant drop in the infection rate, however, the cabinet says it will stick with the November 8 timeline.
Israel said on Tuesday the United States is effectively lifting a ban on U.S. funding of Israeli scientific research projects conducted in the West Bank and Golan Heights. Past scientific accords with the U.S. government stipulated that Israeli research projects receiving U.S. grants could not be carried out in areas that came under Israeli administration in the 1967 conflict. The revised agreements “will expand scientific cooperation between Israel and the United States to Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights,” the Israeli statement said.
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