Re-examination of the stratigraphic record in the continental margin of Israel indicates that the Levant passive margin was reactivated in the late Tertiary. Subsidence and, presumably, sedimentation rates increased after prolonged gradual decay; the shelf-slope facies transition zone was revived; faulting and magmatism resumed and the Judea Hills began to rise. Two parallel fault systems with large vertical displacements were formed (or reactivated) between the Levant Basin and the continent. In the Levant Basin a new 4 km thick section accumulated and at a middle level between the two faults a local basin was formed and filled with a 2500 m thick section. That basin, termed here the Jaffa Basin, provides good age control. It was initiated in the Mid–Late Oligocene, was mainly active in the Miocene and was completely buried by sediments in the Plio-Pleistocene. We suggest that at the early stage of the Arabia–Africa breakup, in conjunction with the Suez rifting, the Jaffa Basin was formed between two segments of a left-lateral fault that allowed Arabia to slip northward relative to the Mediterranean lithosphere. When this fault failed to transform the motion, both the Suez Rift and the Jaffa Basin were abandoned and the plate motion jumped inland to the Dead Sea Transform.

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