1.1 Late Tertiary Reactivation of the Levant Passive Continental Margin
 Following the Middle Eocene, at ca. 37 Ma, the paleogeography of the Middle East region (Figure 1B) underwent significant changes. Huge areas in northwest Arabia, previously covered by seawater, emerged above sea level, were eroded, and shorelines retreated hundreds of kilometers towards the present-day Mediterranean coasts [e.g., Ziegler, 2001]. Contemporaneously, the Levant continental margin accumulated a thick succession of fine clastic sediments, reaching a thickness of more than 2 km along the Israeli continental shelf [e.g., Gvirtzman, 1970]. Further west in the deeper Levant Basin, more than 5 km of fine clastic sediments accumulated [Gvirtzman et al., 2008; Steinberg et al., 2011] (Figure 2). This study discusses the vertical displacement involved in the young concurrent opposite movements, inland uplift, and basin subsidence, analyzing the relationships between tectonic forces, sedimentation, and erosion.
 Among the crucial parameters for understanding geodynamic mechanisms controlling the vertical motions that shaped the southeastern Mediterranean and its inland margin are the relative roles of tectonically driven motion versus motion due to isostatic response to sediment loading and unloading. To distinguish between the two mechanisms, we used the backstripping method [Watts and Ryan, 1976; Steckler and Watts, 1978], in which the sedimentary column is gradually unroofed backward in time and the crustal motion due to isostatic response and tectonic force is calculated at each stage.
 Reconstruction of the vertical displacement and distinction of the tectonic component from the total basin subsidence requires knowledge of three factors at each point in time: sediment load (thickness and density of the sedimentary column), paleo-water-depth, and paleo-sea-level. Sediment thickness and density at each stage were deduced from well data corrected for compaction at later burial stages. Paleo-sea-level was taken from global eustatic curves such as Haq et al.  and Miller et al. . A first estimation of paleo-water-depth is commonly deduced from sedimentological and paleontological data, particularly in shallow marine environments, where the possible range of water depths is relatively small. However, in pelagic environments, where water depth may vary from hundreds to thousands of meters, there is a large uncertainty, and different environmental estimations may lead to completely different tectonic interpretations.
 Foraminifera assemblages and benthic to planktonic ratios from three oil wells located along the continental shelf [e.g., Buchbinder et al., 2000; Almogi-Labin et al., 2001] indicate that the region, which is only a few tens of meters deep today, was 500–1000 m deep in the Early Pliocene. However, similar studies for the deeper section of the continental shelf are not available and paleo-water-depth indicators for the deeper Levant Basin are absent for the entire sedimentary section. To overcome this absence, we developed a nonroutine geologic approach for paleo-water-depth estimation.
 Our approach for reconstructing the paleo-water-depth is based on two independent methods. For the Middle Eocene period, just before the renewal of tectonism, we assumed thermal equilibrium. Accordingly, we assumed that isostatic compensation was achieved at a depth equivalent to the base of the inland crust (~35 km) and that deeper lateral variations can be ignored. This assumption allows us to calculate the water depth in the deep Levant Basin by balancing its crustal column, including the unknown thickness of the water column, with the crustal column of the inland region where the paleo-water-depth is known.
 For later periods, we reconstructed a paleobathymetry and paleotopography profile extending from the deep Levant Basin to the Judea Mountains plateau. This reconstruction is based on geological data, such as height differences across morpho-structural steps and relicts of ancient abrasive and erosive surfaces, which were originally close to sea level.
 Using this approach for reconstructing paleobathymetry and paleotopography, we can distinguish between the effects of sediment loading and deep-seated tectonic processes that controlled vertical movements of the NW Arabian Platform and the Levant continental margin during the time in which Arabia rifted from Africa and collided with Eurasia.
1.2 Geological Setting
 The southern Levant continental margin was formed through a series of rifting phases that extended over a few tens of millions of years from the Permian to the Middle Jurassic. The northward shift of the rifted continental blocks resulted in the formation of the Levant Basin, which is a part of the eastern Mediterranean Sea, a relict of the ancient Neo-Tethys ocean [e.g., Robertson and Dixon, 1984; Garfunkel, 1998, 2004].
 The faulted basement across the continental margin with its tilted-block structure is schematically shown in Figure 2A [from Garfunkel, 1998]; in this plot, the faults do not extend above Jurassic strata. A later study by Gardosh et al.  shows mostly reverse faults that reach Cretaceous and Early Tertiary levels (Figure 2B). This description follows Freund et al.  and Druckman et al. [1995b] who postulated that the Syrian Arc deformation (see below) reactivated normal Early Mesozoic faults. Thus, the current structure does not show a simple horst-and-graben structure (Figure 2B) as was schematically envisioned by Garfunkel .
 In any case, data from central and southern Israel show that after the Early Mesozoic rifting passive margin conditions were established and the continental margin was accompanied by prolonged thermal relaxation [Garfunkel and Derin, 1984]. Along with the post rift thermal subsidence, a series of transgressions and regressions affected the rate and nature of deposition. Sea invasion and inland sedimentation reached a climax in the Senonian-Middle Eocene period when pelagic sedimentation reached as far as Sinai, Jordan, and parts of Saudi Arabia [Beydoun, 1991; Ziegler, 2001].
 Contemporaneously, the beginning of the closure of the Neo-Tethys in the Late Cretaceous [e.g., Robertson and Dixon, 1984; Garfunkel, 1998, 2004; Robertson et al., 2006] resulted in a horizontal compression and formation of the Syrian Arc folds belt along the NW margin of the Arabian Platform [e.g., Krenkel, 1924; Walley, 1998]. Syn-folding deposition associated with typical thickness variations continued about 50 m.y., during which most of the fold crests were submerged under deep waters most of the time [Buchbinder et al., 1988].
 In the Late Eocene (ca. 37 Ma), these pelagic conditions and the slow rates of deposition were interrupted by inland emergence, enhanced basin sedimentation, and strong structural deformation. A short pulse of shortening formed three morpho-structural steps that reshaped the previously moderate, gradually westward descending seafloor. The modified structure of the ancient seafloor is illustrated on the map of Figure 1A, which, as a result of combining a near base Oligocene structural map in the west with the present topography in the east, resembles the Early Oligocene relief (Figure 2C).
 The eastern step, which accentuated an old Syrian Arc structure [Bar, 2009] forms the present-day Judea Western Mountains Front Step (WMFS). The central step, now buried under Neogene sediments below the present-day coastal plain of Israel (CPS), accentuated the Cretaceous continental slope [Gvirtzman, 1970; Gvirtzman et al., 2008; Bar, 2009]. The western step, bounding the deep Levant Basin block on the east approximately below the present-day continental slope, vertically accentuated a Senonian-Eocene, 10 km-wide fault zone. This step was termed by Gvirtzman et al.  as the Levant Continental Margin Fault Zone (CMFZ).
 Further details about the formation and the burial of these steps are discussed by Gvirtzman et al. , Bar , and Steinberg et al. . Here, we briefly emphasize details that are important for the paleo-topography-bathymetry reconstruction. Most importantly, we note the rapid incision of submarine canyons across the steps (Ashdod, Afiq, El-Arish, and Hanna canyons, Figure 1A), which are each 1200–2000 m deep [Druckman et al., 1995a; Buchbinder et al., 2005; Bar, 2009]. The observed depth of each of these canyons approximately indicates the heights of the morpho-structural steps (discussed further below).
 In the following Oligocene-Miocene times, massive sedimentation in the deeper Levant Basin diminished the morphological expression of the CMFZ [Steinberg et al., 2011], while the CPS continued to dominate the seafloor morphology much longer [Bar, 2009]. During the Messinian Salinity Crisis [e.g., Hsü et al., 1973], the sea level of the Mediterranean Sea drastically dropped, and deep canyons were incised again across the continental margin. However, the Messinian incision was not as deep as the former Late Eocene-Early Oligocene incision and did not reach the bottom of the earlier canyons, as evident by the thick Oligo-Miocene sections preserved in the canyons [e.g., Druckman et al., 1995a]. Finally, during the Pliocene Nile derived sediments buried the coastal plain step. These sediments extended the continental shelf westwards and built the present-day continental slope.
 The present-day terraced structure of the eastern Mediterranean continental margin is composed of four relatively nondeformed blocks separated by the three morpho-structural steps described above (Figures 1A, 2C, and 2D). The four blocks are: ((1)) The Judea Mountains block, ((2)) the foothills and eastern coastal plain block, ((3)) the continental shelf block, and (4) the deep Levant Basin block. Two later tectonic phases, at the late Early Miocene and during the Middle to Late Pliocene, caused a longer wavelength regional uplift without a reactivation of the morpho-structural steps and, therefore, the terraced structure of the continental margin were maintained [Bar, 2009].
 The transition from the truncated, nearly 1000 m high, Judea Mountains plateau to the 1500 m deep Levant Basin, with its >5 km thick Late Tertiary sediments (Figure 2) raises questions such as what caused the contemporaneous inland emergence and basin subsidence and what were the contributions of tectonic mechanisms, sedimentation, and erosion to this process. To answer these questions, we used a backstripping analysis. This analysis depended greatly on constraining the paleo-water-depth from the Middle Eocene, prior to the period of tectonic deformation, and during that period, between the Early Oligocene to Middle Miocene.