“The selected companies have committed to making an unprecedented investment in natural gas exploitation over the next three years, which is expected to result in the discovery of new natural gas deposits. » Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz closed on Sunday October 29 the granting of 12 fossil gas exploitation licenses off the country’s Mediterranean coast. In the midst of a military offensive against the Gaza Strip, companies such as the Italian Eni, the British BP and the Azeri Socar are developing their gas activities. A few months earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had assured that it was necessary to “accelerate exports to Europe” to end energy dependence on Russia. This photograph shows that Israel’s expansionist plans in Gaza also concern the energy reserves of the Palestinian sea.
“Humanitarian aid to Gaza? No electrical switch will be turned on, no water tap will be opened and no fuel trucks will enter Gaza until the kidnapped Israelis return.” These statements by Minister Kartz confirm the strategy of inflicting indiscriminate suffering on the population of the Gaza Strip and illustrate the absolute control that Israel exercises over basic supplies in Palestine, a territory which has two gas fields, Marine 1 and 2, about 35 kilometers from the coast, discovered in the 1990s but never exploited.
In fact, both Gaza and the West Bank import energy (gas, oil, electricity) through Israel. Before the war, the Gaza Strip suffered from constant electricity cuts, compromising the functioning of basic services and forcing the use of diesel generators, a source of pollution and energy exclusion, the price of fuel being unaffordable for the population impoverished. Today, with the application of Kartz’s measures, the situation is even more extreme.
Marine Fields 1 and 2 were already one of the unachieved goals of Operation Cast Lead launched by the Israeli occupying forces in 2008, an intervention which left 14 Israeli and 1,400 Palestinian victims. For Palestine, gas reserves represented the possibility of achieving a certain energy independence from Israel. This is why in 2015, the Palestinian Authority purchased the operating rights of Marine, owned by Royal Dutch Shell, through the sovereign wealth fund Palestine Investment Fund, but Israel never authorized its exploitation.
The opportunity following the war in Ukraine
Although the blockade of exploitation lasted almost a decade, the armed conflict in Ukraine has completely changed the situation: the energy security of the European Union is threatened and energy diplomacy has had to find strategic partners outside Russian orbit. This imperative motivated the organization of three events by the EastMed Gas Forum, a forum for regional gas development in the Eastern Mediterranean. It includes eight members who embody the intersection of interests between the region and Europe: Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan and Palestine; as well as three observers interested in the region, the United States, the European Union and the World Bank.
The first event, in October 2022, is the agreement between Lebanon and Israel on the maritime border. The compromise adopted largely benefited Israel, giving it control of the Karish border gas field and 17% of the profits from the exploitation of the Cana reserves, but Lebanon benefited from it given its fragile economic situation. A few weeks later, Israel concluded a second agreement with Egypt and the Palestinian Authority for the exploitation of Marine which aroused surprise and internal criticism, notably from Hamas. Finally, on June 15, 2023, Minister Kartz, European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson and Minister of Petroleum and Natural Resources of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Tarek El Molla, signed a Memorandum of Understanding essentially involving that gas exports from Israel and Egypt to Europe will be made through Egypt, in line with the European plan to end dependence on Russia.
Maritime agreements for the land offensive
The action of the Israeli government has been described by various analysts as a search for regional stability through energy diplomacy. This apparently moderate action is a strategy whose main pivot is the West. The geostrategic takeover of part of the Levantine Basin gas reserves and their export routes meets the needs of a European Union hungry for stable gas partners.
On the other hand, the apparent exercise of rapprochement with territorial enemies, even if part of the profits from gas exploitation could go to Hezbollah and Hamas, is part of a tactic of agreements on the sea to entertain from land appropriation. For example, the announcement of the Israel-Palestinian Authority-Egypt trilateral agreement, which aimed to present a friendly image of Israel to the international community, came in the same week that settlements were growing in the occupied territories.
Towards a new Yom Kippur? The regionalization of the conflict
The statements and actions of the Israeli government, which constantly violate international law and the most fundamental human rights, weigh on the international scene to such an extent that there are fears of a repeat of the so-called Yom Kippur War. This armed confrontation by Israel against Egypt and Syria led the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries – OPEC – to impose an embargo on exports to countries supporting Israel, which caused a global rise in oil prices and, consequently, an increase in inflation.
At a recent meeting of European representatives discussing oil, diesel and gasoline stocks, the European energy commissioner said: “Oil is important. Lack of diesel could lead to strikes. We don’t want our trucks queuing for diesel,” adding “Is this period comparable to 1973? » Indeed, gas futures prices on the Dutch TTF market (the benchmark in Europe) increased by 40% just before the arrival of a new winter without Russian gas in Europe, at least on paper. To a lesser extent, Brent crude oil futures rose 7%.
However, it seems that five decades later the situation is significantly different: the United States is the world’s largest producer of oil and gas, OPEC members are less united and have more combined interests with those of the West, and most of the countries potentially concerned have more diversified supplies and reserves. But this reality could be overcome if Israel continues its plan to invade Palestinian territory and if the conflict continues to intensify and spread throughout the region. The role of Iran, a power exporting hydrocarbons thanks to sanctions relief, must be taken into account because it controls the Strait of Hormuz, where 30% of international oil trade flows and where an open dispute already exists. with the United States and Israel.
Qatar, the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, owns Al Jazeera, one of the few media outlets to take a critical look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Recently, the United States called on Qatar to tone down because, according to Washington, it was inflaming public opinion. Turkey is a transit territory for two of the main gas and oil pipelines to Europe (the BTC and the Southern Gas Corridor), and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has accused Israel of war crimes with Western complicity during the massive demonstration in Istanbul. In addition, the Israeli rapprochement with Saudi Arabia – which aimed to isolate Iran – has been completely frozen, plus Egypt’s role is essential for gas export routes to Europe.
The European Union continues its quest for energy independence without worrying too much about what its strategic partners are doing. As expected, investigations into the sabotage of the Nord Stream and the gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia have still not been concluded. But what is really important for European diplomacy and Western powers is guaranteeing cheap supplies and ensuring that the spoils of war fall into the hands of a stable and privileged partner, without worrying about the lack of moral credibility or the cost in human lives.
This article is originally published on investigaction.net