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Israeli press review: Energy minister in Cairo to flog natural gas

Yuval Steinitz first minister to visit since 2017, while historian Benny Morris predicts the end of Israel and a future Arab majority
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz says his country could start sending gas Egypt's way in a couple of months (Reuters)

Israeli energy minister in Egypt

Israel’s energy minister made a rare official state visit to Cairo on Monday and announced that Israel will soon commence natural gas sales to Egypt.

“Hopefully in few months’ time - it might take two or three months - the first amount of gas will be exported from Israel to Egypt,” said Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, according to the Times of Israel.

Steinitz was attending a regional conference on natural gas development in the Egyptian capital, along with his counterparts from neighbouring Mediterranean countries Greece, Cyprus, Jordan and Palestine, as well as representatives from Italy, according to Walla news site.

At the forum, Steinitz also held a bilateral meeting with Egyptian Petroleum Minister Tarek al-Mulla.

“We are talking about the most significant ever economic cooperation between Egypt and Israel since the peace agreement was signed,” said Steinitz, referring to the 1979 accords between Israel and Egypt.

The conference represented the first meeting of a regional energy forum that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi hopes to host annually in Cairo.

Sisi wants the Mediterranean Natural Gas Organization, as it is to be known, to include delegations from additional countries, as well as industry experts and representatives of the private sector.

The visit is said to be the first by a high-level Israeli official since November 2017, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel paid a visit to the Egyptian capital, also to attend a regional conference.

Military to be 'lethal, efficient and innovative', says new army chief

The Israeli army held a ceremony on Monday to anoint Aviv Kochavi as its new chief of staff, Israeli daily Haaretz reports.

In the presence of Benjamin Netanyahu and the outgoing army chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, Kochavi was promoted to lieutenant-general, the Israeli military’s highest rank.

“I commit myself to devote all of my energy, in a critical and demanding manner, to strengthen our defences, and to adapt them to the challenges of the present and of the future, focusing on increasing our ability to harm the enemy, and presenting a lethal, efficient and innovative army that maintains its mission, and its uniqueness,” Kochavi told the ceremony’s spectators.

In his 37-year military career, Kochavi has commanded Israeli soldiers operating in the occupied West Bank, the Gaza Strip and in Lebanon, and has headed the army’s operations and intelligence directorates.

Lapid-Livni coalition over before it began

Suggestions that two centrist candidates for the Israeli parliament, Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni, will join forces ahead of the 9 April parliamentary elections have been proven incorrect, after the two leaders separately announced that neither would run on a joint slate with the other, news site Mako reports.

In answer to a question about uniting with Livni’s HaTnuah party, Lapid dismissed the possibility without mentioning the other by name, saying: “Just as I won’t unite with Netanyahu, I won’t unite with the left.”

For her part, Livni also ruled out the option of forming a joint list with Yesh Atid, the party chaired by Lapid, comparing him to the incumbent prime minister she hopes to unseat.

“We will continue to fight for the Declaration of Independence and for political progress, regardless of Netanyahu-style efforts to label us,” she said.

The mutual disavowal comes just a day after news reports that the two party leaders were in talks about the possibility of merging factions.

Polls show Yesh Atid will have a solid presence in the next parliament, even if it runs alone, but Livni’s HaTnuah party cannot say the same.

Livni has been looking for a running mate since the start of 2019, when Avi Gabbay dissolved the Zionist Union coalition between HaTnuah and the Labor party he leads.

Benny Morris says Israel won't last in current form

Prominent Israeli historian Benny Morris has predicted that Israel in its current form is not sustainable and that it could lose US support following the end of the Trump presidency, in a high-profile interview with Haaretz.

Speaking to the Israeli daily on the occasion of his retirement from academia at the age of 70, Morris said a future Arab majority in Israel would eventually drive the country’s Jewish population to the United States and other western nations.

The Jews will remain as a small minority in a large Arab sea of Palestinians – a persecuted minority or a slaughtered minority, as it was when they lived in Arab countries. The Jews that are able will flee to the USA and the West

- Benny Morris, historian

“This place will deteriorate into a Middle Eastern state with an Arab majority. The violence between various populations inside the state will continue to increase,” Morris told Haaretz in an interview published on Friday.

“The Arabs will demand the return of the refugees. The Jews will remain as a small minority in a large Arab sea of Palestinians – a persecuted minority or a slaughtered minority, as it was when they lived in Arab countries.

"The Jews that are able will flee to the USA and the West.

“The Palestinians look at everything from a wide perspective, over the long term. We see that at the moment there are five or six or seven million Jews here, surrounded by hundreds of millions of Arabs. The [Arabs] have no reason to give up, because this won’t last long.

"They have to win. In another 30 to 50 years they will overcome us, one way or another,” he added.

Israel’s dissolution will become possible, Morris says, because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has overtly identified with the politics of US President Donald Trump.

“I predict that defeating and kicking out Trump, either this year or in 2020, will inevitably lead to the weakening, if not the crumbling, of the USA’s special relationship with Israel, because of Bibi’s total identification with that moron-miscreant,” Morris said, calling Netanyahu by his nickname.